Ms. Pac-Man Review

Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1982 Also On: None

It’s amazing the difference a year can make. Pac-man came out in 1981, and it, while being a decent version of Pac-man and having everything necessary to be a Pac-man game, just wasn’t nearly as impressive as it could have been. Luckily, Atari realized their mistake and more than corrected it a year later with Ms. Pac-man, a game which took everything good about the original and added to it. Indeed, were it not for the presence of Jr. Pac-man on the system from 1987, I would probably label this game a must-have for the system on its merits.

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For those of you who have never played an incarnation of Pac-man (I sincerely hope no such gamer exists), here’s the gist of how it works. Pac-man (or, in this case, Ms. Pac-man) moves around the screen eating pellets while ghosts chase him. The objective of the game is to eat all the pellets on the screen without being caught by a ghost. If you want to chase the ghosts, you can do so for a limited time after eating a power pellet, a bigger pellet which resides near a corner of the maze. You get points by eating pellets, ghosts, or fruit items which will appear from time to time. Each time you complete a maze, the ghosts will get slightly faster and the power pellets will last a little less time.

So what are the differences between this game and the original Pac-man that make it so much better? I will certainly concede that Pac-man works exactly the same way as I described above. It’s just that Ms. Pac-man executes better and has more depth than the original. Why do I say that?

Well, for starters, the graphics are better in Ms. Pac-man. The original Pac-man was an ugly orange on blue graphical scheme which, while it worked, didn’t look nice in my opinion. Also, the “fruitâ€? in Pac-man was a block that would appear below the ghosts’ quarters and stay there, while the fruit in Ms. Pac-man actually looks like fruit, and it actually moves around the screen. I’m not saying they maxed out the graphical capabilities of the Atari 2600 with this game, but they are a far cry from Pac-man just one year earlier. Even small things, like the fact that Ms. Pac-man can face up and down, add to this game. The sound effects though are your typical Pac-man fare, far better than the original Pac-man. They do their job well. There is also a short melody that plays before the game begins that is much nicer than the one in the original Pac-man. It’s only about five seconds long, but that’s very impressive for the Atari 2600 in 1982.

In terms of gameplay, differences also abound. For starters, you aren’t stuck going around the same maze over and over for the entire game. You go through each maze twice, then it switches to another maze. This effectively keeps the game from becoming repetitive. Also, you aren’t stuck getting chased by four ghosts all the time as you were in Pac-man. Instead, you can use the game select switch to choose how many ghosts chase you, from one to four. If you want a longer, more leisurely game, try one ghost. If you want a shorter, more challenging one, try four. For somewhere in the middle use two or three. I already mentioned that the fruit moves in this game, which is also a difference.

Unlike Pac-man, which has a tendency to get old fast due to its lack of diversity, Ms. Pac-man has enough depth to be worth playing over and over again. I remember that I used to be addicted to this game when I was younger, and even now I still have fond memories of this game. If you have an Atari 2600, you owe it to yourself to add this game to your collection.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9
Written by Martin Review Guide

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