PAC-MAN 99 is a Battle Royale version of Pac-Man developed by Arika and published by Bandai Namco, released on the Nintendo Switch Online service on April 7, 2021. It is the third Arika-developed Battle Royale based on a classic video game, following the highly-successful Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35.
In this variation of the classic game, players compete with 98 other players to become the last man standing, the "PAC-ONE". To win, players must survive an endless maze of Pac-Man while chomping dots and avoiding the deadly touch of the four ghosts. Eating a Power Pellet and consuming a blue ghost allows the player to attack other players in the form of Jammer Pac-Man that impede players and eventually increase in lethality over the course of a match. In addition, players can increase their attack power by activating the "sleeping ghosts" to summon ghost trains a la Pac-Man Championship Edition and generate more ghosts to chomp at once, and swap between four different kinds of power-ups to gain an edge over the competition.
In addition to the free base game, there is an all-in-one Downloadable Content package called the "Deluxe Pack" that enables Private Matches and several offline features, including a COM Battle mode, a Score Attack, and Blind Time Attack mode, as well as adding catalogue of custom themes based off of various Pac-Man games and titles from Namco's exhaustive retro games library. Themes can also be bought individually, and the additional modes can be purchased as their own bundle.
This game contains examples of:
- Anti-Frustration Features: Pressing against a corner will produce a "spark" animation like in Championship Edition and turn the corner with a slight speed boost. If you touch a ghost while sparking, Pac-Man will survive the hit and play a unique "grazing" effect to indicate that you touched a ghost while sparking a corner.
- Ascended Glitch: The aforementioned "grazing" mechanic appears to be inspired by a glitch in the original Pac-Man where if a ghost and Pac-Man touch but are changing tiles at the same time, it will not register as a hit and Pac-Man will survive.
- Background Music Override: On the Wonder Momo skin, picking up a Power Pellet will replace the background music with the music that plays when Momo transforms into Wonder Momo.
- Balance, Power, Skill, Gimmick: The relationship shared by the four power-ups. "Standard" is balance with no upgrades or drawbacks, "Stronger" is power that sends more Jammer Pac-man but makes power pellets wear off sooner and permanently reduces your speed by one level every time it's activated, "Speed" is skill which makes you faster but sends less Jammer Pac-man, and "Train" is the gimmick of doubling the ghosts that get added to a train when waking sleeping ghosts in exchange for adding Jammer Pac-Man to your own maze when doing so.
- Freemium: The 99-player battle royale mode is free for anyone with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. For those who want more, there are a handful of other modes and a library of game skins that can be purchased as paid DLC.
- Guide Dang It!: Just like Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35, there are absolutely no tutorials whatsoever. This makes understanding mechanics specific to 99 very hands-on, and unlike Tetris, which reuses existing official mechanics, in Pac-Man many of the mechanics were created specifically for this game, making understanding them that much harder.
- The "Standard/Stronger/Speed/Train" selector on the left side of the screen is left completely unexplained. It's essentially a Stance System that determines the effect of Power Pellets, but even if you figure that out, there's a number of fiddly details not quite covered by the stance names alone.
- While white Jammer Pac-Man are easy enough to understand, the game also has red Jammer Pac-Man, and does not tell you what they do until you collide with one. Which is instant death.
- The game never tells you that clearing all Pac-Dots from the board increases Pac-Man's Speed counter by 1.
- Unlike Tetris, where Badges earned from K.O.ing other players increases your offense, Badges in PAC-MAN 99 increase the threshold at which Jammer Pac-Man must stack up in the queue before they appear on the board.
- Later Installment Weirdness: In Championship Edition 2, sleeping ghosts are triggered by passing next to them and bumping into any of the miniature ghosts in the ghost train can potentially make the lead ghost hostile. In 99, you instead pass through sleeping ghosts to activate them, and ghost trains aren't inherently hostile save for the lead ghost.
- Law of Chromatic Superiority: Regular Jammer Pac-Man are mini-sized and white colored. They slow down Pac-Man on contact but otherwise do not harm Pac-Man, and can be killed by picking up a Power Pellet. Later in the round, red Jammer Pac-Man begin appearing, which are full-size and much slower compared to the white Jammers, but have the same kill power as a Ghost and are far more persistent; Power Pellets only freeze them in place, and only picking up a Bonus Fruit can kill red Jammers.
- Luck-Based Mission: The existence of Red Jammer Pac-Man can easily sway the outcome of a round due to no fault of your own. Power Pellets force them to stop moving temporarily, but they are still lethal on contact; if they block a critical path in the maze, such as a route to a Power Pellet or the Fruit, it can be extremely tough to make it out alive.
- Mythology Gag:
- The game clearly takes after the mechanics and aesthetics of Championship Edition, including the sparking effect when you round corners, the usage of sleeping ghosts and ghost trains from Championship Edition 2, and the heavily techno-focused soundtrack. The visual effect for eating a ghost train is even extremely similar.
- When using the Dig Dug theme, the background music will stop playing if Taizo ever stops moving, just like in the original game.
- Songs in the Key of Panic:
- Entering the final 10 players in a given round is marked by the music transitioning to an extraordinarily frenetic and fast-paced remix of the "Coffee Break" theme.
- Playing on any of the other themes will have the background music get faster and faster as the player count dwindles.
- Finally, on DLC themes, the music will change depending on how many players are still active- for example, on The Tower of Druaga, at 50 players, the game will switch to the theme that plays on floors with a Dragon, and at 10 players, the theme will switch again to the theme that plays during the battle with Druaga.
- Stance System: Styles are a series of named buttons that can be swapped at will with the right face buttons. A chosen Style will become active upon picking up a Power Pellet, and will augment its effect in different way depending on the chosen Style.
- Standard is as it says: default Power Pellet functionality, just like in normal Pac-Man.
- Stronger doubles attack power, allowing Pac-Man to fire two Jammer Pac-Man for every blue ghost consumed, and, on higher speed levels, sends Red Jammers. However, it greatly decreases the active time of the Power Pellet and reduces your speed level by 1 every time you eat a Power Pellet.
- Speed doubles Pac-Man's movement speed but decreases attack power by 50%, lowering the number of Jammer Pac-Man sent.
- Train doubles the number of ghosts added to the ghost train when touching a sleeping ghost. However, eating a ghost while Train is active also adds an extra Jammer Pac-Man to the queue, which can be suicidal at later stages.