Wow, Pac-Man Sure Is A Lot More Complicated Than I Remember

Illustration for article titled Wow, Pac-Man Sure Is A Lot More Complicated Than I Remember

Oh wait, this isn't Pac-Man at all, just an overly-complex free-to-play Puzzle & Dragons clone called Pac-Man Monsters, now available on Google Play and iOS.

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There's a lot of complaining about classic PC properties being perverted into mobile games these days, but what about poor Pac-Man? Save for the excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition games, most of his recent appearances have been in games completely unrelated to the original.

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Illustration for article titled Wow, Pac-Man Sure Is A Lot More Complicated Than I Remember

As far as Puzzle & Dragons clones go, Pac-Man Monsters isn't bad. Instead of sliding gems about the screen, players trace paths through colored maze segments, powering up monsters of corresponding color in the process. That accumulated power is used to attack enemies appearing on the right side of the screen. It's pretty simple.

The complexity kicks in when it comes to doing anything else on the extensive menu running down the left side of the screen. Evolving monsters, powering up your Pac-troops, using golden coins or something to unlock rare monsters, spending real cash on more chances to fill out your roster — standard for the genre, but with so many hoops and menus to jump through. The game shows me a treasure chest, then tells me to click on the chest to open it. Then I have to close the dialog telling me how to open a chest in order to open a chest. Sheesh.

On the plus side, check out the sweet Galaga cross-over event!

Illustration for article titled Wow, Pac-Man Sure Is A Lot More Complicated Than I Remember
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As a kid, the joy of Pac-Man was it was just me, the screen and a single joystick. It was pure and simple and wonderful. Pac-Man Monsters isn't any of those.

Illustration for article titled Wow, Pac-Man Sure Is A Lot More Complicated Than I Remember
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Pac-Man Monsters

  • Genre: Monster Breeding Puzzler
  • Developer: GREE
  • Platform: Android, iOS
  • Price: Free

Get Pac-Man Monsters on Google PlayGet Pac-Man Monsters on iTunes

DISCUSSION

It's rather depressing that the PaD formula for free-to-play is catching on so well. It makes a ton of money if you get the "whales" (a whole other can of worms I'm not opening here, but just know I hate that term dearly) to buy into it, but it's such an awful cash-grab that it really hurts to see those techniques spreading around.

It's like this: every single facet of the Puzzle and Dragons design is carefully crafted and manipulated in just such a way as to get players to want to spend money on the game. There's pretty much not a single part of that game's design and mechanics that isn't at least subtly pushing the player towards spending money on the game. At least, the ones that aren't directly doing it are at least pushing players to stick around long-term and invest a lot of time into the game, hopefully putting them in the position of needing to drop money on it at some point.

It's devious, and it's awful. The game has me by the balls personally, and they've done a damn good job of making the game a part of my everyday life now. I's a fun game, to be sure, the gameplay is engaging, the difficulty level gets very high and the metagame and strategies go very deep. It's rewarding in a lot of ways, which is why it's so awful that they've stuck this sort of design to it.

The best and most necessary monsters for late game are only attainable by the premium gachapon. Every roll is effectively $5. They give out a good deal of premium currency slowly through game mechanics and events so as long as you're logging in and playing, you're slowly earning them without paying for them. But then there's a problem - you want to spend money to improve your play experience, but the cost is ridiculous for what you get. And you can't buy anything that can't be earned/given to you naturally through play.

Literally, the only way to truly 'succeed' in PaD once you're well into the game and you've dug into the experience with a lot of time, is to go nuts on the gachapon and hope for the best. That's literally your only option. And they're banking so hard on whales or would-be whales that they pretty much openly screw over anyone who isn't okay with a $30 investment getting them a DECENT shot at MAYBE getting a nice addition to their team. You have to lean incredibly heavily on luck, so if you're not patient enough to keep being mediocre for months at a time simply due to your few free rolls ending up as bad ones, you either put up with it or dig into your wallet. And honestly, the worst part about digging into your wallet is that you may very likely end up like me: $40 poorer, with very little to show for it.

Now, this isn't my personal vendetta against Gungho because bad luck screwed me over. This is simple game design/psychology right here. If you can make a big purchase in a free to play game, you'd damn well better be guaranteed something good out of that. You should feel good about your purchase. You should be rewarded for being one of the minority of players that keeps the company afloat! But that's not how it works with PaD. Eventually you cave in and reluctantly dig out the money, and even worse, if you're not lucky then you come out of it almost worse off than before. The fact is, that's almost par for the course for PaD. It really makes their F2P model a very cynical and anti-player one.