A brand new Pac-Man game, Pac-Man 99, is launching today exclusively on Nintendo Switch, and you can play it for free if you’re a Nintendo Switch Online Subscriber.
Like the similarly-named Tetris 99 and the now-defunct Mario 35, Pac-Man 99 puts a large-scale competitive spin on the original Pac-Man arcade game. The core Pac-Man gameplay is here: You move Pac-Man around a maze-like level, eating dots and fruits while avoiding ghosts. Munching a power pellet puts Pac-Man on the offensive for a few seconds, allowing you to bite those ghostly pursuers and temporarily remove them from the level.
But Pac-Man 99 has a new threat to contend with: 98 other players.
Each person in a match plays their own Pac-Man level, and if they’re caught by a ghost they lose the match. Players can affect their opponents’ gameplay by eating ghosts to send a “Jammer Pac-Man” to another player’s board. Touching a Jammer Pac-Man slows Pac-Man’s movement, making it easier for the ghosts to catch you.
Pac-Man 99 also introduces new power-up items that open up additional play styles, like racking up “ghost train” combos that boost a player’s personal score, pelting opponents with extra Jammer Pac-Men, or boosting the game’s speed for an added challenge and higher rewards.
Each Pac-Man 99 match lasts until one player remains — but you’ll gain rewards even if you don’t win the round. The points you earn while playing will unlock in-game items like avatar icons.
Pac-Man 99 has other game modes if you don’t want to play battle-royale matches, including CPU battle and single-player. However, these extra modes are not included in the base and must be purchased separately. You can also purchase unique themes that change the game’s look. There are over 20 available at launch, and each one is based on other Namco arcade games like Dig Dug, Galaga, Tower of Druaga, and Xevious.
Some are calling Pac-Man 99 the “replacement” for Mario 35, since it’s arriving just a week after Nintendo shut down Mario 35’s servers and both games share similar gameplay conceits. However, it appears Pac-Man 99 is here to stay, and not a limited-time event like Mario 35 was. That said, considering Pac-Man is now the third retro title to get the battle-royale treatment on the Switch, it makes you wonder if we’ll see further games in the “99” series. I for one could go for a Donkey Kong 99 or Legend of Zelda 99.
Pac-Man 99 unlocks on April 8. It’s available as a free download on the Nintendo Switch eShop for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, and you can download it early so you can start playing immediately once it’s available.
The Nintendo Switch Online service costs $5 for one month, $12 for three months, or $30 per year. You can also sign up for a bundle that supports up to eight accounts for a single $55 charge per year.