Pac-Man Museum+ Review: A Nostalgic Trip Down Memory Lane

Since 1980, Pac-Man has delighted gamers around the world with its simple, yet addictive gameplay. While the original remains an arcade classic, Bandai Namco has released a plethora of other games starring the character over the last 42 years. Pac-Man Museum+ compiles 14 of those games in one package spanning several decades. While it's not a complete collection, it does offer a much stronger variety than many might expect. Some of the games included are much better than others, but the collection acts as a strong history lesson for players.

When Pac-Man Museum+ begins, players enter an arcade with just a small handful of Pac-Man games available. By playing the games offered, players are then able to unlock additional titles. Unlocking each game is actually pretty easy; the collection will only task a player with playing a game twice before unlocking a corresponding title. For example, to unlock Pac-Attack, Pac-in-Time must be played twice. It's a clever way to get players to try out everything the collection has to offer without forcing them to spend a large amount of time doing so. Players that do want to spend a lot of time with each game will be happy to find that they have a number of challenges that can be completed.

(Photo: Bandai Namco)

Pac-Man has always been one of my favorite arcade games, but I never quite realized how many games the character has starred in over the years. Going into Pac-Man Museum+, I was at least somewhat familiar with games like Pac-Land and Pac-Attack. But one of the great strengths of Pac-Man Museum+ is seeing how Bandai Namco has mixed up the formula over the years. As I played each game in the collection, I really gained a new appreciation for how much the publisher has been willing to experiment with the character, and I could trace how the series evolved between installments. While games like Pac-Man 256 and Pac-Man Championship Edition adhere closely to the foundations of the original arcade game, titles like Pac-Land, Pac-in-Time, and Pac 'n Roll Remix attempted to do something much different with the brand.

Of course, different isn't always a good thing. Pac-in-Time and Pac-Land were fun to play a couple times, but I didn't feel obligated to spend more than the time required to unlock other titles. However, I was quite pleased with the inclusion of Pac 'n Roll Remix, a game that first appeared on the Nintendo DS. Meanwhile, Pac-Man 256 and Pac-Man Championship Edition quickly became two of my favorite takes on the original game.

While Pac-Man Museum+ features a plethora of Pac-Man games, there is a very notable exclusion: Ms. Pac-Man. The character and her eponymous 1982 arcade game are at the heart of a dispute between Bandai Namco and AtGames, which seemingly prevented its appearance in this collection. What's more, Bandai Namco has edited the character out of some games in this collection including Pac-in-Time, replacing her with a new character named "Pac-Mom." Long-time Pac-Man fans will be disappointed to see the game missing from the collection's line-up, but it's unlikely we'll be seeing the character appear in other Bandai Namco compilations anytime soon.

(Photo: Bandai Namco)

In addition to unlocking more titles, playing each game in Pac-Man Museum+ unlocks new customization options for the arcade. Players can mess with the wallpaper, the arcade cabinets, carpets, and even the music. There's also a little Gashapon machine that can unlock statues of Pac-Man and his supporting cast that can be placed around the room. These customization options offer a neat little diversion, and it sets the game apart from a lot of the other compilation games on the market. I do wish this feature offered a bit more, as the amount of space available in the arcade is actually pretty limited, and it would have been nice to see more ways to deck it out.

The original Pac-Man has been offered in countless ways on countless platforms over the years; at this point, some fans couldn't be blamed for feeling sick of it. Fortunately, Pac-Man Museum+ manages to offer a library with a surprising amount of variety. I thought I knew a lot about Pac-Man going into this game, but I walked away with a much deeper knowledge of the franchise, and all that it's had to offer over the years. I also came away with some new favorites that I might never have discovered otherwise. I probably never would have discovered Pac 'n Roll or Pac-Man 256, or remembered just how much I enjoy Pac-Attack. The lack of Ms. Pac-Man is disappointing, and the arcade customization could have been a little bit deeper, but this is a strong collection of games that should delight both long-time Pac-fans, and those new to the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Pac-Man Museum+ is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch OLED.