Having been born in the early 80's, I can still remember going to the arcade to play some of the latest games. Riding my bike to the mall with a handful of quarters in my pocket, hoping to make them last the whole day. The arcade in my town mall looked like an afterthought. It seemed like the lights were dimmed darker every day. It was probably to hide the fact that no one ever cleaned the floor and the movie theater down the hallway sold cheap nachos and large glasses of coke. The arcade and the theater definitely shared the same stale aroma as well as the sticky floors.
As I would stroll in, I would usually survey the ill-lighted room to see if any of the newer games were available. One of the very few arcade games I had any success with at that age was Pac-Man. The Pac-Man machine was often open due to the fact that most of the other kids were playing something newer. I remember getting to the pretzel level for the first time. I was so into it at that point that I could almost taste that gorgeous blue pretzel.
Not long after that, the NES and other consoles began to reign supreme. The world of game pads, power pads, and power gloves took over my life. Playing Super Mario Brothers in my basement ended up being cheaper and more convenient than biking half a mile. As time went on, gamepads turned into analog sticks and 2D sprites turned into 3D models. The desire to play Pac-Man disappeared...until last night.
About once a year, I end up meeting some old college friends at Dave and Busters. Usually we end up playing Derby Owners Club all night while consuming copious amounts of wings and fries. Last night as I walked in, one of the guys that was already there exclaimed “Pac-Man Battle Royale!”. The rest of us had no idea what he was talking about. We grabbed some food and headed over to race our virtual horses. Eventually, we were persuaded to head over toward the bathrooms and try out this twist on our nostalgic memories.
We approached something that looked so eighties-tastic. I couldn't help but be sucked as if it were a tractor beam. We swiped our magnetic game cards and got things started. From the start of the first round, we were immediately enthralled with the game. Four players each step up to a different colored podium equipped with a joystick and a start button. Each Pac-Man appears in a variant of the familiar maze that we are used to seeing. Two players face each other above the ghost cage square, and the other two players placed below both sets with a small line of dots to be eaten. In Pac-Man Battle Royale, the goal is to be the last one alive. Each game we played was three rounds, though according to the Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pac-Man_Battle_Royale ) it can be set for up to nine. Like the original, you have ghosts chasing you around trying to devour your soul. If you run into another player you're both blasted backwards. Blasting your friends backwards into ghosts can be a fun mechanic. This addition is interesting enough, but the real fun begins when someone gets one of the power pellets.
When you eat a power pellet you still get to eat the ghosts, but you also get to eat your non-powered-up opponents. Power pellets also gives you a slight speed increase which means that if you're being chased by a powered-up player, running away in a straight line isn't a good idea. Your best bet is to take as many random turns as possible and hope that your predator makes a wrong turn and loses the power-up.
As you can imagine, racing to a power pellet before someone else quickly becomes the main objective as soon as it appears. There were multiple times when I was racing to a power pellet, only to get there a millisecond after someone else and get eaten immediately. There are two different ways for power pellets to appear. The first way is to eat all the smaller dots. Once the final small dot is consumed, a random amount of small dots appear with a number of power pellets which seems to be dictated by the number of players remaining. It's a bit like musical chairs, if there are 4 players left, 3 power pellets will appear. If 3 players remain, 2 power pellets, and so on. Placement of dot and power pellets are seemingly random, as well as the maze chosen for each round.
The other way for power pellets to appear is to eat the food that appears toward the center of the maze. Eating it wipes the maze of all dots, and places another random set of dots and power pellets. With the two different ways of changing the dot location, the game changed quickly. You could be powered-up and chasing after someone one second, and lose your power-up and be running from that same player the next.
I'm probably making this seem way more complicated than it actually is. Boiling it all down, you're really just trying to get power pellets and biting a chunk out of your rival's Pac-Man, as well as their pride. My friends and I played until Dave and Buster's closed. By the end of the night we were all so hoarse from our competitive screaming that we could barely talk. As we were driving home, my friends immediately pulled out their phones to see if this game was available on any other platform. We were saddened to find out that it was only available in an arcade cabinet or on iOS. I did some digging to see if there was even a hint of this game coming to PS3, Xbox, Steam, or even Android, but I found nothing. Not even rumors. I know us gamer types often prefer to sit at home and game from our couches with a Mt. Dew and pizza at arms length, but seriously... Call up some friends and find one of these machines! There is a locator on their facebook page . See if there are any of these around you. I might need to take more than one trip to Dave and Buster's this year.