Back in June, we gave you a brief preview of Disney Close-Eyed Grin (XD)’s Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, a new Japanese/Canadian/American computer-animated television series in production by 41 Entertainment based on Namco Bandai Games’ Pac-Man video game franchise. At the time, the series hadn’t premiered yet, but now that it’s made its’ debut (the series proper premiered on June 15th) and several episodes have aired, I can now give Ghostly Adventures a full review.
The premise isn’t anything you haven’t heard before: Pac-Man saves his native soil of Pac-World (as opposed to the Pac-Land of the 1982 Hanna-Barbera animated series) from ghosts. But the way it’s presented is new and different. This isn’t the Pac-Man of your older sibling who’s stuck in the 1980’s (“Skinny ties are coming back, man! Just wait and see! And man, Alien was a cool movie!”) Visually, Ghostly Adventures is a real treat: the show, which is presented in stereoscopic 3D, is one of the best looking CGI shows I’ve seen on TV. It takes us inside a beautiful, futuristic, high-tech Pac-World full of spherical and ovular buildings and spherical and ovular Pac-People, chock full of sci-fi tech such as hover-boards and other way-out gadgets, very bright, colorful and fun. The show’s cast is also quite colorful, but literally and figuratively:
Pac-Man himself (or just “Pac”, to give his more familiar name; the “Man” part is just a title bestowed upon him after saving Pac-World for the first time) is here portrayed as a happy-go-lucky, likable, energetic, well-meaning, sincere and good-natured (if a tad naive) teenager with a voracious appetite. On this show his yellow color scheme isn’t just for show, it actually ties into the premise: on this show Pac-Denizens come in a wide ranges of colors, as opposed to most of the previous media, where most of the Pac-People were yellow by default; the yellow Pac-Worlders are legendary heroes and the sworn protectors of Pac-World, as they’re the only Pac-People capable of eating ghosts. As such, Pac-World’s greatest threat has systematically hunted down and eliminated nearly all of the Yellows down to near-extinction, leaving Pac as seemingly the only yellow Pac-Worlder left alive (though other yellow Pac-Worlders are sometimes seen in the background, or maybe they’re supposed to be gold?). Not only is Pac the only one capable of devouring ghosts and spitting out their eyeballs, but he also receives unique powers and abilities by eating the magical Power Berries from the Tree of Life (this shows equivalent to the Power Pellets and the Power Forest), enabling such wacky-but-useful transformations and abilities as growing to giant size, bouncing around like a Super Ball, a fire form, an ice form, a titanium form with a magnetic tongue for attracting ghosties, a chameleon form with a long-stretching tongue (no, he doesn’t hock Geico insurance!) and more.
“Oh, sure. A short, round dude who gets crazy powers by eating stuff. Never seen that before! Real [bleep]ing original!”
Cylindria (or Cylli for short) is one of Pac’s best friends and partners in crime on this show. She’s a lavender Pac-Girl with streaked purple-black hair, red-framed glasses, fingerless gloves, striped socks and black Goth boots. Cylli is basically the Hermoine Granger of the show, but thankfully she’s not overbearing with it. (Is it wrong to find a lavender ball somewhat adorkably hot? I’m asking for a friend.)
Sprial is Pac’s other best friend. With his large ovoid body, tuft of curly blue hair atop his head and bright red coloring, he resembles a living radish. While he may look weird, he’s a true and loyal friend to “the Pacster”, as he calls him. Spiral’s always got Pac’s back and is full of “cool” best bud phrases which he’ll spout at the drop of a hat.
President Stratos Spheros is the green colored President of Pac-World and the one who typically sends the Pac team out on its’ mission. He’s usually flanked by his semi-competent guards, who are all blue in color and wear sunglasses (The Men in Blue, perhaps?)
Sir Cumference (get it?) is Pac-World’s resident nutty inventor, also green, BTW, who builds and designs the team’s ghost-busting gadgets. He also fought in Pac-World War 1.
Spheria Suprema is a brave and sassy orange colored Pac Lady with a Southern accent. She’s another former PWW1 freedom fighter and is currently Pac-World’s reigning Pac-Pong champ. Spheria also happens to be Pac’s aunt, who is raising him now that his parents have been killed. (Awwwww.)
Commander/Lord Betrayus is the show’s main antagonist. He’s the absolute dictator of the Netherworld, similar to the character of Spooky from Pac-Man World 2. Once he was a Pac-Worlder, a dissident who attempted to take over the planet with an army of traitors, monsters and ghosts, launching Pac World War 1. (One thing I like about this series is that it actually gives its’ villain a back story which actually ties into his having once been one of them, as opposed to the HB show which just plonked a human would-be Gargamel onto the show with no explanation of who he was, where he came from, what his motivations were and how he came to be there). He was also the one responsible for the near-extinction of the Yellow Pac-Worlders. Upon his defeat, Betrayus and his followers were all stripped of the corporeal forms and banished to the Netherworld as ghosts, but after the portal sealing them all away was accidentally breached (by Pac, as it happens) Betrayus now hatches scheme after scheme to defeat Pac-Man and take over once and for all. He typically employs monsters, specters and gadgets, all of which fail week after week Rita Repulsa style. When Betrayus rages out (which is often) he emits fire. Betrayus has an ego the size of a mountain and is more than just a little nuts; as such his minions aren’t so much loyal to him as they’re too afraid of the wack-a-doodle to act any other way towards him. (Incidentally, Betrayus, both in corporeal and ghostly form, is white. As yet we haven’t seen any other white Pac-Worlders; perhaps Betrayus is a mutant, or maybe he just spent zero time in the sun.) Lord B. is also President Spheros’ brother.
Buttler is Betrayus’ hapless purple-gray colored personal servant. When he had a body he was a corporal in PWW1, who was secretly leaking secrets to Betrayus. After being discovered, which led to the defeat of Betrayus’ army, Betrayus blames him and now forces Buttler to serve him for all eternity. It’s fitting that he has a head shaped like a pair of buttocks, since he’s the frequent butt of jokes and target of abuse.
Dr. Buttocks is the Netherworld’s resident mad scientist, who creates the inventions Betrayus employs in his attempts for revenge. He resembles Buttler, only blue-gray in color instead of Buttler’s purple-gray and with a mad scientist-required German accent. There’s a reason for their resemblance: they’re twin brothers, though they don’t get along: the Doc considers Buttler to be a lowly servant (which he is) while Buttler considers Buttocks to be a long-winded egomaniac (which he is). Buttocks’ ego is just as big as Betrayus’ and the 2 clash almost immediately.
Somewhere between the good guys and the bad guys are The Ghost Gang, the 4 ghosts from the games. Whereas before they were clear-cut villains, here they work as double-agents, leaking secrets, plans and advice to the good guys in order to fulfill their own personal agenda: they hope to get their bodies back. The Ghosts are even less loyal to Betrayus than the other spooks, though they’re not actually evil, just mischievous pranksters.
Blinky, the red ghost, acts as leader of the Ghost Gang (as opposed to the HB show, where he was a quaking coward in a farmer’s hat). Blinky speaks in a slanted, street-wise tough-guy brouque and helps the good guys when it suits his own purposes, though he’s quick to abandon the crusade to keep his ectoplasmic fat out of the fire.
Pinky, the pink ghost (duh!) is the only female member of the gang. (The HB cartoon was one of the few media where Pinky was portrayed as a male.) She has the same sass level as her brothers, but with a feminine charm. Pinky’s other defining trait is that she has a HUGE crush on Pac, and her desire for him often leads her to stick her (lack of) neck out further for the heroes than the others. As a side-effect, Pinky harbors an almost Pavlovian disdain for Cylindria.
Inky, the blue ghost, is a tad scatter-brained and a little spastic, but nowhere near the googly-eyed, tongue-wagging imbecile that he was in the HB show. Inky shares Blinky’s tough-guy mode of speech and desire to keep his rear covered over helping the good guys. In fact, Inky and Blinky are so much alike that they occasionally butt heads.
Clyde, the orange ghost, is a jumbo-sized gentle giant sized spook who, true to his game character, typically takes up the rear. Despite his slowness and somewhat vacant sounding voice, he is actually the most insightful member of the gang and is the most helpful. Clyde is also a pacifist, preferring to sit back and muse rather than scare people and pull pranks; Clyde’s gentleness and caring demeanor often annoys Blinky and Inky, but luckily Clyde is so huge that he can knock their heads together, literally.
Now, on to the gripes. Are there gripes? Really, the only gripe I have with the show is very minor: the recurring character of Skeebo, a blue-colored jock jerk in Pac’s class who insults and torments Pac for fun and who falls into the trope of Jerk Character Who Lives to Antagonize the Hero Even Though He Has No Reason to Actually Hate Him. He’s such an unneeded element to the show, especially since he has no clear cut motivations; we have no idea why Skeebo gets such a boner from hating on Pac, he just does. But thankfully, his machinations end up with him looking like a fool every time, so he hardly qualifies as a threat.
My overall rating: B. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures won’t change your life, but it’s a fun way to kill a half-hour. The show managed to make me feel sympathy for a little yellow ball who’s lost his parents in a genocidal spree and now has the weight of his entire world hoisted onto his nonexistent shoulders. The show deserves credit for that alone.
4 thoughts on “The Pac is Back”
Nornally, DisneyXD is running this show weekday mornings. I happened to catch it on a Sunday before going off to church services. I like the 3D CGI graphics, for one thing.
I didn't see the full episode that day, and maybe I'll catch up when next I go on vacation from my day job. The idea of the ghost gang secretly being buds with ol' Pac actually intrigues me, and makes me think this is more of a prequel than a reboot.
For what it's worth, Namco did come out with a Pac-Man World arcade game, I think, a while back, so this might be related to that.
This show looks fantastic. The bright colors and futuristic backgrounds are pure eye candy. This has to be the best looking CG animated series that I've seen since “Jimmy Neutron”. It's not Pixar or Dreamworks quality CGI, of course, but for TV CGI, it's most impressive.
Speaking of games, Namco is developing a video game based on the series for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and Microsoft Windows, as well as a side-scrolling platformer in development for Nintendo 3DS. These games are set to be released in North America, Europe, and Australia in Fall 2013. So it's a game based on a show based on a game.