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Pac-Man (Atari)




This game is a glorious mess. And despite being one of the most commonly mocked and disliked games in the Atari library, I don't mind it. Let me just say this up front, I don't think that this is a 'Pac-Man' game, I think it's a Pac-Man style game. Same name different game, each share similar game-play and graphics (Sounds are not applicable here), but Atari Pac-Man shook things up a little bit. Also like the other mainstream whipping boy E.T., this game was rushed to completion, and also suffered from restrictions like, being limited to a 4K cartridge, and not being allowed to have the background color be black, thanks for that one Atari~~. I think that Tod Frye did the best he could with what he was allowed, and what resulted was disappointing for many, but given the circumstances of this game's creation I'm willing to give Tod and the game a big 'ol pass. But what exactly did people find so very wrong with this game, well let's start with the graphics.


One can tell just by looking at the label on the cartridge that this game doesn't look anything like the arcade original. The background is blue, of all colors they went with blue, okay... I can live with that. The walls are yellow... okay again. Pac-Man has eyes... mmmmm ookayyy. The pellets are long and rectangular... Okay, okay THIS GAME LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THE ORIGINAL PAC-MAN. This game is ugly, it's really, really ugly... the colors simply don't contrast with each other, the blue feels like it's seeping into the yellow giving everything a vomit green tinge, it's just unpleasant. There is also a heavy deal of sprite flickering, the ghosts really do feel like ghosts, since most of the time you can't even see them. And the weirdest thing that they did was give Pac-Man eyes, he can face left and right but whenever he moves up or down he still faces either left or right, it makes the game feel really weird, like he's got a second mouth hidden on the top of his head, that the only reason I can think of. So even as a standalone game, the graphics are bad, likely due to the size limitations of the cartridge. Sounds don't fare much better either.


This game's sounds are legendary for not being Pac-Man, no catchy jingle at the beginning of the game, just a weird four note vomit of sound the wakka-wakka noise sounds like Pac-Man is clanging pots and pans together with every pellet he eats, just an unrelenting clanging noise. And whenever you catch a ghost it plays a painful high pitched arpeggio, it's so high pitched some people with hearing difficulties are unable to actually hear it. Just bad all around.


The game-play though is where this game gets saved from me burning it. It plays like Pac-Man, you run around and eat pellets avoiding the ghosts, you have four power pellets which will make you invulnerable for a period of time, where you can also eat the ghosts for bonus points.You also have an escape tube (that's what I call it at least) on the top and bottom of the level, you probably won't use this much since it's damn near useless. There is also a 'Vitamin' as the manual calls it, that appears in the center of the level, this replaces the cherries and from the arcade version, but am I the only one who thinks these 'vitamins' look like Combos? The maze layout is quite different than the arcade original as well, it seems to be made up of boxes with openings on the tops and sides. Due to the boxy nature of the maze there is little flow to the game's movement, but this also introduces challenge, since the ghosts have an innate ability to corner you despite your best efforts. I like this since it forces you to predict the ghosts movements and adjust your own accordingly. The game is saved all around by the game-play, thank



So... this is NOT the best Pac-Man game in the world, but it's also not the worst either, I'm sure it could be argued that some maze collect-athon games like Shark Attack/Jochjaw by Apollo is worse but that is a conversation for another time. When looked upon not as a Pac-Man game,despite the title, but as a Pac-Man style game it really is quite passable.

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I got some enjoyment out of it. Won it for having decent grades/getting homework done/etc. I got good enough at it that I had to play the difficult setting so that my sister would have time on it. I kind of liked the eating of ghosts sound effects (buck-wuck!) but the sound of eating dots wore thin quickly. Decent enough for its time.

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