Tetris, Mario, and now Pac-Man have all gotten in on the battle royale formula. In a partnership with Google, Bandai Namco is launching the 64-player Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle next month on Stadia. The full game won't be out until Nov. 17, but from now until Oct. 27, you can play a free demo version without even having a Stadia subscription set up.
With the name "Pac-Man Battle Royale" already taken by a (very fun) four-player arcade take on Pac-Man Championship Edition rules, Mega Tunnel Battle looks to be serving up something a lot more chaotic. Rather than pit 64 players against each other on a single giant maze, it looks like each player starts on their own maze, similar to how Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35 silo off players from each other.
That doesn't mean there's no Pac-on-Pac combat. Along the edges of each maze board there are timers that count down on the screen-looping gates, which appear to be tied to Mega Tunnel Battle's invasion mechanic. Invade another player's maze and you will be able to power up and chomp down on their Pac, just as you would a ghost.
Mega Tunnel Battle also works in some spectator participation a la Ubisoft's Hyper Scape. Viewers can vote to bestow benefits on certain players left standing, helping influence the outcome of the final round. In the demo's standard Elimination mode, as per usual with battle royales, the last player left standing will be the Pac-Victor.
While the demo is free even without a Stadia account, the full version of Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle will retail for $19.99. Especially when compared to the free-with-NSO status of Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35, that strikes me as an awfully big ask for a multiplayer Pac-Man, but who knows, maybe this'll be Stadia's first killer app. Besides, charging upfront for the game is arguably better than Nintendo's decision to just retire its Mario battle royale after six months.
Mega Tunnel Battle may also come to platforms besides Google's streaming service down the line. The announcement trailer specifically says that it's coming "first on Stadia," and though Bandai Namco hasn't revealed plans for any other platforms, I have my doubts that 64 simultaneous instances of Pac-Man is something that's only possible with Google's cloud tech.
While the demo's out I'll definitely be checking this one out, and I do think this has more promise than the Twitch-integrated Pac-Man Live Studio from earlier this year. Pac-Man's celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and at the very least, Mega Tunnel Battle and Live Studio prove that Pac-Man's still got staying power in those pellets.