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Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions hands-on preview

Namco Bandai has been doing an excellent job lately of rejuvenating their classic catalog on XBLA and PSN, with fresh updates of old arcade standbys like Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and Galaga Legions. So it was with well-placed optimism that we took up our 3DSes and checked out what Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions has to offer.

First off, Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions contains a full six games, making it one of the most robust 3DS titles we've seen so far. You get classic versions of Pac-Man and Galaga, plus Pac-Man Championship Edition and Galaga Legions (two fantastic games previously released on XBLA/PSN), as well as two new games exclusive to 3DS, Pac-Man Tilt and Galaga 3D Impact.

If you haven't yet tried a 3DS game that makes use of gyroscopic controls, Galaga 3D Impact really showcases the functionality beautifully. Impact is a Galaga-inspired on-rails shooter with four large levels, where you aim using gyro controls. As you move the 3DS around in front of you like a turret, the camera moves as if you were looking through a window – and it really does work as smoothly and perfectly as that. When your HUD warns you that enemies are approaching from the lower left corner, you can actually move the 3DS down and to the left to get them on screen and fire. A swivel chair is particularly helpful here, and it's fun to just take a 360 degree spin around and watch the camera keep pace with your movements perfectly.

Whether gyroscopic controls are practical for gameplay is another matter though, so if you get tired of moving your arms around to target you can also use the control pad instead, or any combination of gyroscopic and pad controls at the same time. You also have two types of weapons, a standard rapid fire and a missile that steals enemy powers for your own use, and both weapons can overheat to prevent use briefly (the rapid fire only overheats after prolonged use, whereas the power-stealing one has a cooldown period after each use). We found that even the boss in the tutorial level was quite tough, so it looks like despite its decidedly non-retro feel, Galaga 3D Impact will still be bringing the old school difficulty.

The other brand-new game is Pac-Man Tilt, a platformer with a similar rainbow-psychedelic vibe as the recent Pac-Man Championship Edition and DX. It definitely has a Sonic vibe going on across its 25 levels, and like the title indicates, you use the tilt controls by tilting the 3DS side to side (an indicator in the lower left-hand corner of the screen shows your tilt angle) to get Pac-Man to gain speed and whiz through the levels collecting pellets (like Sonic collects rings!) and navigating obstacles.

Going along with the Tilt theme, the level we played had a strong pinball motif going on, where we had to hit the shoulder buttons to bounce a quickly rolling Pac-Man off a pinball paddle with careful timing. Pac-Man's famous ghosts also make an appearance, and just like in the classic game, you must avoid them at all costs unless you're under the protection of a power pellet. Even though Pac-Man Tilt looks absolutely nothing like classic Pac-Man (as in, it's a totally different genre), the same skills of quick reflexes and split-second decisions are still key.

As for the other four titles, you already know what to expect more or less. They look great on the 3DS, and the 3D graphics have definitely been used to complement rather than detract from the experience. In Pac-Man Championship Edition, your high scores and multipliers burst out of the screen in 3D as you play, but that's the only thing in 3D (definitely a wise choice, since the graphics are already an eye-catching overload, in a good way). The classic modes also have a subtle 3D effect that makes it look like you're playing on an arcade cabinet, if you choose to have the 3D on.

Even if only half the games in this compilation strike your fancy, it's shaping up to be a pretty good deal, because it offers an undeniably generous amount of content. Plus, with online leaderboards and plenty of Achievement-style rewards, you have a reason to keep playing even after you've been through every level. Look for our full review when Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions releases later this summer.

May 16, 2011

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