About a year after Namco released their popular Pac-Man Battle Royale to arcades, there was word out and about that they were testing an upgraded version of the game. There was no pictures or video of the upgrade and it almost seemed like it was a rumor but as it turned out, they really had this version of the game going around for some tests.
Why the game upgrade was not released is not clear but now we have a chance to get some hands on time with it. I am fortunate to present this prototype upgrade to you today, which you can also come and check out if you ever happen to be in the area of my arcade (The Game Grid Arcade) in WVC, UT. Here’s an “unboxing” look at it along with information on what makes this upgrade better than the original software that had been released to the market. Whether this will be released down the road, I am not sure but there is a USB port on the side of the board, perhaps that can be used for the upgrades.
This uses the exact same hardware board as the standard PMBR boards that are out there, the PlayStation 2-based System 147. If anyone cares, the only thing I could find for a version was this line in the operator options: “PBR103-2-NA-MPR0-A24”. Side by side, the boards don’t really look any different aside from dust collection.
Someone asked if this uses a different name but it does not. Although I could think of a few – Pac-Man Battle Royale +, Pac-Man Battle Royale Gold, Pac-Man Splatterhouse…although with the features below my hunch is they would call it Pac-Man Battle Royale Tournament Edition if they were going to give it a name change. I’m more partial to Splatterhouse but given the easily offended nature of the public these days, the T.E. title is probably the safest bet.
The upgrade addresses some of the shortfalls that the first has, mostly in terms of replayability. The original version is fun – but if you ever play the game alone it leaves a lot to be desired. I have also witnessed from players that groups would play the game quite a bit at first but not return for some time. With the changes made to this version, perhaps that will change to a degree. Here is a breakdown of the improvements as found in the upgrade
There is no noticeable difference in the attract mode from what I have witnessed so far. So I jumped into the settings and there I got some changes.
In the GAME OPTIONS, it now has additional choices for selecting how many Pac-Men you want on the board (default=4) and both minimum and maximum difficulty for the CPU controlled Pac-Men. There is also a TOURNAMENT MODE, which was defaulted to ON.
In the original, playing alone pitted you against a single CPU Pac-Man that simply chases you down. It doesn’t do any headfakes or anything terribly interesting. With the upgrade, you can get a fully populated arena along with those AI difficulty settings I mentioned. Having played a few rounds with the default settings, the CPU AI players can actually present a challenge. I think that it may randomly assign the difficulty setting per AI player each round, with one getting a higher value, another getting a mid-range and another getting a lower one, but that is just a guess. Overall it is certainly a much improved experience over being in a mostly lonely arena. Likewise if you play with say two or three individuals, it still populates the other empty spots. If you are playing alone and end up getting eaten before the CPUs are done, you can watch the action or just press start to skip to the next round:
The Tournament Mode was defaulted to ON so I actually turned it off first and played some rounds, then turned it back on to see the differences. I will be leaving the mode on as the main difference happens at the end of the game. With it off it is just like the standard game excepting the additional CPU players, telling users which stat they got the best on like “Won Most Rounds” “Ate X Pac-Dots” and so on. In tournament mode, it actually uses a scoring system
Which is then followed by a placement screen (and it just so happened I snapped a shot of a tie):
Because the levels are populated with more players, the game will give you larger arenas to compensate. I can’t say for sure that they added more levels although there are a couple from what I have played so far that I don’t recall seeing before, although they can be found on Pac-Man C.E. on the Xbox360.
Other than that, it’s still a competitive arena game that is a lot of fun, especially if you have four people going at it. The splatter feature, something in multiplayer that you can do by pushing the start button when in between rounds is still there. The music is the same too. All in all, I give this new version of the game two thumbs up.