September 22, 2016

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 | REVIEW

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Ellen McGrody

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 follows up on its predecessors with a strange proposition. Imagine you’ve grown accustomed to driving a car without brakes. You hit other cars, you die, so you learn how to avoid doing so. You follow the road, you swerve correctly, you do fine, right? Then, one day, your car suddenly has brakes. And, when you hit other cars, it takes a couple hits before you actually crash. This would be disorienting, right? Because you’d have to completely relearn how to drive that car.

In Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, Pac-Man literally has a brake button.


Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 follows a recent tradition of modifying Pac-Man’s classic formula. Games like Pac-Man Battle Royale and Pac-Man 256 have proven that Pac-Man’s basic maze gameplay has a lot of unexplored depth, and the Championship Edition series has led the charge in showing off how interesting and unique Pac-Man can become.

As with its predecessors, Championship Edition 2 is gorgeous, with a blissful neon aesthetic and incredible techno music that will keep you going for hours of play. CE 2 takes advantage of its new position on next-gen hardware to deliver mind-bending visuals at a consistently high frame rate.

The game’s new 3D flourishes exemplify this, offering fluid animations as a new reward for skillful ghost busting. It’s not surprising that Namco’s sound team has outdone themselves, either, with clever sound effects and arguably the series’ strongest soundtrack.


In addition, fans of previous outings will find some of their favorite songs, like Pac Rainbow, left in tact, along with some series favorite mazes like Championship I & II, Highway, and Spiral. While the aesthetics remain the same, and callbacks to previous games will make series regulars feel at home, there’s a mountain of modifications to the gameplay that might not excite everyone.

From Pac-Man Championship Edition‘s release, Namco has shown it’s not afraid of changing Pac-Man in subtle ways. In the first Championship Edition, players initially play the game at the speed of the classics, collecting pellets and regenerating the maze’s layout as they collect fruit. DX changes things up a bit by allowing you to collect a “Ghost Train” rather than having to avoid the traditional four ghosts on the map.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 piles on new systems in a way that isn’t as satisfying as the natural evolution and simplicity found in the older titles. Pac-Man CE 2 adds, in no short order: Angry Ghosts, Boss Ghosts, a brake button, jumping, Ghost Routes, Runaway items, several new modes, and a compulsory tutorial just to cram all this in. It’s clear that Namco doesn’t want the series’ first proper numbered sequel to feel like a gentle iteration, but all of these revisions don’t gel with the simple gameplay of the original two titles.


Players who were looking for a game more similar to the original Championship Edition will be left out in the cold. CE 2 will feel more familiar to DX players who are used to chasing after Ghost Trains. In 2, rather than building up speed after collecting members of Pac-Man’s Ghost Train, the player starts off at full-speed, and any ghostly minions collected become trails behind the four main ghosts, Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde.

The challenge comes from chasing pellets at full-speed while avoiding both the roaming ghosts and their new trails. It’s a race against time, as before, trying to accumulate as many points as you possibly can before time runs out. At its strongest moments, CE 2 is a fast-paced score chaser that feels reminiscent of the gameplay offered by DX with some new and interesting twists.


Sometimes, those twists end up tangling up in one another and bog down the gameplay with undue complication. Changes pile upon each other and lead to series regulars needing to rethink their traditional CE play.

Grinding on the wall of the maze is still there, for instance, but because of Pac-Man’s increased speed and the unpredictable new behavior of ghosts, it doesn’t feel the same, and it’s something you typically want to avoid.

When eating ghosts, instead of going after the Ghost Train behind you in a satisfying finish, you’re sent on a frustrating chase after the four ghosts and their trains along Ghost Routes, colored escape routes that require memorization and constant attention.


New rules constantly interrupt basic tenets of gameplay put in place by DX, and while offering something new can be fun, the amount of relearning necessary might be challenging to those who have been playing CE DX for the past six years.

If all these new details weren’t aggravating on their own, they’re paired with new modes that only serve to highlight the game’s shortfalls. As in prior outings, the game is rife with unlockables, but rather than simply mastering each maze to seek rewards, players must conquer a new mode, Adventure. Adventure fails to deliver the classic, simple fun of the traditional score attack mode, and most players will likely avoid it altogether.


The new mode challenges players to complete several time attack missions in order to unlock Boss Battles, which are in themselves just a more challenging brand of time attack. Time attack isn’t very rewarding when failure is often found in having to battle stuff like Ghost Routes.

The process of completing stacks of time attack missions only to unlock even harder time attack missions isn’t rewarding, and if it weren’t for the promise of Galaga sprites for use within score attack, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Within the context of 2, Adventure mode serves as an unfortunate annoyance.


By no means is Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 the weakest entry in the Pac-Man universe. At its best, Championship Edition 2 is fast and engrossing, pulling you in with engaging visuals and throbbing music. It’s a unique evolution on the classic arcade gameplay that you’d be hard-pressed to compare to its 1980 progenitor. Compared to its contemporaries, however, it lacks cohesion. At its worst, skillful play feels more like a wrestling match against new mechanics.

Pac-Man 256 and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX proved that you can iterate on the maze game formula without feeling overly complicated, without needing coercive tutorial levels, and without muddling what makes Pac-Man simple and fun to play. Mastery in titles like these is rewarded by a building sense of speed that motivates and excites.

Championship Edition 2 starts fast, stays fast, and ends with Pac-Man crashing into a wall of minions behind an Angry Ghost. If you’re ready to rethink the way you play Pac-Man, or you want to enjoy one of the best video game soundtracks this year, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is absolutely worth a shot, but you’d be remiss without playing stronger entries in the series first.



Blizzard to Drop Branding

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Tamsin Heineman

Today a news post on the World of Warcraft home page details their plans to discontinue the Battle.Net branding.

Blizzard plans to phase out the use of Battle.Net in favor of the Blizzard moniker. Instead of “Battle.Net Voice” for example, it would be “Blizzard Voice” after the change.

They detail that the underlying technology and systems are not changing and they have no plans to discontinue any services.

When we created, the idea of including a tailored online-gaming service together with your game was more of a novel concept, so we put a lot of focus on explaining what the service was and how it worked, including giving it a distinct name. Over time, though, we’ve seen that there’s been occasional confusion and inefficiencies related to having two separate identities under which everything falls—Blizzard and Given that built-in multiplayer support is a well-understood concept and more of a normal expectation these days, there isn’t as much of a need to maintain a separate identity for what is essentially our networking technology.

One can certainly understand wanting to consolidate their brand name and ease confusion for potential and current customers.
You can check out the news post here.


Pokemon TCG Goes Retro With XY Evolutions’ Expansion Set

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Rae Michelle Richards

Remember the Pokemon TCG? For our readers in their late 20s, like myself, the Pokemon Trading Card Game might bring back memories of trading cards at recess and after school.  The latest expansion, the last in the X&Y line, celebrates the base set from 1999 but with a few new twists.

With over 100 cards based upon those found in the original set Trainers can collect EX versions of Blastoise, Charizard and Venusaur. These EX versions of gen 1 classic include 5 expansion specific mega evolution cards as well.

In all honesty I haven’t played this game in about 16 years, but boy is Charizard’s card artwork instantly recognizable. Here’s what the new base set Charizard inspired looks like:


Cards from X&Y Evolution will also be available through Pokemon TCG Online for those who don’t want to keep binders full of cards.

Here’s some official copy from Nintendo outlining the specifics of this expansion:

“The Pokémon legacy evolves with the Pokémon TCG: XY—Evolutions expansion! All Trainers and Pokémon grow and evolve—and this expansion restores the very first Pokémon trading cards to glory. With the exhilarating power of Mega Venusaur-EX, Mega Charizard-EX, and Mega Blastoise-EX, plus some wild surprises like Dragonite-EX, Ninetales BREAK, Machamp BREAK, and Mega Slowbro-EX, the classic hard-battling Pokémon and old-school Trainers are reinvented for a new generation. Ask Professor Oak to get you started, and reach new heights with the Pokémon TCG: XY—Evolutions expansion! 

The Pokémon TCG: XY—Evolutions expansion includes: 

Over 100 cards
12 new Pokémon-EX, including 5 Mega Evolution Pokémon
4 new Pokémon BREAK
A reinvention of the very first Pokémon trading cards” 

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