An Idea: Slower, Harder, More Challenging Pac-Man
game idea pac-man mod
An idea for a Pac-Man upgrade literally came to me in a dream a couple of nights ago. I actually remember most of the dream, but I'll spare everyone the details, except to say it began at a game convention where I realized I hadn't yet set up the systems I'd brought, and ended with me on a running track trying to escape the men in black. My dreams tend to be rather disjointed.
Anyway, the idea. Arcade Pac-Man has been fully conquered. We know exactly how the ghost AI operates, and since there isn't any randomness, we know exactly how to work around that AI and get the highest possible score, level by level. There have been mods both subtle (speed tweeks) and grand (Ms. Pac-Man) designed to disrupt those patterns and make the game "challenging" again. How about a mod that instead embraces that lack of randomness, while also daring players to buck the established patterns? Instead of dots, the maze can be populated with little arrows. If Pac-Man follows the arrows, he will eat them for the same points as dots. But if Pac-Man moves against the arrows, they will stay uneaten and also grow larger, like the dots in Jr. Pac-Man when touched by a bonus item. Also like those Jr. Pac-Man dots, eating larger arrows earns more points but also slows Pac-Man down more, making it harder to escape the ghosts.
In my dream I saw only small sections of the maze where arrows replaced dots (the maze itself was also garbled, and yet somehow still playable; I determined this was due to some sort of memory corruption, which when you think about it was actually not wrong... but I digress), but I figure, why not fill the maze entirely with these arrows, and make the arrows follow whatever the optimal pattern is for that level? The challenge would then be, if you want the "perfect" score, go right ahead and take it... provided you know the patterns well enough for the empty parts of the maze, of course. But also be aware, the old "perfect" score is no longer the highest possible score, not in this version of the game. How often would you dare to go against the pattern in pursuit of those larger, more valuable arrows? There could even be different levels of arrow values, where the more often Pac-Man crosses an arrow the "wrong" way, the more valuable but also more "sticky" it becomes.
Since this wouldn't actually affect the enemy AI, the ghosts would still have their same predictable behaviors, which means the true Pac-Man masters probably wouldn't have too much keeping them at bay. But then the true masters would want to know what the new highest possible score is, and what new patterns will get to that score. Those patterns just might take a while to find out, and they will certainly take longer to execute. And so this would indeed be a Slower, Harder, More Challenging Pac-Man. At least for a little while.
(Surprisingly, no, I wasn't without apparel at any point in this dream, though I did find myself in my pajamas for a while... but again, I digress.)