Namco Museum DS is a nice trip down memory lane and does support some nifty features. However, it is missing one key ingredient: WiFi connectivity.
The meat of this compilation game card is an old school experience. Pac-Man stands as one of the most recognized games of all time. Galaga, Galaxian, and Xevious are all classic shooters. Mappy and Tower of Druaga fall under the category of “love-it” or “hate-it.” And Dig Dug II sports quirky gameplay elements that generates some addictive qualities.
Despite all these classic Namco games, Pac-Man Vs is the title that truly shines in this compilation. Pac-Man Vs was an experimental GC-to-GBA connectivity title that was released for free if you purchased specially marked Pac-Man and R-Racing Evolution games on GC. Vs put a new spin on Pac-Man because for the first time, the player controls the ghosts. Pac-Man is still tasked with clearing the board of pellets while the human controlled ghosts are out to stop him. This same experience is now brought to the DS through the use of only one game card. Because everyone now views their own screen, Pac-Man Vs is a perfect fit for this handheld system. But please keep in mind, this game is for 2-4 players only (no single player option).
Pac-Man can view the entire game board, but the ghosts are restricted to a much smaller field of view limited to their near proximity. However, if Pac-Man eats the fruit in the middle, he gains some extra points. On the other hand, if the ghost eats the fruit, then the viewable area becomes larger, making it easier to spot and chase Pac-Man. This alone is enough to spark the dirty tactic of fruit-camping. Either way, Pac-Man Vs should be played by all Pac-Man fans and stands as a great social game.
Each game on the game card supports many extras and options. The player has the option to play the game in stretched or standard arcade resolution or can even turn the DS system on its side to play vertically, a la Brain Age. While playing vertically is the best way to play these games visually, it is slightly difficult to tap the buttons in a vertical format.
Besides changing the aspect ratios, another cool feature actually lets the player slide the DIP switches on the game’s motherboard using the stylus. Flipping these switches can give the player some advantages such as starting with more lives, or reducing the score before an extra life is gained. And if virtually playing around with the motherboard isn’t enough, the player is also treated with extra readable content that gives some background history about the game, how to play, and even reveals crucial game-winning hints. All the game’s music and sound bytes can also be accessed through the game’s menu. And it needs to be noted that using the game’s menu is very easily navigated through the use of the stylus on the touch screen.
While this $20 compilation game card can generate easily wasted hours, the biggest disappointment is the lack of WiFi connectivity. Not being able to play Pac-Man Vs online is an incredibly big let down. Plus, there is no excuse for not being able to upload high scores to see where you rank on a world wide leaderboard. The developers did a great job by giving the game a great navigatable menu screen and by adding in all the extra features such as the DIP switching, hint menus, and sound gallery, but it still seems like a lazy rush job that there are no WiFi options. I enjoy playing classic games, but staying with it is hard when you are competing solely against your own high score. In the year 2007, this should not be happening. Would classic arcade games in the XBLA retain their lasting value if there was no leaderboard function? I think not.
The game is rightfully priced at a cheaper $20 price point, with Pac-Man Vs being the obvious highlight of this compilation. It is just a shame that I have to play in the same room as my opponents…at least it is a single card link, though. But the lack of uploading a high score makes playing the rest of the 7 games seem a little boring and uneventful. However, all the added extras, especially the DIP switch mode, is a unique concept that is greatly welcomed. If you need a classic gaming fix from time to time, then this game can satisfy that craving. However, with the exclusion of Ms. Pac-Man and the original Dig Dug, I can’t help but wonder if Namco is working on Namco Museum DS 2. If this is true, let’s just hope it comes with WiFi.