AppMonday: Pac-man 256

Endless runner games like “Temple Run” and “Flappy Bird” are certainly addictive, but what happens when you mix them with the old school retrolicious charm of 80s arcade gaming?

You get something truly special, with Bandai Namco resurrecting the classic “Pac-man” video game for an endless runner take on the franchise.

That’s what you’ll find in “Pac-man 256”, a delightful little endless runner made by the creators of another retro-inspired title, “Crossy Road”, a title that was essentially “Frogger” re-interpreted with a more modern 3D look and a level that never stopped until you ran out the clock or jumped into an obstacle like a river or traffic.

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Pac-man 256 is similar to this simply because Hipster Whale — the developers behind both games — has taken the Pac-man game layout and design, but applied a similar 3D retro graphic look as Crossy Road and the endless layout, killing the boxed layout of the original Pac-man and instead forcing our little yellow chopper to consume as many dots as he possibly can before being caught out by the approaching end of level glitch or running into a ghost.

All in all, it’s kind of the same endless runner formula you’ve seen time and time again, but played from a slightly top-down point of view and with the retro charm of Pac-man, complete with the look and feel, and even the sounds. You swipe up, down, left, and right to get around the maze, all the while chomping dots in the classic game, and continuing on in the maze as you would if it were classic Pac-man, except without an end.

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Hipster Whale has made things a little interesting, too, with power-ups earned from your constant dot eating and high score grabbing to let you shoot lasers out of your mouth to get rid of ghosts quickly or set fire to the paths you’re on, with these available as little powers you can activate when you play with credits.

“Credits,” I hear you asking. “What do you mean when I play with credits?”

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As is generally the norm these days with games that are free (of which this is), the publisher is intending to make its money back some how, and Bandai Namco is doing this with a combination of in-app purchases for game credits, or what most people will likely do which is sit through a video advertisement every so often.

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If you do the latter, you’ll find a mystery box waiting for you at the end of the video, which might contain extra credits or it might contain coins, with the credits used for playing the game, while the coins are there to upgrade your power-up weapons later on.

Pac-man with lasers. Sure. Why not.

Pac-man with lasers. Sure. Why not.

More powerful weapons and power-ups can make for a higher score, while credits can let you play more often, and the credits can also be gained from completing goals in the game such as eating fruit (in the game, not in real life) or consuming a number of dots.

It’s worth noting that you get a good six credits every hour or two, so if you run out, you can always wait for the credits to return or play without credits in “free play”, which is essentially the same game, but without the power-ups. For fun and all.

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In a nice change, though, Bandai Namco isn’t rude about how in-app purchases work, and once you run out, you can always elect to pay $10 to get unlimited credits for the entirety of the time you play the game, making this freemium game have an option that isn’t generally there for most freemium titles: a way to make it premium, rather than simply freemium.

Now it doesn’t work for all parts of the game, and if you want to upgrade your weapons, you still need to earn coins or buy them, but it at least alleviates some of the problems with freemium, such as the amount of time needed to keep playing, which is a trick used by freemium developers to get money quickly usually from impatient gamers like kids.

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Other in-app purchases are available, such as coin doubling which can be used to increase the coins and in turn upgrade the power-up weapons, but even these are limited by time, with upgrades only offered every few hours.

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In the end, Hipster Whale and Bandai Namco have kind of settled on a freemium model that doesn’t feel like it takes the gamer for an absolute ride, offering a fun and well rounded gaming experience built on the next generation of Pac-man, which is to say a game of Pac-man that never ends, or only ends when you end up killing your one life.

Well, technically two lives, if you have a spare credit or have bought unlimited credits, but no more each play through.

Now we just need a version of “Ms. Pac-man” to make its way out, because Pac-man with a little hair bow would be another kind of retrolicious awesomeness.

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Pac-man 256 is available now for smartphones and tablets running Android and iOS, with a price of free.