In the wake of Mario’s “death” on March 31st, Nintendo gave us a huge surprise with Pac-Man 99, a battle royale style game with everyone’s favorite retro icon Pac-Man. The game was released on April 7 and is free to download with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. If you’re familiar with Tetris 99 and the late Mario 35, then you probably already have an idea of what this game is going to be like–you play Pac-Man against 98 other players. But how exactly does it work? Thanks to the very helpful Pac-Man 99 subreddit, I’ve learned a lot. Let’s get into it!
Let’s start with the basics of Pac-Man 99. Just like the arcade version of Pac-Man, you need to eat the large pellets (called power pellets) to make the ghosts edible. When you eat ghosts, white Pac-Men called “Jammers” will start popping up on the boards of the players that you’re targeting.
Once you eat half of the small pellets on the board, a piece of fruit will pop up on the board under the ghost cage. Eating the fruit will cause the board to reset, which will regain new pellets and power pellets. However, this increases the speed so try not to eat them too quickly.
Edit: Thank you to Summer Rain on Twitter for pointing out that if you clear all of the pellets off of the board, it’ll permanently increase your speed.
What’s New in Pac-Man 99
One key thing to know is that you earn badges from knocking out (KO) other players. The more badges you earn, the more Jammers you’ll send to other players. However, the more badges you earn, the more targeted you get, so this can be a double-edged sword. You can also see who you knocked out by the red X that appears on an opponent’s grid.
I mentioned earlier about sending “Jammers” to other players’ boards, but what are the Jammers and what do they do?
- White Jammers: Every time you eat a ghost, you send a white Jammer to an opponent’s board. These Jammers slow your opponents down and can only be cleared by eating a power pellet.
- Red Jammers: These Jammers only arrive on the board when there are 50 players remaining. If you run into them they are an instant KO. After searching multiple threads, it seems no one has figured out yet how red Jammers are sent to opposing players. Reddit user “Pyoro64” speculates that in order to send them, you must first eat a power pellet while set to “stronger”. The duration of the power pellet will be way shorter but consumed ghosts may be red.
Needless to say, eating ghosts is crucial for winning, so be sure to eat as many as you can. The game actually helps you with this. On the right and left side of the board there are 8 sleeping ghosts, for every one you collect they attach themselves to a real ghost on the board which creates a ghost train. Ghost trains max out at 32 ghosts, so don’t try to stack them too heavily. Sleeping ghosts reset when you eat a fruit.
Lastly, the meter below the maze shows your incoming attacks. Badges create a threshold in the meter and Jammers will not spawn until this threshold is reached.
Targeting and Power Ups
Targeting options are located on the right side of your screen; you use the right joy stick to select your target. Here’s what the options are and what they do:
- Random: The game will pick an opponent at random that you’ll send Jammers to.
- Knockout: The game will target whichever player is closest to being KO’d. It is still undetermined how they calculate this but I’m assuming it sends your Jammers to whoever has the most Jammers on their board.
- Counter: Targets all the players that are currently attacking you.
- Hunter: Targets the player with the most KO’s in the game. This is the double-edged sword I was talking about above.
If you’re playing in handheld mode you can tap on an opponent to target them.
Power Ups are located on the left side of your screen and you use the A, B, Y, X buttons to select your power up. Here’s what they do:
- Standard (Y): Has no benefits or drawbacks.
- Speed (A): Doubles movement speed, but your attack output is reduced by 75%.
- Stronger (X): Reduces power pellet time to three seconds, but allows for 2x Jammers to be sent after consuming ghosts. Speed is also permanently reduced by one level.
- Train (B): Doubles every sleeping ghost you touch, but each one you touch will also spawn a Jammer Pac-Man.
Now that we’ve gone over all the mechanics of the game, let’s talk strategy!
How to Win
There’s many different strategies to winning Pac-Man 99. I’ve won a handful of times already and here’s a few things that helped me get those victories.
- Use the speed power up only when you’re in a tough situation and need to escape. You don’t want to clear your board too fast and you want to send as many Jammers as possible.
- Because ghost trains max out at 32, if I have an open path I like to use the train power up to scoop up two rows of sleeping ghosts, so I can maximize these ghosts and go for quick ghost trains.
- Don’t eat ghosts right away! Let them build up for bigger ghost trains.
- Don’t eat fruit right away, I try my best to clear the board before I go for the fruit because every time you eat it the enemy speed increases.
- When you eat your fourth power pellet, make sure your next move is directly to eat the fruit.
- When there’s 50 players remaining, eating ghost trains slow you down which is good for time waste.
- When there are 5 players remaining, switch your targeting to Knockouts to finish the competition.
Pac-Man 99 is available on the Nintendo eShop right now for free with paid DLC. I hope this guide helps you in your quest to Pac-Man victory! Let me know if you have any questions or if I missed anything. You can find me on Twitter or Discord, thanks for reading!