UPDATE: This game is available world-wide now and in addition to the multi-puck feature described below, it also allows players to plays “classic” style with just a single puck if they so choose.
Back at the Japanese trade show, AOU 2012, Namco had a new concept in air hockey to show off called Big Bang Smash. Unfortunately at the time we weren’t able to find out much about it aside from some pictures of the flyers which did indicate that it was going to be much different than any other air hockey concept we had seen previously. I had guessed that we would see this one show up outside of Japan, seeing how popular air hockey is over in the West. Fast forward some months later and my guesses have been confirmed but in a slightly different way than expected.
(Click on the image for a full view)
Namco America has been testing the game seen above in the US for a little while already, rechristened as Pac-Man Smash. It is a four player air hockey game that instead of giving the players one or two pucks to go after, the game has a mechanism on the side that constantly shoots out dozens of mini-pucks during the game. It’s a sort of “multiball” that is applied to air hockey which also uses the advantage of the Pac-Man license, building upon what Namco has done with their recent Pac-Man Battle Royale arcade game. It is always great to see new concepts come along in air hockey, which is still a necessity for arcades to carry. I say that from experience as an air hockey table was one of the best investments I made into my own place when I opened. New ideas for air hockey isn’t a common occurrence although we have seen a few innovations over the past few years such as Sega’s Heat Up Hockey or Barron Game’s Quad Air. It looks like Pac-Man Smash will continue that trend and I imagine that coming across one won’t be too difficult (if the price is right), especially if Namco gives it the same marketing push as they have with Pac-Man Battle Royale.
All has been quiet on this game from February until now where Namco has finally released Big Bang Smash in Japan. In mentioning the release of that, they also went ahead and brought up how Pac-Man Smash has been testing overseas. According to this document released by Namco Japan today which details the Japanese release of Big Bang Smash, they include this about the Pac-Man version: ” [it] is very popular overseas as well, is our location on the response of test was performed in the United States, countries. Will continue to expand the deployment of sequentially.” Where it has been testing exactly we do not know and what that means in terms of a release date isn’t clear but I would venture to guess that we’ll see it before the year is out. We will have to wait on Namco America to see what they will do with it, but I’m fairly confident that like Dark Escape 4D, we will see it at IAAPA 2012 in November.
UPDATE: Namco has released a trailer showing Big Bang Smash in action. So the play should be the same, but with a Pac-Man theme.