IGN Review of Pac-Man World 3
One of the first games we saw on the Nintendo DS was Super Mario 64. It was amazing at E3 2004, and it's still amazing to this day. Nintendo managed to squeeze an entire N64 game into a DS pack, including mini-games and new play modes as well. They proved from the very start that the DS could handle 3D if used right, though we are now over a year in its lifespan, and no other game has been able to come close to the plumber. Pac-Man World 3 attempts to bring the solid action and detailed world of the console versions to DS, though it ends up being hurt by a clunky camera, poor visuals, and a flawed use of the DS features.
While the console versions of Pac-Man World 3 weren't able to cut it in comparison to the previous iterations, they were still quite enjoyable. It isn't that the gameplay is broken, or that the overall design is poor, rather Pac-Man World 3 is obviously weak on the technical side, which ends up hurting the performance as a whole. For starters, players will instantly see that the story cut-scenes have been scaled down from the console versions. The big brothers to the DS cart offered full video, audio voice-overs, and in-game objective explanations. Pac-Man World 3 may not have been the best in the bunch, but it had style. The DS version suffers on every level of presentation, as it offers only low-res screen grabs of the console cut-scenes and no in-game explanations at all, resulting in a throw-together look that is all but pleasant to experience. In addition, the DS version is meant to be a port of the consoles, though characters suffer from a low-poly conversion, and the textures are incredibly weak. Rather than giving Pac-Man World 3 DS its own look, the design team tried to cut corners. New storyboards were needed where screen-caps of FMV were inserted, and when confronted with a lack of space for VO, it was simply left out.
The same issues can be found when moving into the gameplay as well. While presentation was lacking on a global scale (missing VO, strong cut-scenes, and DS-specific art), the overall gameplay is plagued instead by small issues that will begin to pile up over the span of the adventure. In fact, most players will likely enjoy the first few levels of the game, allowing a few shortcomings in execution due to the lack of horsepower in the DS hardware. However, these issues start to add up, and by the end of the adventure players will be left with nothing but frustration, teamed with a laundry list of complaints. Basic control is fine, allowing players to manipulate Pac-Man with the control pad and face buttons. The gameplay feels almost identical to the console version, which gives players control of Pac-Pac as he explores the environments, jumping, attacking and butt-stomping enemies in a very Mario 64 inspired design. Touch control for Pac-Pac himself was left out, however, and those hoping to play with the precision of Mario 64 will have to stick with Nintendo's classic, as stylus control is not an option in Pac-Man World 3. Even so, the basic control is fine, and actually quite commendable.
While the core control is relatively sound, the amount of in-level flaws are inexcusable, as the wish-list of possible potential goes on. The levels are designed much like the console versions, having large areas open up by operating switches, reversing conveyer belts, or completing a small objective along those lines. On the console versions the world felt alive, as areas expanded the more a player progressed. However, the dynamic level construction harbors more flaws than features in the DS version, hurting the overall flow of the game immensely. Levels are filled with invisible walls, short draw distances (giving the entire game a foggy look), and clunky touch screen implementation. The majority of the bottom screen is left blank until approaching a level object, showing only a few HUD objects for the majority of the time. When Pac-Man approaches a crank, lever, or button, touch control is used to interact with it. It's a stretch to have players only use touch control when interacting with objects, especially since the original controls had to be taken out to make room for the DS ones.
It wouldn't have been a bad move if the new play mechanic was entertaining to perform. Unfortunately, it isn't. On the Cube, players would run on a platform to rev up a crank. On DS, they make a circle with their finger; not exactly innovative. The main issue is that touch interaction doesn't aid the game at all; it just changes it because it can. The overall feel is very uninspired, and the amount of issues with the core gameplay make Pac-Man World 3 a chore, rather than a pleasure to play.
Much like the console versions, the team added bonus features for players to check out when they're in-between games. In this case, however, it's not the thought that counts, but the follow-through. Pac-man offers a double-screen version of the original arcade game called "VR Maze", though it only has one level to play through. While it's neat to see the game running in 3D and 2D at once, this isn't a new concept, as Pac-Man Vs, a pack-in that came with Pac-Man World 2, offered far more in gameplay, allowing players to hook the GBA and Cube together for true Pac-Man battles. It is amazing that something so simple could be fun, and it is equally amazing that it could be screwed up. Players looking to pick up Pac-Man World 3 for the retro appeal would be better off chasing down the vs. disk for Cube, as it has far more replay potential.
The other main extra included on the cart is an interview with the creator of Pac-Man, Mr. Iwatani. However, while it is still cool to read his responses for a few of the questions, the entire interview video was cut, and screen-captures of the movie instead replace it. No audio is included either, so the entire interview must be read using the tiny, shrunk down font. The quality of the interview pictures is very low (to make them fit the DS hardware resolution), and it doesn't work as well as it could have. The interview alternates from top to bottom screen, though it would have been far more helpful to show larger text on the bottom screen, and show the interview screens on the top. It seems that every aspect of Pac-Man World 3 was done in the cheapest, fastest way possible, and it doesn't cut it.
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