Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness (Dreamcast)
MSRP: $29.99
Number of Players: 1-4
Developer: Namco/Mass Media
Publisher: Namco

out of

I love the arcade games of the early 1980s. If there's one thing that I don't like about today's videogames it's the seemingly endless increases in complexity and difficulty. Maybe I'm just getting old, but when a game with the ease, simplicity and nostalgia of Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness comes along, I can't help but like it.

This 21st century update on the original game now includes the pre-requisite storyline which provides the main character with the necessary motivation to carry out her quest. This time out, Ms. Pac-Man needs to save the world by retrieving the four Gems of Virtue and keeping them safe from harm.

The original Ms. Pac-Man was a 2D, overhead view game that featured static mazes filled with dots and power-ups. This new version is viewed from a pseudo-3D perspective and includes most of the elements of the original. The power-ups that allow you to turn the tables on the ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Sue) are still here, as are newer items that allow you to blow stuff up, open doors or jump over parts of the maze. These new items (and the old ones too) are explained in the first level by Professor Pac, who appears to give Ms. Pac-Man tips on completing her missions.

In all honesty, this is a very simple game. The control consists of the analog stick (or the d-pad, if you prefer) and requires absolutely no button-pressing at all. The puzzles aren't very hard, but still remain fun. This is a game that's playable by anyone and still manages to remain enjoyable and challenging.

The graphics are crisp and clean, but are not really an indication of the Dreamcast's power. Since this game is also available on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, I'm sure that little effort was made to make the game Dreamcast version much different from the other versions. The music and sound effects recall the original's, but with a little punchier results. The music is a weird combination of styles that is instantly forgettable, but never becomes annoying.

In addition to the single player game, there are several multiplayer games included. These are simple party games like Da Bomb, Ghost Tag, and Pac Mania, that provide simple goals to entertain you and up to three friends. None of these multiplayer games is likely to keep the game in your Dreamcast on their own merit, but they're worth mentioning as interesting diversions from the single player game.

For nostalgia hounds, the full version of the original Ms. Pac-Man is included as a "classic" mode. Being able to play the old arcade game from the comfort of your couch is reason enough for me to recommend Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness, but the "new" version of the game is certainly enjoyable as well.

Overall, Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness is a worthy addition to your Dreamcast collection based on its relatively low price and addictive and easy-to-digest gameplay. If you have been looking for a game that's suitable for the whole family, Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness certainly deserves your attention.

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