“Build me a better Pac-Man!” I shouted, to anyone that would listen. I did this at my most desperate hour and at the top of a hill overlooking the sleeping city, as this was how I’d seen it done successfully in the last act of rom-com movies, so it had to work. Not that Pac-Man needs my dramatics or an update; turning on one’s enemies and devouring them whole is still one of the eternal ideas of gaming. If it ain’t broke,
why the hell is the plumber here don’t fix it, and Chompy Chomp Chomp (80 MSP) only tweaks that formula, for the better.
Due to impeccable timing (and perhaps destiny), this review is coming fresh off an update to the game that adds some sought-after bits and fixes some flaws, including A.I. re-balancing and the option to toggle on / off powerups. The most noticeable and welcome of the update gifts is the now few seconds of invulnerability after respawn (thank you, Utopian World of Sandwiches, and also for that sweet moniker).
The idea: four Chompys enter an arena… and four Chompys leave. What? It’s family-friendly. Each of you represents a color, and a target shadow below you indicates whom to chomp. What follows is mostly-controlled chaos, rainbow-colored Chompy binge-eating, timed or by score limit. During the battle, offensive and defensive options pop up on the board, as well as fruit / score multipliers (vital to victory, trust me) and poison to slow you down or reverse controls (grrrrr). After some time, you get a warning tick down, followed by a color switch, and everyone gets a new target. Cue more fun.
It’s all at once parts of Pac-Man and Assassin’s Creed‘s multiplayer, with you and others cat-and-mousing it across various stage boards (with three variations apiece), powerups often determining whether you’re lunch or wearing the leader’s crown. Initially it’s frantic and a bit confusing, but after a few primer rounds, you’ll find it’s incredibly simple (the best arcade-likes usually are) and addicting, even offline versus bots. Though I’d imagine the real mileage will come from breaking this out amongst friends or against online competition. I can’t vouch for online (didn’t find any matches) but two-player local did the trick just as well, if not better (you can’t slap people over Xbox Live).
What it lacks in variety, it makes up for in pick-up-and-playability. Also, while just clean aesthetics and gorgeous menus won’t bring the boys to the yard, they do accent the level of polish present throughout CCC, and are deserving of a mention.
There wasn’t a single time I didn’t panic when my would-be assassin was closing in, controller shaking at the inevitability, nor any round I played that I wasn’t smiling or thoroughly enjoying. Chompy Chomp Chomp is an absolute blast to sample, a sublime arcade experience that really shines once four people get together, locally or via the wonderment that is the internets. Congrats to ‘Sandwiches and welcome to the leaderboard, guys and gal.