Pac-Man Battle Royale is a delight and a danger. The Joystiq staff's encounter with the four-player arcade game, encapsulated in a classy cocktail cabinet standing at a comfortable height, threatened to derail our E3 coverage with its addictive mixture of nostalgia, playful rivalry and recognizable mechanics. We suspect that Namco Bandai's insistence on making this an arcade system stems from the fact that you can impulsively handcuff yourself to the machine.

The shared, upward-facing screen in the table also makes it a very social experience. Surrounded by four joysticks (and, in our case, four Joystiqs), Pac-Man's maze becomes a playground for several differently colored and apparently cannibalistic Pac-people. Eating all the dots and food in a section of the maze will cause a new sequence to appear, and once this happens there's a mad rush for the new power pellets. It makes pathfinding and avoiding ghosts in the maze feel especially pressing.

Once you've gobbled up a pellet (and you're rarely the only one to do so in any given moment) your Pac-protagonist grows to enormous size. You're able to eat ghosts as usual, but you can also devour any of your fellow players. The mega Pac-Man is slightly faster than the regular one, making your victim an easy snack if he can't quickly lose you in the maze. Giants can't eat each other, however, and bounce away when they come into contact. That sounds harmless, but there's a risk of getting bumped back into a ghost just as your invincible size wears off.

Much like Pac-Man Championship Edition and Pac-Man Vs., Battle Royale is another clever, colorful twist on one of gaming's most comforting icons. It's going to be great fun in bars -- and if Namco Bandai doesn't release a home version on XBLA or PSN, people will start to think of us as hardcore alcoholics. Just one more round, please.


This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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