On the PlayStation 5 menu, the tagline for Pac-Man Museum+ reads, “Play 14 legendary Pac-Man games!” Marketing is difficult, especially when Pac-Man‘s history isn’t particularly filled with beloved titles beyond the original and Ms. Pac-Man (which isn’t in the collection as she has now been rechristened “Pac-Mom”), but trying to call the 14 titles included in this compilation “legendary” is more than an exaggeration and more of a straight-up lie, as the vast majority of the games are baffling and aren’t worth revisiting after the brief hit of nostalgia has passed.
Of course, there are some truly fantastic games included in Pac-Man Museum+. The original 1980 arcade game has withstood the sands of time and is still an enjoyable test of skill more than 40 years later. Pac-Man Championship Edition (nope, not DX) is still a fantastic and refreshed take on Pac-Man, even if its deluxe sequel is far more colorful and engaging. Pac-Man Battle Royale is some of the best multiplayer fun you can have when playing with casual friends. And Pac-Man 256 and its endlessly scrolling maze are able to captivate on the big screen despite the Crossy Road-like title originally being developed with phones in mind. Beyond that, well, there are 10 games that range from absurdly awful to middling.
The rest of the titles are Super Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Pac-Land, Pac-Mania, Pac-Attack, Pac-in-Time, two versions of Pac-Man Arrangement, Pac Motos, and Pac’n Roll Remix. If you’re not familiar with many of these titles, it is because they are terrible. Most of them are variations on maze games, although Pac-Land and Pac-in-Time are poor attempts at platformers, and Pac’n Roll is a port of the early Nintendo DS game that was built around using a stylus and is now comically easy since this version uses the analog stick.
More obscure releases, such as Professor Pac-Man, or intriguing oddities, like the point-and-click adventure Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, are not included, as this is a pretty by-the-numbers affair that doesn’t include many games that weren’t already bundled up a dozen times before by Bandai Namco. Despite having one of the most varied histories in all of gaming, Pac-Man Museum+ is largely a one-note affair doubling down on plopping Pac-Man in a maze and having him gobble up pellets and ghosts.
It’s not a terrible thing that Pac-Man Museum+ is mainly focused on maze games, but when so few are actually interesting, it’s too easy to keep replaying the original instead. Some of the games were bad enough that they never came stateside (such as the Japan-only Pac & Pal, which is at least worth a retrospective look due to how absurd it is), while others play just fine but have aged poorly, like Pac-Mania and its usage of 1987 3D effects. The two Pac-Man Arrangement games are passable besides the poor graphics but are largely uninspired. Unfortunately, there’s just not much to sink your teeth into beyond the few quality releases, most of which I’ve already bought once or five times before.
Most of the included games not being all that enjoyable to play beyond some short-lasting nostalgia makes it all the more damning that there are barely any supplemental features in Pac-Man Museum+. This is a collection that badly needs context, as it’ll display the ill-fated sequel Super Pac-Man, which creator Toru Iwatani has retrospectively called “boring,” right next to a console station that includes 2007’s excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition, which helped revive the game’s popularity and usher in an era of great downloadable titles, and treat them as titles of equal importance. Unless you already are familiar with all the titles, there is nothing more than a singular paragraph to help you differentiate between 14 similarly named Pac-Man games of vastly varying quality and even less that gives a peek behind the curtain.
Beyond the context serving a natural purpose of pushing players in the right direction, the story of Pac-Man‘s gaming history is actually quite intriguing and worth being told as well. The franchise failed to recapture the initial magic of its original arcade release for over 20 years (save for the occasional success like Pac-Man World — none of which are included) until finding its groove once again thanks to the advent of digital downloads. The past decade has been very kind to Namco’s icon as Pac-Man 256 was a hit on phones, Pac-Man 99 is a blast, and there was even a well-received cartoon series that received two games, too. Going off of this so-called “museum,” Pac-Man was awesome, sucked for a few decades, and has once again found success somehow. It ignores so much of the actual history, dozens of games in the series, and is largely slapped together rather than a celebration of one of gaming’s biggest icons.
The wrapper for Pac-Man Museum+ is a small arcade where Pac-Man can walk around and then interact with the games. Ghosts will occasionally come to visit (it’s always nice to see Clyde), but besides that, there’s not much to do there besides customizing the layout or buying figurines from a gachapon dispenser. There’s an element of earning coins by playing well and completing in-game missions, but with nothing good to actually use them on (besides as credits for the games themselves) it doesn’t wind up being the worthwhile diversion that it’s meant to be. Thankfully, there are leaderboards, so there is a high score chase to be had if any friends also purchase this collection.
Disappointingly, Pac-Man Museum+ simply doesn’t live up to its promising title and premise. To act like this is a museum-quality treatment of Pac-Man is a real disservice to the property. In that way, it’s a fitting follow-up to 2014’s Pac-Man Museum, which was also a middling celebration. Given how Digital Eclipse and other studios have been putting out retro collections built with care and reverence to history, it is a dated relic itself rather than a great way to play Pac-Man Battle Royale at home.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.