The Game: Three of the most popular games from Namco’s arcade heyday are brought back in the ’90s, both in their original forms and in “remixed” versions with updated sound and graphics and tweaks to the game play. Pac-Man Arrangement adds power-ups, new mazes, new graphics and a whole new breed of monsters to the most classic arcade game of the 80s, while Rally-X Arrangement refuels with power-ups and audiovisual enhancements of its own. Dig Dug Arrangement revamps the underground classic with a new breed of enemies – and a new variety of ways to eliminate them. (Namco, 1996)
Memories: Building on the success of the Namco Classic Collection Volume 1 coin-op compilation, Namco returned here to the jewel in its crown. Not that Mappy or Xevious are anything to sneeze at, mind you, and Galaga certainly isn’t a minor entry in the arcade pantheon. But how can you possibly beat a revisitation of Pac-Man?
Pac-Man Arrangement adds more than just a few new maze configurations to the game. It adds special power-ups, a fifth ghost with most unusual characteristics, and a lot of visual pizazz – all within the same screen size as the original. The fifth ghost, nicknamed “Kinky,” doesn’t quite live up to its name in a literal sense, but he’s a damned weird little critter. He’s nervous enough to turn blue the moment he leaves the ghost nest at the center of the screen, whether Pac-Man munches a power pellet or not, and if Pac-Man eat him, the rest of the monsters also become vulnerable. If left to his own devices, Kinky will merge with one of the other ghosts, becoming a super-sized behemoth of a ghost who can leap across the maze with only a flashing bulls-eye giving about two seconds’ notice of where he’ll land. The power-ups are handy things that help to balance the scales: one power-up will scare the ghosts back into their nest for several seconds, while others speed Pac-Man up or temporarily give him a mirror-image decoy directly across the maze from his real position. Pac-Man Arrangement is truly cool; it’s also made it onto the most recent generation of consoles, including the Game Boy Advance, via Namco Museum.
Dig Dug Arrangement “remixes” another Namco favorite of mine, sprucing up the graphics a great deal, and adding new obstacles and abilities. I especially like the gigantic rocks which crash through the ground destroying all in their path when you loosen the ground underneath them. There are also subterranean power-ups and new species of fire-breathing Fygars to help you dig Dig Dug all over again.
Finally, Rally-X Arrangement gives the already compulsive overhead racing, flag-capturing favorite a new coat of paint and some power-ups of its own. Ever wanted to be able to “smash all rocks,” for example? Now you can.
All three games are, of course, also available in their original forms, making this arcade game a real gem. Of all the companies who have tried to make a buck by leaning on their back catalog, nobody has done it better than Namco, at home or in the arcade.