Pac-Man: Classic Arcade Game Video, History & Game Play Overview
When Pac-Man was first debuted in 1980, Japanese arcade goers gave a mild response. Game developer Namco had no idea that it had a future arcade classic on its hands until Pac-Man was imported to the United States. Originally released with the name Puck Man, video game designer Toru Iwatani’s goal was to create a game that could break the gender barriers that prevented women and girls from frequenting arcades as much as their male counterparts. Although Namco did not receive this success until the release of Ms. Pac-Man, this title did become one of the best selling arcade games in history.
With the help of approximately ten other Namco employees, Iwatani was able to lay out a maze themed game that featured animated interludes, which was something never before seen in arcade games. Toshio Kai is responsible for the music and sound effects heard in Pac-Man. Hideki Mokaijima handled most of the programming, which includes the infamous 256th level split screen.
Like many other games of it’s time, Iwatani’s intention was to make Pac-Man into an infinite play game. Unfortunately, an error caused Pac-Man to be unplayable beyond the 255th level. It is possible to attempt to complete 256th screen, but gamers would only be able to pass this stage with sheer luck rather than skill. In fact, there are no documented cases of any players being able to get past level 256.
However, video game programmers have surmised that the glitch in Pac-Man would cause the game to roll over, should anyone ever be able to clear stage 256. Pac-Man’s enemies, the ghosts, would continue to move at an extremely high rate of speed and the effectiveness of the power pills would still be nearly nonexistent.
Bally Midway acted as the U.S. distributor of Pac-Man, but Namco also contracted with multiple other distributors around the globe. There are only two major differences between the Japanese version of Pac-Man and the U.S. release. When Bally Midway began to think of new marketing ideas to make this title more appealing to U.S. gamers, they decided to change the name from Puck Man to Pac-Man. In addition, they changed the cabinet art significantly in order to highlight some of the game’s more exciting features. By the end of 1980, tens of thousands of Pac-Man arcade machines had been purchased and placed in nearly every corner of the world.
Originally, Iwatani explained that the idea for Pac-Man came to him as he gazed at a pizza with a single slice missing. However, the game designer went on to say that Pac-Man was really based on a more simplified version of ‘kuchi,’ which is the Japanese word for mouth. When drawn in traditional Japanese katakana, this character bears a resemblance to the basic structure of the Pac-Man character. Iwatani also toyed around with the idea of naming the game ‘Pakku Man,’ in honor of the sound that Pac-Man made while he was chomping away at dots.
Pac-Man is credited in part with getting more women into arcades. During the early 1980s, space themed first person shooting games were extremely popular in arcade halls. For whatever reason, these types of games failed to capture the attention of female fans. After both Namco and Bally Midway caught on to the fact that Pac-Man was equally popular amongst male and female gamers, they began to strategize on new ways to capitalize on the frenzy.
While Namco was working to create an official sequel to the original Pac-Man, Bally Midway was in talks with General Computer Corporation to purchase an unauthorized game that was based on the game. Coming with the original title of Crazy Otto, Bally Midway had GCC make a few changes, and ultimately, Ms. Pac-Man was born.
Once Namco found out that General Computer Corporation and Bally Midway were behind this unauthorized title, a legal battle ensued. Namco came out victorious, and Ms. Pac-Man became the sole property of the company. This did not deter Bally Midway from creating and distributing more unlicensed Pac-Man sequels such as Baby Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man, over the next few years. Namco responded by ending all business relations with Bally Midway, which included pulling their distribution rights to the original Pac-Man.
Namco did end up producing quite a few popular sequels to Pac-Man during the 1980s, including Pac & Pal, Pac-Land and Super Pac-Man. Pac-Man also gained a great deal of popularity in the home gaming system market. The Atari 2600 Pac-Man port ended up becoming a worldwide bestseller, despite the fact that the game received poor reviews. Pac-Man was ported to the NES, the Intellivision, the VIC-20, Atari 5200 and numerous other video consoles and computers for the home.
Because of Pac-Man’s huge following, Bally Midway wasn’t the only company that tried to profit off of unauthorized versions of the game. Pac-Man arcade machines were heavily counterfeited, and copycat versions of the game were released in droves. While Namco was able to successfully thwart some of their efforts, they were not able to stop them all. In 1983, sales in the video game industry fell to an all time low. Namco was one of the few companies that were able to continue to turn a profit, largely in thanks to Pac-Man.
Even 30 years after the original release of Pac-Man, this title is still one of Namco’s most successful games. Other companies such as Google have partnered with Namco, and the game has been included as a major part of contemporary pop culture. Classic and newly released versions of Pac-Man can still be found in arcades all around the U.S. as well as the globe. Most recently, Namco announced plans to produce a version of Pac-Man that is compatible with the Windows 7 phone, which is also to be featured as a bonus feature within Xbox Live.
One or two players can play Pac-Man by taking alternating turns.
Game Play Overview
The concept behind Pac-Man is simple. While controlling the yellow colored sphere, your job is to eat all of the dots and power pills on each board while keeping away from four colored ghosts. Pac-Man moves through a maze as he eats dots. On each level, a single food themed bonus appears directly underneath of the box from which ghosts emerge.
The game can be set to change the exact number of lives that each player starts off with as well as the level of difficulty. The default number of lives given at the beginning of Pac-Man is three. Every few levels, an animated interlude automatically plays, which gives players a brief break as well as an alternate source of entertainment.
Players are awarded 10 points for every dot that is consumed by Pac-Man. As he moves, his mouth opens and closes in a chomping motion. One of the most beneficial elements of Pac-Man is the fact that he will continue to move in the same direction for as long as he has a clear path. This helps players to better time their moves and take turns in a move efficient manner.
Power pills are placed in each of the four corners of each maze. When consumed, Pac-Man is no longer susceptible to the ghosts, which he normally has no protection from. Getting touched by a ghost is the only way to lose a life.
There are four enemies in Pac-Man, which consist of a red, pink, yellow and blue colored ghost. Pinky is the pink ghost, however, Namco officially named him Speedy. Pinky is one of the first ghosts that
emerges from the box, and he is most known for trapping Pac-Man in corners. This is the enemy that you need to watch out for when you are clearing out tricky areas of each stage.
Blinky, or Shadow as he is called by Namco is the red colored ghost. Generally, he is thought of as the least dangerous member of the group. Blinky isn’t usually prone to going on the attack, but he can be totally unpredictable at times. Inky is the blue ghost, and he is also known as Bashful. This enemy has the most fitting name. After he comes out of the box, Inky is almost certain to make a beeline for the bottom right side of the screen. He stays in that area most times, moving round and round in circles, unless Pac-Man approaches.
Pokey, or Clyde as he is called in the game, is the yellow ghost. This ghost tends to stay on the bottom left side of the maze, but like the other ghosts, he is highly unpredictable. When Pac-Man swallows a power pellet he gets 50 points as well as the ability to eat ghosts. This feature only lasts a couple of seconds.
In addition to getting points for eating dots and power pills, Pac-Man can also add to his score by eating ghosts and fruit bonuses. While you will only have one opportunity per level to get the fruit bonus, you can eat all four of the ghosts every time a power pill is swallowed. If you eat one ghost while the power pill is activated, you will add 200 points to your score. Eating two ghosts while one power pill is active will yield you 200 and 400 points respectively.
Get three ghosts while a power pill is activated and you will get 800 points for the third ghost eaten. Finally, eating four ghosts will give you 200, 400, 800 and 1,600 points.
You will need to make it to stage 18 in order to see all three animated interludes. Although you will get no additional points when these scenes play, you will get the chance to take a quick breather. In total there are 255 boards that you can play in Pac-Man. Although you can progress to higher levels, the maze itself will remain the same.
When Pac-Man eats one of the power pills; all ghosts will turn blue and show a squiggly line for a mouth. If they were previously pursuing Pac-Man, they will automatically run in the opposite direction. When more than one ghost is eaten, the value of the next ghost consumed will be doubled. In total, you can get up to 1600 points for eating all four ghosts.
There are eight different fruit bonuses featured in Pac-Man. Each different type of fruit has a specific point value. Cherries, which are only featured on level one, have a 100 point value. Strawberries appear during stage two and they are valued at 300 points.
Oranges appear on the third and fourth levels. They are worth 500 points. Apples are seen on the fifth and sixth boards, and they yield 700 points each. On levels seven and eight, the grape fruit bonus appears. Grapes are worth 1,000 points. From stage nine on, players will still get extra points for each special icon that appears. However, fruit is replaced with different emblems.
On level nine, the Galaxian flagship symbol replaces the standard fruit icon. This icon is worth 2,000 points when collected. The same fruit bonus is featured on stage 10. Levels 11 and 12 contain the bell icon, worth 3,000 points. From level 13 onward, the key icon appears. This symbol is highly coveted as it has a 5,000 point value.
At the 10,000 point mark, players are awarded an extra life. You can continue to earn more extra lives in Pac-Man for every additional 10,000 points that you add to your score.
Tunnels – Because all boards in Pac-Man are laid out in exactly the same manner, there are exactly two tunnels on each stage. These tunnels can be used to go from one side of the screen to the other.
Power pills – There are exactly four power pills, placed in each of the four corners on every level. Use power pills to eat ghosts and gain more points.
Fruit – Fruit appear on each and every level. You can get anywhere from 100 to 5,000 points per fruit icon consumed.
Pac-Man – Pac-Man is the main character in the game. He is controlled with the directional keys.
Ghosts – There are four ghosts in Pac-Man that constantly roam the screen. Their names are Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. Your enemies can attack at will in groups or individually.
Dots – All dots must be collected in order for Pac-Man to progress to the next level. There are hundreds on dots within each stage.
How to Play Pac-Man
Pac-Man features the same level again and again. It is only the speed of the ghosts and the length of time that the food bonuses last that will change. There is no preferential way to play Pac-Man, but there are certain factors that you should be aware of if you intend on making it to the upper levels of the game.
Ghosts start off traveling at about the same rate of speed as Pac-Man. However, after completing just a couple of levels, they will be able to catch up to him fairly quickly. For this reason, you will need to plan out a pattern for eating the dots, and you will need to stick with it. Remember the order that the ghosts exit the box and try to complete as much as the bottom of the screen as possible before you move on.
It is a good idea to try and position yourself near a tunnel by the time that the ghosts start to come after you. This will allow you to make a quick getaway without having to sacrifice any of your power pills. Eating all four power pills and collecting the food bonuses is also the key to getting a good score. Since you will automatically get an extra turn every time that you score 10,000 points, you will want to go after the high value food bonuses first.
Although ghosts are programmed to move in a certain manner, you can easily take them off of their usual routes by invading their territories. The Pinky and Blinky are the ghosts most likely to chase after Pac-Man at all times, so you can lead them to Inky and Clyde without any issue, in most cases. Try to go around a corner that is close to a power pill and it will be much easier for you to take all four of them out at the same time.
When you have cleared a maze of all four ghosts, use this time to eat all of the dots in the most treacherous areas. It can be anywhere from 10 seconds to just a couple of seconds before the ghosts will be back in pursuit, so use this time wisely.
Tunnels can be used to your advantage, but you will also need to be careful about being ambushed. Sometimes, a ghost will change course as you enter a tunnel in an attempt to attack you as you go out of the other side. However, in most cases, you can safely flee by going down one of these portals. Also remember that ghosts travel much more slowly as they go into and out of tunnels.
The animated intermissions are programmed to play after the second level, fifth level and 17th levels have been completed. It is very difficult to get a perfect score, but if you do, you will have a 3,333,360 point score.
Hints and Tips
- During the first few boards the fruit bonuses will stay on the screen for longer and the power pills will last awhile. As this time shortens, you will need to change your game plan.
- If you can collect the key food bonus and eat all four ghosts a couple of times on a higher level, you should collect enough points in order to gain an extra man. Although you will not always be able get more extra turns to take to the next round, you will not run out of lives if you follow this strategy.
- Don’t be afraid to travel around the ghost box. As long as all four ghosts are on the screen, you will be completely safe. However, try to avoid going near the top of the box just after you have eaten ghosts. There is no way to determine when they will start to emerge.
We hope you enjoyed the video and the information shared on this classic arcade game.
For over 30 years Arcade Classics continues to bring the classics to life!