Af­ter pac-man’s es­cape from the Maze into the bright And colour­ful pac-land for his first plat­former, namco de­cided to send him back for the iso­met­ric hit pac-mania. kieren hawken Munches up the story

Retro Gamer - - PAC-MAN -

hen ex­plor­ing the con­cept of a char­ac­ter that broke free from the cult world of gam­ing and cat­a­pulted it­self into the pub­lic eye, we don’t have to look far to find an early ex­am­ple. Pac-man’s suc­cess as gam­ing’s first char­ac­ter to cross over into main­stream pop cul­ture meant that se­quels (and nu­mer­ous spin-offs) were as pre­dictable as night fol­low­ing day. The first,

Ms Pac-man (orig­i­nally known as Crazy

Otto) was more of the same, but added ad­di­tional mazes and other new el­e­ments, which gave the se­quel some much-needed va­ri­ety. Baby Pac-man fol­lowed in 1982, while Jr Pac-man ar­rived the fol­low­ing year.

Namco ended its re­la­tion­ship with Bally

Mid­way, but had more plans for Pac-man.

These plans would see our ro­tund yel­low chum break free from the maze that had trapped him for so long in order to star in his very own scrolling plat­former, Pac-land,a

ti­tle that was based on the Satur­day morn­ing TV se­ries. But Namco wasn’t done with Pac-man’s ad­ven­tures, and in 1987, some seven years af­ter the orig­i­nal game, it sent him back to his roots for Pac-mania. By this point, Namco knew that yet an­other 2D maze game wouldn’t cut it in the late Eight­ies, and so drew in­spi­ra­tion from other games. Namco had just taken a ma­jor­ity share in Atari Games, the Amer­i­can ar­cade com­pany it had long been in­ter­twined with. Atari Games had al­ready tested a way of dis­play­ing pseudo-3d graph­ics with iso­met­ric pro­jec­tion, which was most no­tably used on games such as Paper­boy, Re­turn Of The Jedi, Mar­ble Mad­ness and Crys­tal Cas­tles. It was per­haps the lat­ter that pro­vided the most in­spi­ra­tion of all, as Bent­ley Bear’s ve­hi­cle al­ready fea­tured more than a pass­ing nod to the Pac-man games it­self. This change of per­spec­tive would al­low the Namco pro­gram­mers to de­liver ad­vanced graph­i­cal de­tail, and also im­ple­ment an ar­ray of features to sep­a­rate it from Pac-man and co’s pre­vi­ous maze game of­fer­ings. The most prom­i­nent of these is the abil­ity to jump – a press of the fire but­ton sees Pac-man launch into the air for just enough time to leap over an on­com­ing ghost. Tim­ing is the key to mas­ter­ing this par­tic­u­lar tac­tic, how­ever play­ers shouldn’t be fooled to think out hun­gry hero is alone in show­ing off this new air­borne skill, as play­ers will find out on later lev­els of the game. To no­body’s sur­prise, Pac-man’s old neme­ses, the ghosts, reap­pear here. How­ever the cast has also been up­graded some­what. We see the re­turn of main­stays Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde from the orig­i­nal Pac-man, but also Sue (from Ms Pac-man and Pac-land), who is now pur­ple in­stead of orange. Un­like her orig­i­nal ap­pear­ance in the ear­lier Pac-man

se­quels, where she served as noth­ing more than a re­place­ment for the bum­bling Clyde. In Pac-mania, how­ever, she chases our hero down like a Ter­mi­na­tor. There are two new ghosts join­ing the cast, too, coloured green and grey and named Spunky and Funky. These are the spooks that you have to re­ally keep an eye on, be­cause like Pac-man, they also posses the abil­ity to jump, mak­ing avoid­ing them that lit­tle bit harder. As a way of ramp­ing up the dif­fi­culty, Pac-mania starts off with the orig­i­nal crew of ghosts and more are added as the lev­els progress.

nother fea­ture in­tro­duced in Pac­ma­nia comes in the form of new power-ups that, in ad­di­tion to Power Pills, give ol’ Pac more ways to turn the ta­ble on his pur­suers. These will ap­pear in the same place as the reg­u­lar bonus fruit, and the first of these is a speed pill that lets you

shoot around the maze at a tremen­dous pace, giv­ing your foes no chance to catch you. An­other handy pick-up en­hances your scor­ing abil­i­ties by dou­bling the point val­ues of ev­ery­thing you munch. There are also sev­eral less no­table tweaks to the game de­sign too, but one that is def­i­nitely worth men­tion­ing are the new side tun­nels. Of course, any­one fa­mil­iar with the orig­i­nal

Pac-man will know that these were a handy way to es­cape the ghosts. Now that the maze is much big­ger, seen in a 3D per­spec­tive and scrolls, these tun­nels have been changed a lit­tle but serve the same pur­pose. You still wrap around to the other side of the level how­ever here they are much longer than be­fore and also con­tain dots that need to be eaten up.

Mov­ing away from the de­sign changes and mov­ing onto the most ob­vi­ous up­grade, the graph­ics, there is more to talk about than just the new iso­met­ric per­spec­tive. One of the most at­trac­tive el­e­ments of Pac-

Mania is the level de­signs them­selves, with each stage tak­ing on its own unique theme and chal­lenges. Pac-man trav­els from the open­ing, Block Town, with its near-copy­right-in­fring­ing Lego bricks, to the Egyp­tian-themed pyra­mids of Sand­box Land and onto the fi­nal chal­lenge at the Jungly Steps, which features a se­ries of chal­leng­ing steps or plat­forms seem­ingly sus­pended in midair. What made these cre­ative de­signs even more spe­cial is the out­stand­ing sound­track that ac­com­pa­nies them. Each stage has its own unique tune, and we chal­lenge you to not carry on hum­ming them long af­ter the game has fin­ished. Namco had never been a com­pany known for its mu­sic but Pac-mania cer­tainly changed that. An­other more sub­tle graph­i­cal en­hance­ment comes in the form of the enemy an­i­ma­tions. With each ghost hav­ing their own dis­tinct per­son­al­ity, their fa­cial ex­pres­sions will change de­pend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, some­thing that was no doubt car­ried over from the car­toon se­ries. fter the huge suc­cess of Pac-mania in the ar­cades for both Namco and Atari Games, which re­leased the game in the west, the game was gob­bled up pretty quickly for home com­puter con­ver­sions.

These came from well-known York­shire­based soft­ware house Grand­slam, which had pre­vi­ously pub­lished Pac-mania’s pre­de­ces­sor Pac-land. Con­sole ver­sions of the game were also re­leased via a wide range of pub­lish­ers in­clud­ing Atari Games’ own la­bel Ten­gen, Tec­magik and Namco it­self. Amaz­ingly, it took Namco nearly ten years to re­lease an­other game in the fran­chise af­ter Pac-mania, but from then they came thick and fast. More re­cently

Pac-man re­turned to the maze once more for the sublime Pac-man 256, which also re­turned to the iso­met­ric per­spec­tive and even fea­tured a Pac-mania screen mode, mean­ing that this clas­sic ar­cade game lives on to this very day.

» [Ar­cade] Feel­ing blue? These ghosts cer­tainly are and they will be even glum­mer when Pac-man eats them!

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