Pac-Man Ghost Zone is a 3D platformer intended to be released on the PlayStation in 1998. Development lasted for roughly a year before cancellation and later evolved into what we know as Pac-Man World. Very little is known about this release, aside from handfuls of images, articles from Unseen64 and PlayStation Museum, and snippets from various gaming magzines in various languages. As of 2014, the PlayStation Museum article is no longer up and requires the use of the Internet Wayback Machine in order to be accessed.
According to a resurfaced storyboard, the plot would've revolved around an unnamed teenager as he tries to get a turn at a popular game, but due to the large crowd, his attempts are for nothing as the teen is told to play Pac-Man. The teen walks up to the machine, criticizing it for a lack of 3D, fighting, and blood(possibly a reference to the Mortal Kombat series, as it was a fan-favorite at many arcades at the time and featured the 3D, fighting, and blood that Pac-Man was criticized for lacking.). Watching from inside the cabinet, Inky and Blinky(mistakenly referred to as Clyde) report this to a previously unheard-of character referred to as the "Ghost Lord", who uses this as an opportunity to test his "Pixel Cannon" on him. The teen is then sucked into the Pac-Man machine. This is where the story board ends, but according to Jesse Taylor of Namco R&D, the Pixel Canon turns the teen into Pac-Man in the process of bringing him into the Pac-Man universe.
Roughly 50 seconds of audio and a few seconds of CGI animation was produced to go along with this story.
Development and Cancellation
Development of Pac-Man Ghost Zone seems to have started in 1996, around the time Super Mario 64 came out. This is evident in the fact that Pac-Man Ghost Zone was built around ideas based off Super Mario 64. By 1997, the game was roughly 40% complete and was set for release in 1998, according to an article from GamePro. However, things did not go as planned for Namco, and things started getting screwed up big time.
According to an interview from PlayStation Museum, we can see Pac-Man Ghost Zone was cancelled mainly because of imperfection. Everyone who worked on Pac-Man Ghost Zone was fired, with the exception of three people; a designer, a programmer, and an artist. Pac-Man Ghost Zone has been confirmed to become Pac-Man World. Despite the disappointment from Namco, PlayStation Museum got the chance to play a very early demo of the game, who then praised the game for having some of the most advanced and colorful graphics on the system and the potential to actually be a very good action-adventure game.
The game would've provided the player with 14 open worlds, including a temple, a frozen waterfall, a spooky house, and Pac-Man's house. Pac-Man would've been able to eat enemies(of course), but he also would've been able to toss Power Pellets like in Pac-Man World, but in this game, it works somewhat differently. The game would've introduced a completely new batch of enemies to go along with the ghosts. All of the new enemies followed a high-tech theme. Also note how Blinky is referred to as Clyde here. Some Power Pellets gave the player special abilities that would spice up the gameplay a bit.
-the crew working on Pac-Man Ghost Zone ended up taking some inspiration from the Hanna Barbara show, and thus Ghost Lord was introduced as some kind of Mezmeron 2.0 for the ghosts
-Ghost Lord would appear Darth Vader-esque on the outside, but on the inside, he'd just be a globe with eyes set into some kind of robotic suit.
-James Earl Jones was intended to do the voice of Ghost Lord, until it was found out how much he had changed
-Pac-Man World's title screen music can be heard in a snippet of E3 '97 footage, not only confirming that Ghost Zone was some kind of precursor to Pac-Man World, but also that the title screen music is one of the earliest known forms of content that actually made it into the final game.
-Pac-Man makes various facial expressions when the game is left in idle, mainly expressing anger. This could be taking inspiration from the Sonic games, since Sonic starts to get a little peeved when you leave the game in idle.