‘Pac-Man 99’ and ‘Mega Tunnel Battle’ review: Battle royale games with a modern twist on an old favourite

  • BandaiNamco has launched two promising versions of the iconic video game with one on Nintendo Switch and one on Stadia
  • Eat Power Pellets, avoid ghosts, and even wreak havoc on opponent mazes
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Up to 64 players can compete battle-royale style in ‘Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle’. Photo: Bandai Namco/TNS

BandaiNamco’s mascot, Pac-Man, has a problem. Although he is iconic for being one of the first video game characters to go mainstream, his adventures beyond the Power Pellets and mazes have been awful.

Most of his games have stuck to the tried and true blueprint with a few gimmicks. Developers have added more players, turning it into a party game, or they have altered the perspective to make it more 3D. The outcome has been fun but unremarkable.

However, a new addition to the Pac-Man formula holds promise. The battle royale genre has become hugely popular with the rise of Fortnite and Fall Guys. Not wanting to miss out on a trend, BandaiNamco has published not one but two Pac-Man games that take advantage of the concept.

Check out the games we’re looking forward to this year

Two Pac-Man takes on battle royale

The first, titled Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle, was released a few months ago on Stadia and features 64 players battling to stay alive against ghosts and each other.

More recently, BandaiNamco launched Pac-Man 99 on the Nintendo Switch. This entry pits 99 players against each other as they outmanoeuvre ghosts and obstacles.

The goal of these Pac-Man battle royale games is to be the one that outlasts the others and takes first place. Everyone starts in the same way with players running through a maze and eating Pellets while avoiding ghosts. Defeat comes when a ghost catches Pac-Man or when he meets another end.

In Mega Tunnel Battle, players wander through interconnected maps. Players start off alone, but they can use portals that occasionally open and invade an opponent’s maze. Once there, they can help opponents finish eating the Pellets and upgrade the map, or, more likely, they can cause havoc.

A rival can steal power-ups that flit through the corridors. These can be extra lives, a shield, or even a smelly aura to scare ghosts away. What’s even better is that an opponent can grab a Power Pellet to try eating an unpowered Pac-Man as if they were a ghost. It’s a game that’s more strategic and deeper than Pac-Man 99.

Unfortunately, the player base in Mega Tunnel Battle isn’t as big, and it doesn’t feel like players are competing against a broad field of foes with all the randomness and chaos that’s part of the genre’s fun.

On the other hand, Pac-Man 99 has no such problem, being on the Nintendo Switch. This version of a battle royale game nails down the speed and simplicity of gameplay. Players jump into a match, and they play like it’s a normal campaign. They munch on dots, avoid ghosts, eat Power Pellets, and turn the tables on adversaries.

Both Mega Battle Tunnel and Pac-Man 99 have a way of being addictively fun even when players lose. If a player is eliminated, a new match is on the horizon. It doesn’t take much to hit the retry button and hop back into a contest. Pac-Man 99’s set-up excels at this while jumping into a match in Mega Battle Tunnel takes longer. Thankfully, the developers included computer challenges to keep players busy while they wait for others to join.

If we were to choose one, we had more fun with Pac-Man 99 because of its simplified gameplay and the ease of finding a match. Defeat in a battle royale game is a pain, but the joy is that there’s always another chance at redemption around the corner. And the more recent Pac-Man game gets it right.

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