Mario 35 came in like a brick wall for most people when it was announced and launched. To everyone’s surprise, the game was a standout hit. Though many were upset that the game was being retired after only a few months – one can see why. Mario 35 and its predecessor Tetris 99, served as a basis for Nintendo and their partners to bring their IPs in an unusual format – one that was designed for wider audiences. With that, they have launched Pacman 99, using the Mario 35 engine and taking inspiration from Tetris 99.
Chapter 1: Chomp Chomp
On the surface, much like Tetris 99, Pacman 99 is a battle royale of the last Pacman Standing. They updated it to include new mechanics to help you interact and battle your opponents while still making use of the standard Pacman move set.
Pacman for the most part operates as you would expect Pacman would. Pacman is the yellow sphere, he eats small pellets. When he eats large pellets, the ghosts become vulnerable meaning you can eat those.
Where Pacman 99 deviates from the original, when a ghost is eaten, it is sent to your opponents. You can select your opponents using your right analog stick. You can select: Random, Counter – those who target you are targeted, Knockout – those who are close to losing are targeted, and Hunter.
These ghosts appear as Pacman which when you pass over them slows you down, allowing the ghosts to catch up with you. Later in the game, you will encounter ones that move to your location to attack you or the red ones which will kill you instantly.
There are also small ghosts you can eat which will add themselves to a random ghost creating a tail. Which when vulnerable will create up to 20 ghosts for you to send to your opponents.
You can also change how the ghosts and Pacman behave using the left analog stick. Standard is standard, Stronger means ghosts are durable for less time, Speed makes the ghosts and Pacman faster than base speed, and well Train – I do not know.
Once you’ve eaten your way through most of the pellets, there is a chance for fruit to spawn, eating this resets the board and recreates your pellets and mini ghosts.
Chapter 2: Zshum
On the audio/visual side of things, the game in its default state takes a lot of cues from the original Pacman Arcade. Which is a good thing, although I am pretty sure the music they used is an updated one? In any case, the sound effects really liven things up and it's fun to just listen to.
The art assets and visual effects that happen when ghosts are sent to you and when you sent ghosts to other players are displayed in an eye-catching fashion. Whenever you eat the mini ghosts, the game slows down and it creates this very satisfying crunch effect that feels great to watch and just experience.
Chapter 3: Pew Pew
The game is free for Nintendo Online Players, but Bandai-Namco has so graciously allowed DLC in the game. But it's genuinely interesting DLC. You can buy new skins for the entire game so the Pacman sprites can be reskinned with recolours, as well as other Bandai-Namco games.
You only have access to the online-only battle royale, but if you pay for the game, you get access to other modes, which I did not buy, so no explanation from me.
Pacman 99 is a solid free to play title on Nintendo Switch. I do not know if it is going to stick around or not. It is fun, colorful, has a heaping of nostalgia, and has enough challenge that it can become a time sink.