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Pac-Man and Other Retro iPad Games

Growing up as a young kid, you may fondly remember a bunch of games you grew up playing.  One of them might have been Namco’s "Pac-Man," a game featuring a yellow dot-gobbler, scampering through a maze and avoiding ghosts until he ate the “power pellet”, which allowed him to turn the tables and hunt them down while they were vulnerable.

Thirty years later, the game’s popularity lives on, both through inclusions in large game compilations (the Namco Museum series) and on its own through digital download.  Now it’s available for the iPad, and while it’s still an undeniable arcade favorite, a few problems prevent us from giving it a full recommendation.

The basic gameplay rules still apply here.  You’re still guiding Pac-Man through each maze, gobbling all the dots and fruit you can while avoiding the wrath of Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.  Scattered across each maze are four helpful “power pellets”, located near the corners of the screen.

What has changed about the iPad version are the control types.  You can either play with a traditional joystick set-up to move Pac-Man around, or use “swipe” controls to guide him around the maze.  No matter which method you use, however, it’s somewhat scattershot.  There are times Pac-Man doesn’t respond properly to certain movements, resulting in hitting a dead end or, worse yet, a ghost.  If we had to choose one, though, we’d go with the virtual joystick.

As for the presentation, it’s a perfect recreation of the original arcade game.  It’s easy to keep an eye on the entire maze at once, so you can see what dots haven’t yet been eaten.  You can also keep an eye on the ghosts — Pacman's enemies — who move around quickly and unpredictably.  The sound effects are the best part of the package, with the classic “wakka-wakka” dot eating noise and the increasing siren noises as you get closer to completing the stage.  The game looks great on both landscape and portrait modes, and you can pause it at any time should you need to check on another application – a very helpful addition.

However, we can’t recommend it mainly because of the price.  A game such as this could’ve easily sold for one to two dollars.  "Pac-Man" goes for five.  It’s not a bank-breaking game by any means, but considering that it’s been a small part of 10-to-20 dollar packages, there’s no excuse for Namco jacking up the price.  Once it drops down to three, we can definitely take more interest in it.

With its control problems and jacked-up price, we can only recommend "Pac-Man" to hardcore gaming enthusiasts.  And even then, we can think of three other games we’d recommend to pass the time with.  Check out our picks below…

Vector Runner HD (Littlegrey Media, $2.99, released May 4)

Upon playing "Vector Runner," we were immediately reminded of classic Atari “vector” games from the 80’s, including Battlezone and Star Wars.  It’s a simple-to-play game where you guide a square through a fast-moving running grid, avoiding objects while racking up a high score.  For three dollars, this is one of the better purchases you can make on the iPad.  It’ll definitely satisfy your retro peace of mind.

Pinball HD (OOO Gameprom, $2.99, released May 4)

While this may not be the same thing as playing an actual pinball machine in someone’s basement or arcade, it’s certainly a fine recreation of it.  You choose from various tables, each with their own unique theme, and flip around for high points, scoring bonus rounds and multiball sessions.  You can also play with viewing options for each table, though we prefer the 3-D format.  For flipper fans everywhere, we can’t recommend "Pinball HD" enough.

Geometry Wars Touch (Activision, $9.99, released April 1)

If you’ve got a few extra bucks to burn and want a quality retro shooter for your iPad, look no further than "Geometry Wars Touch."  This game puts you in control of a small ship, flying through enclosed areas and shooting everything from vicious squares to deadly diamonds to space worms.  Each stage gets progressively harder, and with multiple modes to choose from (including the exclusive Titans mode), the fun never ends.