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Pac-Man's name and image have been used for a number of mediocre spin-offs over the years – think Pac-Man Party, Pac-Man World Rally, etc. – so approaching something like Pac'n-Jump with a healthy dose of cynicism isn't a bad idea. After all, this marriage of Pac's retro aesthetics with the popular hopping gameplay of iOS smash Doodle Jump doesn't seem like the most essential stop for the beloved gaming icon. But despite the questionable copycat approach, Pac'n-Jump is a surprisingly excellent iOS entry: a universal app that not only mimics a popular game, but also arguably improves on it.
Pac'n-Jump casts the yellow hero as a platform-hopping, pellet-eating powerhouse, enabling players to use tilt or touch controls (we strongly recommend the former) to guide him upward from spot to spot. BUT, notching the highest possible apex is about more than just grinding your way up platforms, as you'll also encounter various power-ups that'll vault your further upward, or make it possible for you to eat the familiar colored ghosts instead of simply avoiding them on your journey. Though the standard and disappearing platforms are essentially cut-and-pasted from Doodle Jump, Pac-Man also encounters segments where the platforms are swapped for a mess of scattered pellets, which he can eat to continue moving on up.
What it all amounts to is a meatier jumping experience – one that curiously enthralls during each typically brief session and makes you want to hop back in for more. It doesn't hurt that the game incentivizes continued play, as the three alternate stages – based on Dig Dug, Rally-X, and Galaga respectively – are unlocked via your combined all-time score. And while we love the initial Pac-Man-themed stage, the others are similarly great, swapping in familiar characters and imagery for each to create a nicely altered experience that builds upon the fundamental skills honed in earlier stages.
All of it is wrapped up in a very stellar package, with sharp pixel-heavy visuals and utterly inescapable tunes, plus the universal design means you can buy it once and play it on whatever iOS device you prefer. Pac'n-Jump may sound like a lazy cash grab, but this carefully constructed "homage" to Doodle Jump trumps its inspiration through a pairing of nostalgic aesthetics and creative gameplay alterations. Ignore your usual gamer BS detector warnings, drop a couple bucks, and enjoy this simple and entertaining take on a proven iOS favorite.
May 17, 2011