Based on the studio's earlier Tetris 99 and Super Mario Bros. 35, Pac-Man 99 puts players in large-scale 99-player matches where each player simultaneously plays a modified version of the 1980 arcade game Pac-Man with the goal of being the only player remaining.
Like T99 and SMB35, Pac-Man 99 features a contextual targeting system where players can send obstacles to other players (which, in this case, consist of fake Pac-Man that slows down the player's Pac-Man). The game also includes some features based on the Pac-Man: Championship Edition series, including tight-knit "trains" of ghosts and a constantly-refreshing game board.
As a bonus, players can purchase additional themes for the game based on other classic Namco titles (including Baraduke, Bravoman, Cosmo Gang: The Video, Dig Dug, Dragon Buster, Dragon Spirit, Galaga, The Genji and the Heike Clans, Legend of Valkyrie, Mappy, Metro-Cross, New Rally-X, The Return of Ishtar, Rolling Thunder, Sky Kid, The Tower of Druaga, Toy Pop, Wonder Momo, Xevious, and Youkai Douchuuki). Players can also purchase additional offline game modes.
Much of the gameplay remains similar to classic Pac-Man, with some elements from the Pac-Man: Championship Edition series. Players guide the titular Pac-Man around a maze filled with collectible Pellets and four roaming Ghosts.
Running into a Ghost normally results in a defeat unless the Ghosts are in a sickly blue state (also known as the "Power" state, which is a temporary state occurred after Pac-Man eats one of four Power Pellets on the corners of the playfield), which instead repels that Ghost to the center of the playfield.
Near the center of the playfield are two lines of small Sleeping Ghosts. Touching them attaches them to a nearby Ghost, creating a "Ghost Train". These can be used to rack-up combos in the Power State, causing more powerful attacks. These Ghosts do not return to the center of the playfield when touched.
When a playfield has less than half of its Pellets remaining, a Fruit spawns near the center of the playfield. Collecting it refreshes the playfield of all Pellets, Power Pellets, and Sleeping Ghosts. Collecting all standard Pellets on the playfield increases the player's movement speed by one level (with a maximum of 10 levels).
Garbage & Targeting
In standard Pac-Man 99 modes, players attack opponents by collecting Power Pellets and eating waves of ghosts, which send waves of "Jammer Pac-Man" to targeted opponents. As the game progresses, players also send "Killer Pac-Man".
- Jammer Pac-Man (grey) - Slows down the player when bumped into. Can only be cleared by collecting Power Pellets.
- Killer Pac-Man (red) - Eliminates the player when bumped into. Can be frozen by collecting Power Pellets, and can only be cleared by collecting Fruits.
As players knock out other players, they earn Shield Badges (up to four full Badges) that allow them to nullify smaller waves of more incoming Jammers.
While players can switch targets manually using the targeting cursor, they can also enable four automatic targeting modes (which can be switched at any time):
- Hunter - Targets stronger opponents with the most amount of Shield Badges held.
- Knockout - Targets weaker opponents who are most likely to become defeated.
- Counter - Targets opponents who are targeting them, as a form of defense. This allows players to send Jammers to multiple opponents at once.
- Random - Targets opponents at random.
Along with a targeting selection, players have access to a Power-Up selection (using the face buttons by default) that changes how the next Power Pellet affects them:
- Standard - No change.
- Speed - Increases Pac-Man's speed level by +2. Reduces the amount of Jammers sent by 75%.
- Stronger - Doubles the amount of Jammers sent. Reduces Pac-Man's speed level by -1 and reduces the base Power State timer to 3 seconds.
- Train - Doubles the amount of Ghosts added to a Ghost Train. Eliminating these extra Ghosts also add Jammers back to the player.