Pac-Man 99 Review: A Natural Evolution of a Classic

Pac-Man 99 follows deftly in the footsteps of Nintendo’s Tetris 99 to provide a near-perfect multiplayer Pac experience.

Tetris 99 is a brilliant variant on a classic, but if Pac-Man 99 is any indication, it’s clear this wild 99-player battle template could work perfectly with a slew of classic games. The 99 games are especially perfect for players who don’t generally like multiplayer or battle royale titles. They're still playing the single-player game essentially, just with a lot of potential complications from those 98 other players. 

Pac-Man 99 at its core pits 99 players against each other by simply playing the arcade classic as well as they can muster. Like Tetris 99, other players can screw each other up by doing well. In this case, when you grab a power pellet and eat ghosts, it sends ghost-like “jammer” Pac-Mans to other players’ screens. Running over these jammers slows you down, so the object is to get the power pill and eat as long a train of ghosts as possible to really flood other players with jammers.

Pac-Man 99 Review: A Natural Evolution of a Classic

It’s chaotic, frequently feels utterly random (and at times frustrating), and is absurdly fun. Admittedly, other players’ actions usually aren’t quite as damning as in Tetris. Your opponents can’t suddenly fill the screen with blocks, after all, so Pac-Man 99 feels largely the same as the game always has and individual player skill is a greater factor in survival than anything the other players do.

Pac-Man 99 also controls exactly like the arcade classic and in the modern era, the game manages to feel weird with its exacting controls. Pac-Man isn’t that agile a scrolling mouth, so the timing for making him turn a different direction requires, essentially, making the move predictively before the actual turn. If, somehow, you’ve never played any games in the series, this will probably seem downright archaic.

Thankfully, Pac-Man 99 is a free download if you already subscribe to Nintendo’s Switch Online service, so there’s no risk in experimentation.

Namco Bandai has been evolving Pac-Man in some wonderful ways over the last decade in particular. The Championship Edition games, for instance, are amazing, yet none of the iterations have changed the core gameplay. 99 just branches the tried and true gameplay out into a huge multiplayer competition, but the game itself still feels perfectly old-school. It’s impressive. 

 

The visuals and soundtrack are instantly familiar but feel modern and impressive enough to not make it look like a nearly 40-year-old game. The matches are easy to jump into, take just a moment to populate, and you can jump into another match as soon as you’re eliminated. Each round adds to your XP, enabling you to go up in levels. This serves to easily show how experienced any given player is while adding a nice sense of progression. 

Pac-Man 99 is perfectly grand as an entirely free multiplayer game, but of course, there are ways to spend money here. The most plentiful of the microtransactions are skins, which go a lot farther than simply adding classic arcade backgrounds. Here, themes for a slew of classic games actually change up the entire visuals.

So, selecting the Dig Dug skin literally changes all the characters and visual elements to those of that game. There are 28 skins in total, including Rolling Thunder, Xevious, Bravoman, and even mash-ups of Namco classics. Alternatively, there are several straight-up Pac-Man-themed skins that let you gobble through a log house, garden, igloo, and pastel maze. Each new skin costs $2.

Additionally, for an extra $15, you can unlock new game modes. These include the ability to have private matches, the CPU Battle mode (the offline version of a 99 game against bots), Score Attack, and the Blind Time Attack. Score Attack is a timed race to max out the score counter, while the latter is a challenge to clear the maze before the timer runs out.

Alternatively, you can opt for the $30 Deluxe Pack, which unlocks everything. It’s hard to argue that spending that much for an initially free version of a decades-old game feels a bit hard to swallow. This is especially true since Tetris 99’s add-on for offline and single-player modes was a mere $10, which is a lot more palatable.

Pac-Man 99 Review — The Bottom Line 

 

Pros

  • Classic gameplay reinvigorated with clever 99-player battle royale elements
  • Absurdly fun even for free
  • Add-on skins and modes add a lot more variety

Cons

  • Add-on content pack is a bit too pricey
  • Requires Nintendo Switch Online subscription
  • Controls can seem very fickle, especially for modern gamers

Pac-Man 99 is absolutely worth the download. It melds intense online competition with classic single-player gameplay to create a wholly new, yet utterly familiar experience. The extra content is superb, if overpriced.

Just the same, whether you opt for the free version or spend for the extra content, there’s no shortage of fun to be had.

[Note: The free Switch Online version of Pac-Man 99 was used for this review.]

Our Rating
8
Pac-Man 99 follows deftly in the footsteps of Nintendo’s Tetris 99 to provide a near-perfect multiplayer Pac experience.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Contributor

Jason D'Aprile has been writing about games and technology for a very long time. His bylines have appeared on and in countless sites and magazines over the years, including Paste Magazine, Playboy, G4TV, Indie Game Website, UploadVR, Techhive, Lifewire, the Brick Moon Fiction podcast, United Front Gaming, and others he's mostly forgotten about. Jason lives in a house in the woods and does not twit.

Published Jul. 1st 2021

New Cache - article_comments_article_68775
Related
More Pac-Man 99 Content