Pac-Man World 3, for anyone that hasn't been following the Pac-Man World games, is the third game in the 3D platforming series, which sees Pac-Man jumping around, chomping pills and tackling ghosts. While modern platformers seem to be moving further and further away from their roots, Pac-Man World 3 is very much a traditional 3D platformer, designed to be a fun and simple experience for kids.
The game opens with Pac-Man celebrating his 25th birthday with Mrs. Pac-Man and Pac-Man Junior. Without warning Pac-Man is teleported from place to place in the area surrounding his home, and then into a rather sinister looking world. It seems that the evil Erwin has been at it again, so Pac-Man must once again attempt to save the world. It's typical children's TV stuff, with a script and voice acting to match. While it's unlikely to appeal to anyone over the age of 12, kids are sure to enjoy it.
Erwin isn't going to make saving the world easy, so he's sent his goons out to stop Pac-Man in his tracks. These beasts rarely cause much trouble, with Pac-Man's punch or butt-stomp usually being enough to take them down. Numerous other enemies crop up along the way, and you get to use plenty of power-ups to help you out, not that any help is really needed. These include an electricity punch and an explosive ribbon that destroys any enemies trapped within its circle.
3D incarnations of the classic ghosts vs. Pac-Man games also crop up from time to time, with the fiery ghosts immune to Pac-Man's attacks. Power pills scattered around the area must be chomped in order to give him the ability to chomp the ghosts. Each level also contains a Galaxian pick-up that teleports you to a classic-style maze mini-game. It's presented from an isometric viewpoint, but it's still the same basic game. The variation in activities during the game is really Pac-Man World 3's strong point. While you never do anything new or innovative, you don't do any one thing for long enough to become bored.
You even get to play as the friendly ghosts Pinky and Clyde. At certain points in the game you can switch over to controlling the ghosts, and this gives you access to their special seeing abilities. There are many platforms that Pac-Man can't see in the Spectral world, and the ghosts can locate them for him. Obstacles that block Pac-Man's way can also be knocked down. Again, it's not a ground braking gameplay mechanic, but it goes a long way to keeping things fresh. A few other sections, like those where you take control of a robot, are best not talked about, but on the whole Pac-Man World 3 consistently delivers a family friendly experience.
Visually the game isn't as shabby as you might think. The environments are large and full of colour, and there's even a widescreen option - not something you'd usually see in a current-gen kids' title. Pac-Man himself is perfectly round, but the enemies are pretty crude in their design. There's also the odd bout of slowdown in the more complex levels, but never anything too dramatic. Audio mixes new tunes with some classic sound effects, but the overall package is let down by some poor voice acting.
To aid replay value, high scores are kept for numerous things and a museum lets you tackle the classic game. Other extras include an interview with the creator of Pac-Man and a time line of the Pac-Man games over the years. How much interest all this will be to the kids that the game is so squarely aimed at isn't clear, but it does at least provide a few moments of interest for the more mature player.
You only have to see the opening cutscene to realise that Pac-Man World 3 isn't a game for adults. As a children's game it's not bad at all, with some 3D platforming gameplay that treads a familiar path, and plenty of variety to keep things interesting. There are, of course, plenty of more accomplished platformers available, with the likes of Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank coming to mind, but I doubt kids would be too disappointed if they sat down in front of this on a rainy afternoon.