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Pac-Man Review

Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1981 Also On: None

A game can be considered a classic for one of two reasons. The first possibility is that it is such a great game that almost any gamer can enjoy it. This would be a game such as Space Invaders or Super Breakout. The second possibility is that the game is infamous, that it was supposed to be a great game but came far short of expectations for most people. The best example of a game of this type for the Atari 2600 would be E.T. Very rare is that game which is both, yet somehow Pac-man fits the bill.

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The arcade version of Pac-man is beloved by many a classic gamer, and even some people who do not consider themselves classic gamers. One of the most popular arcade games of all time, it is no wonder that Atari ported it to their Atari 2600 in 1981, the version which is infamous for its lack of consistency with the arcade version. It is known as one of the worst arcade transitions on the Atari 2600, but if it weren’t for titles like Ms. Pac-man and Jr. Pac-man, as well as the slew of Pac-man clones that came out after it, this game would actually be pretty good and a recommended purchase.

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 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.

This holds true for all games in the Pac-man franchise, and mostly true even for many of the clones. Pac-man for the Atari 2600 is no exception. Boasting eight game modes as well as two difficulty levels, you would think that this game would be an instant classic. Sadly, it isn’t.

The graphics are good enough to get the job done. I’ll concede that much, but I’d love to know how Atari decided on an orange on blue color scheme. I personally find the color scheme incredibly ugly, even though the graphics themselves are not bad. The collapse animation on Pac-man is pretty good, but, given my choice, I would have preferred to have a Pac-man that could face up or down. It looks odd seeing Pac-man move up or down facing to the right or left (whichever he was facing when he began vertical movement).

The sound is also decent, but not spectacular. There is an intro melody to the game, but it is nowhere near as catchy as the one in Ms. Pac-man and is also shorter. The sound effect of eating a pellet (one which you will hear quite often) doesn’t sound quite like one would expect, probably because it is a lower pitch than the sound effect used for that in the arcade version. The high-pitched sounds that play when Pac-man dies though seem appropriate, and the sound that tells you the ghosts are eatable is also okay.

Overall, this game isn’t bad. It’s just that far better games of this type are available on the Atari 2600. If you can’t find Ms. Pac-man, Jr. Pac-man, or one of the decent Pac-man clones, this game is enough to keep you entertained, but if you already have Ms. Pac-man or Jr. Pac-man, I would recommend not pursuing the addition of this game to your collection unless it is for collection purposes.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6.3
Written by Martin Review Guide