Developer: Namco Bandai
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Pac-Man Friends by Namco Bandai does more than supply players with Pac-Man themed puzzles: it also serves as a reminder that the Pacster has a large network of family and friends. After all, when destiny calls on him to run through a maze and gobble up ghosts, he usually works alone. Not this time, though.

Pac-Man Friends challenges players to solve dozens of mazes, all of which carry an action-based Pac-Man theme. Pac-Man Friends is definitely unique as a consequence, and there’s still enough variety to keep players engaged level after level. Some control issues keep it from the upper pantheon of Pac-Man’s greatest outings, however.

pacmanfriends_01The world of Pac-Man Friends is overrun with ghosts, and the slimy spooksters have imprisoned Pac-Man and his buddies. Pac-Man busts loose – no chains shall hold him, ever – and he begins travelling through maze after maze to free his pals.

Though each maze subscribes to different shapes, sizes, and gimmicks, the conditions for escape rarely vary. Pac-Man must eat all the dots within, which unlocks the exit. He then has a limited amount of time to get to the exit unscathed. He can perform other tasks to earn more stars, including eating all the fruit in a stage, finishing up within an allotted time, or eating a certain number of ghosts in stages that supply a power pellet.

Pac-Man is joined by several friends as he progresses, and learning how to control them (as well as mastering their abilities) is key to victory. They move at the same time Pac-Man does, and in the same direction. Given how many boards are scattered with traps and ghosts, players need to learn how to move delicately, or they risk becoming ghost food.

Unfortunately, moving around in Pac-Man Friends can be problematic at times. Players can use a tilt-based control scheme (which can’t be calibrated beyond selecting pre-determined angles for their device) as well as touch-based controls.

pacmanfriends_05Pac-Man Friends‘ touch-based controls are sub-par. Players move Pac left and right using arrows on the left of the screen, and up and down using arrows on the right side of the screen. It’s unclear why  Namco Bandai didn’t simply opt for a virtual d-pad. At the very least, players should be allowed to adjust the size and position of the buttons. As they are, they’re small and easy to miss in the heat of the action.

Fortunately, Pac-Man Friends‘  tilt controls are quite responsive, and there’s a controller option as well. Even though the game has some control issues, its basic concept is sound, the overall product is creative, and it’s a blast to play. Pick it up and wakka-wakka the night away.

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