Pac-Man 99 follows in the footsteps of Tetris 99 and Super Mario 35 to create a battle royale of sorts out of a classic game. We’re all familiar with Pac-Man, eat the pellets, avoid the ghosts and if possible power-up and eat everything in sight. Pac-Man 99 is a new free-to-download game available on Nintendo Switch Online, which offers a fresh coat of paint on one of the original video games.
I’m sure you are familiar with Pac-Man, but if not then you have to navigate around a maze, scoffing up the small pellets to get points and avoid the ghosts. There are various power-ups in the form of fruit, and if you can eat the super pellets then you can eat the once deadly ghosts. With Pac-Man 99 you’re now battling 98 other players in a winner takes all competition.
Pac-Man 99 has similar features to Tetris 99 where you can send attacks to other players in your session. It’s fairly overwhelming at first and there’s a lot going on around the maze, with plenty of visual stimulation and things flying in left, right and centre.
My first impression of the game was something along the lines of “How does this work” as there’s little to no explanation of what’s going on. The rules of Pac-Man are fairly universal, and you’re likely to have played a version of the game before, or at least know about it. It’s a lot of trial and error to begin with, but one of the main ways you can ‘attack’ other players is by gobbling up the smaller ghosts, which then attach to the main ghosts travelling around the maze. Once you eat a power-up pellet, the smaller ghosts then transform into a train of ghosts attached to the now terrifying ghosts, and when you eat them they get sent to opponents screens. I didn’t discover this until a few rounds in, and in retrospect, the game could really have done with a tutorial round to get you going.
I was using the Pro Controller on Nintendo Switch hooked up to a big screen, and I found this slightly off-putting because I couldn’t use the more comfortable analogue stick. I had to use the d-pad, which doesn’t feel as comfortable as the stick and every now and again it would send me in completely the wrong direction. The analogue stick doesn’t even work as an alternative which was a little disappointing.
The speed of Pac-Man 99 is refreshing. Games themselves only take a few minutes and if you mess up you can get back into the action relatively quickly. The game is often pretty busy, as you have your main screen and the 98 other game boards around you, which you slowly whittle down as the time ticks on. As well as the main Battle Royale mode there is Score Attack, Time Attack and also a CPU Battle Mode if you want to practice. The other single-player modes and cosmetics are locked behind a paywall though, but the battle royale mode is free to enjoy for as much as you want.
Pac-Man 99 is a little frustrating to start with, but get past the confusing barrier to entry and there’s a fun little pick-up-and-play game here, which you can spend either minutes or hours with. It would be the perfect game for a commute or short journey when things get back to normal in the outside world, but for now, it offers short bursts of entertainment whether you are on the sofa or in bed.
If you have a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online, then this is a nice little game that offers instant entertainment and potentially hours of gameplay. Once you get your head wrapped around the rules and mechanics, the games flow thick and fast, and you’ll be winning games in no time. Pac-Man 99 is a nice take on this classic royale genre that’s emerging through Nintendo Switch Online. I’d recommend picking it up and giving it a try, it’s a fun twist on one of the most classic games there is.
Developer: Bandai Namco
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 7th April 2021