If Orson Welles had "improved" Citizen Kane with a director's cut just prior to his retirement, the film community would have been apoplectic with rage. Video-gamers aren't quite so protective of their beloved classics, especially when their originators really do have the chops and perspective to effectively muddle with perfection.

Pac-Man Championship Edition proves that creator Toru Iwatani has been paying attention to video games in the 26 years since he first unleashed his quarter-consuming brainchild on the world. There's a time limit now, closing the points gap between pros like Billy Mitchell and the average Xbox Live Arcade punter. The mazes transform every time fruit is eaten, stretching the game into a prolonged maze-crawl that only stops when the clock runs out or Pac-Man is pushing up daisies. Dots increase in value if Pac-Man doesn't die, granting players with staying power Geometry Wars-style multipliers. Same goes for the ghosts, which can be chained and chomped for massive bonuses. And the game's signature sirens now give way to a trance-inducing techno thump that conjures flashbacks of Rez and, fittingly, echoes the alien march of Space Invaders.

Beyond the game: Iwatani's last at-bat for the franchise he created was a collaboration with Nintendo's in-house genius Shigeru Miyamoto. Their Pac-Man Vs. let opponents control the ghosts, but the imaginative game required a Game Boy connected via special cables to the GameCube. Few people played their underappreciated creation.


Worth playing for: In one Star Wars scene, Han Solo, outnumbered and outgunned, lays chase with his blaster, then changes his mind, comically fleeing a horde of armed stormtroopers. Pac-Man Championship Edition and its table-turning power-pills create an endless chain of these hunter-becomes-the-hunted moments.

Frustration sets in when: Analog thumbsticks just don't offer the precision of an arcade joystick, nor the satisfying thunk that reverberates through the cabinet when players throw their entire weight into a turn.


Final judgment: After decades in remission, "Pac-Man Fever" flares up again.