Sunday, March 13, 2011

Somebody at Bandai Namco is doing excellent design

I took my son Tom to Portland's excellent Ground Kontrol retro-arcade/pub for a little classic gaming.

They've done a bit of a remodel, the most significant piece of which greeted us upon entering:

OMG! Ground Kontrol has Pacman Battle Royale. Most awesome arcade deathmatch!

Pac Man Battle Royale!!! And yeah, that's a big-ass cupholder in that cocktail cabinet. Welcome to America.

I played this back at E3, and it was my favorite game of the show. Picture a modern day treatment of Pacman (i.e. aesthetic of Pacman Championship edition), with the multiplayer head-to-head competition of Warlords, with a high level of emergent strategy that varies a lot depending on who your opponents are. Eat them? Bounce them into oncoming ghosts? Bait them into chasing you to a well-timed appearing powerup?

It's a superb new design on a classic game, and one that I pray they'll have the heart to ship on XBLA sometime soon, because going to play this at the arcade with 3 friends is easily a $50 evening at 2-quarters a game, per person. (Its also a superb redesign from the business standpoint, as there hasn't been a 4-player quarter eater like this Gauntlet, or maybe Daytona-USA, though the latter's cabinet price was steep).

Anyhow, my point is around it's superb design. I believe it's from the same team (at least same engine and look) that did Pacman Championship Edition, and Pacman Championship Edition DX for XBLA, both of which are awesome designs and very imaginitive twists on the original game.

I'm not sure if all three are from the brain of the same designer, but if so, they need to pay him/her more.

Anyone who thinks about game design should play all the classic pacman titles, but then spend some time with these three latest incarnations and think about what makes them so great. All very different, all still linked to the same core mechanic, and all great.

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