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|Rating:||2 out of 5|
Beloved in arcades and hated on the Atari 2600, Pac-Man got off to a tenuous start with the home game console crowd. As a influx of arcade titles came to the 2600, consumers became ravenous to play these arcade treasures at home. Some were pretty good ports and other... well, not so good. Pac-Man was "not so good".
But the new isn't all bad - mostly bad - there was one redeeming aspect. I'll pause as you sigh in disbelief. Sure the game was a rush job and very inattentive to the arcade original, but how cool was it to be able to play Pac-Man at home!?! Screen flicker abounded and the maze was ridiculously designed, but I recall many happy moments from childhood as I guided that ill-facing yellow dot across my TV screen.
Wow - where to begin...
The flickering ghosts were probably tied with the simplistic maze design for worst flaw. The terrible maze design is the worst feature, but things that blink wildly tend to draw our immediate attention. Our screenshot actually contained several of the exceptionally pale-colored ghosts, but they failed to be captured due to their flickering. This flickering also masks the fact that they really are different colors! The simplicity of the maze isn't the only drawback. There are so many necessary turns that navigation is much too hard. And how about the location of the "escape route" from one side of the screen to the other? Two words" bad placement!
Control was the next big issue. There's no diagonal movement, yet getting that damn creature to go the proper direction is much harder than it should be. The arcade controls were very simple - just a joystick to maneuver Pac-Man in any of 4 directions. Graphics-wise, the "video wafers" - so named in the manual - are recognizable because... what else could they be? However, most other items from power pills to vitamins and fruit are indiscernible blocks. Munch one and see what happens.
Maybe I'm a demanding perfectionist who won't settle for the slightest deviation, but would it have been so hard to make the yellow circle face the direction of travel? Pac-Man points sideways when he travels up & down. Is he eating through the top of his head as he travels up the screen? And why is his mouth moving when he's not moving/eating? I'm no programmer, but these seem like pretty easy additions unless such code provoked more rampant flickering.
Starting with 4 lives which increase by one every time you clear the maze of video wafers. The longer he survives, the more valuable awarded points become. Gobble up all the dots (video wafers) as you moe through the maze. Power Pills appear in the 4 corners of the maze and, once eaten, allow Pac-Man to consume the blue-colored ghosts for the next few seconds. When the ghosts turn pink you're almost out of time for ghost chewing. They are worth more points when you swallow multiple ghosts. Don't stop at just one!
Vitamins appear in the center of the screen and disappear now and then. If you can get to one, it's worth 100 points. Once you consume all the dots a new wave begins.
The Difficulty Switches only effect the duration of Power Pills and Vitamins. In the "B" position the Power Pills last longer and the Vitamins stay on-screen longer. The "A" position lessens both times for the advanced player.
As for game variations, Pac-Man offers 2 player versions for each of the 8 different games. The 8 versins really only effect speeds. Some versions slow Pac-Man's movement while others effect the ghost speed. 2 options are for little kids and one is labeled as "challenging" for those who wish to endure this game with difficulty exceeding poor programming.
• Enter the warp tunnel and quickly and repeatedly press Up, Down while inside. Make sure Down is the last direction pressed before Pac-Man re-appears to wipe across the screen. You may move Pac-Man up and down through the walls, but will not be able to move from side to side.
• Eat a ghost on maze 1, two ghosts on maze 2, three ghosts on maze 3, and four ghosts on maze 4. Then, press Up, Down, Up and intentionally lose a life.