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In defense of Pac-Man...

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Pac-Man is a good game! It has gotten a bum rap over the years. I will be the first to admit that Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man are technically superior and more accurate to the arcade. But for some reason, the original Pac-Man is the one I keep feeling myself drawn back to. I think its because it feels the most Atariest of all the Pac-Man games. To me it embodies the 2600. (It was also one of the dozen Atari games I had as a kid, so there's also the nostalgia factor.) 

 

I love the sounds: bah-dee-dah-dee... bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk 
 

I love how the manual retconned the line shaped dots and rectangular bonus items to be "video wafers" and "Vitamins", and how it paints a picture of you showing up at your arcade like a rockstar blowing everyone away with your skills, thanks to your newfound secret ability to practice at home. 
 

I love how Todd Frye did his own thing with remaking colors and layout of the maze. If people want to play the arcade version, there are a million different ports nowadays and none of them really do much to distinguish themselves from one another. But the Atari version is very memorable and interesting because of its uniqueness. Todd was not overly concerned with making it identical since he knew he was going to have make some concessions to accommodate the system constraints. I think he was very successful in capturing the "feel" of the gameplay, and created a game that was iconic in its own way, based on an already iconic game. 
 

The game offers a lot of challenge. The ghosts are very sneaky. I understand what their AI is doing, but there is just enough randomness that I still find myself getting trapped by them when I try to get too greedy. 
 

A lot of people think the goal of pac-man is to clear the board. Its not... its to eat all 4 ghosts on one power pellet. You get 4 tries per board, and clearing the maze is just a way to reset the board. Eating all 4 ghosts will net you 300 points, versus the paltry 128 you get from eating all the dots... er... wafers.

 

I truly believe that if it weren't being saddled with the expectation of replicating an arcade experience, and people had judged it solely as a game on its own merits, it would never have entered the conversation of "bad games".

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Yeah, I also find that I enjoy Pac-Man a lot when I happen to pop it in time to time. It's not like Miniature Golf, which I hardly ever play.

I think, like you said, people don't judge it by its own merits. And it's interesting that you mention the goal of eating all the ghosts. I never knew that.

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If only it came out two years earlier, and was called something else, this could have been a cult classic. 

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I'm trying to come up with a verb to insert in that post that would make this question make sense within this context, but coming up blank Edited by G-type

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I grew up with the Atari 8-bit version, which while not the absolute best was pretty decent.  I then got the 2600 version sometime in the late 80's and thought it was alright because it was pretty different.  It didn't occur to me that it was a horribly inferior version, just a different one.  I used to play a lot of 2600 versions of games I owned for the 8-bit just because they were different.  

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I spent $30 for Pac-Man, and that was a lot of hard earned money for a kid in the 80s. I was so disappointed with the game (mostly due to wasting $30) that I never bought another new game from Atari. In fact, I tried to sell the 2600 and when I couldn't find a buyer I gave it to my nephew. Looking back on it I suppose I over reacted, but that is what happened. I was out of the Atari picture for almost 20 years after that, though I did buy a PS1 and played that for a while. I also purchased a used Intellivision and had a lot of fun with that. Eventually I found my way to AtariAge and got back into the 2600. If I had not wasted the $30 and had borrowed the game from a friend instead I'm sure things would have gone differently. I'm not sure how many people reacted like me but judging from how the industry crashed around that time it could have been quite a few. 

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I never could get to like Pac-Man in the arcades. I know that I'm supposed to, because culture and phenomenon and world craze. But it just isn't for me. I sucked at it then and I suck at it now. I'm retarded enough to never progress beyond level 3 or 4.

 

Other spinoffs and home versions have somewhat better appeal to me. Like Aliens from 20th Century Fox, MicroWave, Snack Attack, Pepper II, MouseTrap, Wizard of Wor, and perhaps a few others. As far as home ports of PacMan, I'd go with the Atari 400/800 version. It was good enough and easy enough for a kid to enjoy and be impressed by.

 

In speaking directly of the VCS version, I wasn't old enough to know what was good and bad. Just that it had a flavor. And we played it more or less like any other game. Some say ET was the downfall of the VCS, others say PacMan.. I don't think it was either. It was simply time marching on and new technologies usurping old ones.

 

When we did a direct comparison, between PacMan home vs PacMan arcade, it was directly ingrained into our psyches that arcade games would always be forever better than what the home experience could ever hope to deliver. Thank god that changed in the 1990's and has stayed that way ever since.

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For me, Pac-Man beats Mouse Trap because it has so much better AI. The cats in Mouse Trap are dumb and you can easily trap 1 or 2 in the middle and then clear the whole maze with almost no danger. I could play that game indefinitely... it gets boring after you've rolled the score a couple times.

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When I was fifteen, I saved and saved and saved for this knowing it was about to be released. I got 30p a day dinnermoney which 20p was thrifted away. £1 a week pocket money and littke bits and bobs extra for jobs around the house. It took me a good 3 months to save enough and I went to Woolworths in Sutton Coldfield early on a Saturday morning to buy this complete with bank bags of coins and some notes.
So I finally got my pac man, I must admit at 15 I played this to death day after day after day, I was banned from using the main colour tv so I had to play on an old black and white telly that kept going out of tune. But still I mastered it and kept it going endlessly on the mapped safe route that was shown in a national newspaper (dont ask me to show it to you its been lost in my memory for over 30 years now) for one time for about 8 hours.
I loved that game, the wonderful yellow box and the pictures in the instructions. Loved it still love it even though I can only go for about 10 minutes now before the colours do my head in, how I did back then I will never know. Playit occasionally now on my harmony cart along with all the other versions of it.
Did the same with ET, Galaxian and Star Raiders. Love them too. Still got my originals.

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I always liked Atari pacman. Like others have said, if it was called something else...

The fact is, by this point, people knew the Atari couldn't match the arcades, pacman should have been no surprise. I got it new and loved it. Yeah, not like the arcade, but neither was donkey Kong, space invaders, asteroids, etc. Everything wrong with pacman can pretty much be applied to one or more of the games I listed, to heck with the rest of the 2600's library. What it did right is equal to other games of the era. It was a maze based dot....er...dash muncher and filled that need.

Everybody back then pretty much had it and typically liked it. I think the hate comes from the internet era tbh. I certainly never heard of it sucking back in the day. Hell, most people didn't think it could have been better, till ms pacman showed how much better the old girl can do.

This is still one game in my regular rotation, getting some play any time I'm playing Atari, less I get some new homebrews in, then I'm usually preoccupied lol.

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Everybody back then pretty much had it and typically liked it. I think the hate comes from the internet era tbh.

 
You think wrong lol. Magazine reviews of the time were not kind to 2600 Pac-Man.

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This is one of those topics that will never end.

 

Group A:

Home video games were still quite novel, so people often enjoyed the experience even if the game missed the mark in general. I've heard people say they played the 2600 version before the arcade, so they wouldn't have had a frame of reference anyway.

 

Group B:

Atari had the hottest arcade license of the day and squandered the opportunity by releasing a half-baked conversion that looked and played less like Pac-Man than many of the unofficial knock-offs being made for other systems. For someone who had become hooked on the arcade machine, the 2600 version was just about useless.

 

I'm more in group B. I played it on the 2600 because it was one of the few games my friend had, but it did nothing to satisfy my itch for the real thing.

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I love the sounds: bah-dee-dah-dee... bonk, bonk, bonk, bonk


Well they have become iconic, I'll give them that..
 

I love how Todd Frye did his own thing with remaking colors and layout of the maze. If people want to play the arcade version, there are a million different ports nowadays and none of them really do much to distinguish themselves from one another. But the Atari version is very memorable and interesting because of its uniqueness. Todd was not overly concerned with making it identical since he knew he was going to have make some concessions to accommodate the system constraints. I think he was very successful in capturing the "feel" of the gameplay, and created a game that was iconic in its own way, based on an already iconic game.

 
That's true today, but that wasn't true in 1982. We were buying "Pac Man", not "Pac Man Reimagined". It was the hottest game around, and everyone was waiting for it. But we found it changed virtually everything we loved about the arcade game. We knew the 2600 wasn't going to have an arcade-perfect version, but we knew it could be closer than this. A lot of us were disappointed. I don't think it's a coincidence that video game sales started falling soon after it released, because it was the most hotly anticipated title and it was a let down..
 

I truly believe that if it weren't being saddled with the expectation of replicating an arcade experience, and people had judged it solely as a game on its own merits, it would never have entered the conversation of "bad games".


There were lots of Pacman clone games. If this had been sold as a Pacman clone, I think it would be fine. As the official Pacman home game though, it's a massive fail.

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That's true today, but that wasn't true in 1982. We were buying "Pac Man", not "Pac Man Reimagined". It was the hottest game around, and everyone was waiting for it. But we found it changed virtually everything we loved about the arcade game. We knew the 2600 wasn't going to have an arcade-perfect version, but we knew it could be closer than this.

Yep. Every system had some rendition of Pac-Man. But when the biggest videogaming company in the world releases the official, licensed home version, you have a right to expect more.

 

Some people are selling Pac-Man short. It was a carefully balanced game with very intentional behavior. It was not just sprite A eats and runs from sprites B-E.

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Everybody back then pretty much had it and typically liked it. I think the hate comes from the internet era tbh. I certainly never heard of it sucking back in the day. Hell, most people didn't think it could have been better, till ms pacman showed how much better the old girl can do.

You think wrong lol. Magazine reviews of the time were not kind to 2600 Pac-Man.


Related link:
 

atariage.com/forums/topic/232660-pac-man-review-from-1982/

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I always liked Atari pacman. Like others have said, if it was called something else...

The fact is, by this point, people knew the Atari couldn't match the arcades, pacman should have been no surprise. I got it new and loved it. Yeah, not like the arcade, but neither was donkey Kong, space invaders, asteroids, etc. Everything wrong with pacman can pretty much be applied to one or more of the games I listed, to heck with the rest of the 2600's library. What it did right is equal to other games of the era. It was a maze based dot....er...dash muncher and filled that need.


We knew the 2600 couldn't match the arcade.. BUT we also knew the 2600 could:
- do a blue on black maze, not the gross gold on blue they used
- do a pacman without an eye (that the arcade didn't have)
- do the theme music much better than simply "Beep boop beep boop"
- put the portal on left and right, not top and bottom.
- have a maze design at least closer to the arcade
- have up and down animations, not just left and right
- have ghosts of different colors
- probably have dot-eating sounds that sounded a little more like "wakka wakka" and less like "bong bong"
- probably have actual fruits and not just square 'vitamins'

In fact "Ms Pac man" came and proved all of the above was possible on the 2600. Edited by zzip

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If I'm not mistaken, the ghosts actually are different colors. It's just that they're on the screen 1/4 of the time so it's hard to tell.

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Yep. Every system had some rendition of Pac-Man. But when the biggest videogaming company in the world releases the official, licensed home version, you have a right to expect more.


Especially since by 1982, Atari had been getting outclassed by Activision and Intellivision, and upped their game. They were doing better sports games like the Realsports series, and better arcade translations like Berzerk. They seemed to be on a roll, so I was optimistic about Pacman before it released

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