Namco Museum Review

Nostalgia is a bitch. A hideous bitch, too, if you’re taking a trip down [barely enough] memory lane. The eyesore 8-bit era of gaming sure ain’t pretty. Be that as it may, the names in this digital Namco Museum precede themselves –  Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga – even if you’re too young to have played them in an actual arcade, this is a history lesson every gamer worth their thumbs ought to take.

Mind you, we’re quite familiar with Namco’s full body of work (having re-bought it way too many times since the PS One days onwards) and there’s definitely some filler in this line up. Not enough for me to gleefully label this as a “greatest shits collection”, but certainly enough to raise an eyebrow at the selection process.

For 25 bucks you’re getting Pac-Man (1980), Galaga (1981), Dig Dug (1982), Tower of Druaga, Sky Kid (1986), Rolling Thunder (1987), Galaga ’88 (1988), Splatterhouse (1988), Tank Force (1991), Rolling Thunder 2 (1991), and Pac-Man Vs. (2003). It’s quite an eclectic mix, and you can probably spot the sequelitis going on right away. And it begs the question: if you already have the original Galaga and Rolling Thunder, why do you need their heavily reskinned follow-ups (or vice versa, if you prefer slightly better graphics over real mcoy originals).

I neglected to throw Pac-Man Vs. in that list because, while it absolutely concerns ghost munching in mazes, it’s very much its own beast compared to regular Pac-Man. Vs. was a multiplayer offering that started life as a GameCube game which leveraged a Gameboy Advance (connected via cable) as a second screen.

The basic gist: the player holding the GBA is Paccers and has their own full and private maze view, while the three ghost players watch the TV and have serious fog of war going on. The short-sighted poltergeists must work together to locate and entrap the dot muncher, but only the person who bags him can earn uber points and take on his mantle for the next turn.

When I played it back in the day, Pac-Man Vs. was the best multi-person fun this side of Bomberman, Mario Kart, or a bedroom scenario populated with many consenting adults. That’s still the case with Namco Museum, but the entry requirements are steep — you need at least two Switch consoles to play it as intended. The silver lining: the second console won’t need to buy an additional copy of the game, there’s a free client download in the Nintendo Shop.

If you want to stick to single console fun, Namco Museum still delivers because – hey, Pac-Man and Galaga are basically timeless. Also, the game-wide save state functions make this package great for short train trips and the like (using it prevents you from uploading your score however).

Other winners include Splatterhouse, a solid if somewhat ropey 2D beat-em up that still retains its challenge. Also, Rolling Thunder is a criminally under-loved side-scrolling shoot ’em up that still oozes with 007 cool, despite the hero’s insistence on wearing a turtleneck.

And now to the less impressive entries. Tank Force is more or less a no-frills Pacman, in tanks, with the ability to shoot through walls (fun in 2-player though). Sky Kid is a cutesy version of Choplifter, sans helicopter.

Lastly, Tower of Druaga is a very primitive, top-down dungeon-crawler that stars what could be the slowest running knight in all of gaming. Unless you grew up with it, you’ll wonder how anybody played it for more than ten minutes.

Though the price is right, Namco went digging and came up with slightly more treasure than trash. You should also not underestimate the power of the Challenge Modes attached to each game, however, as it’s damn fun to push yourself to achieve certain tasks and play in ways you probably never considered. Even still, many of us veterans have been down this retro road with Namco before, and I’m not seeing a wealth of extra content for diehard fans.

If you have a mate with a second Switch for Pacman Vs., by all means take the plunge and see what you’ve been missing for 14 years. Otherwise, anybody who wasn’t raised on these can safely let this coin-opportunity pass them by.

Score: 6.5/10

Posted in Blog, Games