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Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 2600) artwork

Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 2600) review


"As you hone your skills, you'll find situations growing more desperate and thrilling. Each key factor-- mechanics, rules, progressively climbing difficulty, spot on collision detection--comes together to make a simple, fast-paced and addictive title."



Ms. Pac-Man asset


When you think about it, Atari 2600's Ms. Pac-Man didn't have a whole lot going for it. Considering the logic many people hold, it should have been a complete failure. It was an early 80s console port of an arcade game; strike one. It was a sequel; strike two. Its console predecessor is infamous, usually considered one of the worst ports and biggest video game disappointments in history; strike three. None of that stopped the determined yellow gal! She produced a not-so-lady-like middle finger to the haters, jumped onto the console, and showed her male counterpart how it's done.

Regardless of how awesome Ms. Pac-Man is, though, it's still not a substitute for the arcade version. Fair enough, we expected that. It doesn't have the amusing cutscenes or the charming music, it doesn't feature the same lovable sound effects or simple, yet gorgeous visuals. It does, however, look very similar to its source; as close as an Atari 2600 game can look to its arcade version. That alone is an impressive feat for an older game.

The game's copycatting isn't limited to visuals. Wandering the maze, munching dots hyphens, and dodging ghosts remains the same as always. Half the fun of Ms. Pac-Man is taking risks. A bouncing fruit that packs a goodish amount of bonus points bounces towards you. You rush in to eat it, but notice there's a ghost approaching the fruit as well. Do you run like a coward or dive in like a daredevil? The close shaves keep the game exciting, and are the heart and soul of any good Pac game, that and learning the ins and outs of the maze and using its many features to your advantage.

Ms. Pac-Man screenshotMs. Pac-Man screenshot


Just when you thought you'd mastered the labyrinth, the screen changes on you. Every other level presents you with a new maze to master, each with its own little traps and tricky corners to help accentuate the risk-taking aspects. The ones that always got me were the long straightaways. I'd remind myself to be aware of the ghosts, but as a careless arcade gamer, I'm not afraid of a little peril. That didn't stop me from swearing when two ghosts pincered me in the straightaway. It felt like a scene from a horror film, with phantasmal antagonists on either side of me looking to steal my soul. If you think I learned my lesson, think again. It's more fun to take risks, no matter how many f-bombs I have to drop.

There are times, though, when you don't want an aneurysm while playing. Atari 2600's 'Select' button comes handy at such times, allowing you to adjust the number of ghosts present on the field. For a simple and more relaxing game, you can deal with just one or two enemies. Even with just a few ghosts, the game can get hairy. Challenge factor isn't only modified through enemy plurality, as the ghosts will also become faster and more aggressive as you advance. They may not give chase as much in earlier stages, but later on will tail you like a paranoid constable.

It's in those levels that the game is at its sweetest. As you hone your skills, you'll find situations growing more desperate and thrilling. Each key factor-- mechanics, rules, progressively climbing difficulty, spot on collision detection--comes together to make a simple, fast-paced and addictive title.

It's just as good as the arcade version. Maybe it doesn't exude the charm its big sister does, but it replicates its arcade counterpart far better than a vast portion of the 2600's library. It's as though Atari knew they had biffed it on the predecessor and worked hard to regain the public's trust. If Ms. Pac-Man is an act of atonement, then I'd say Atari is forgiven.

Rating: 9/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (April 23, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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aschultz posted April 23, 2012:

Thanks for writing this! This is a good reminder of what how people may be able to fix their mistakes, but it's too late for the majority to notice. So many people I knew bought PacMan and then never bought Ms PacMan. I don't think it was just cause I knew guys and Ms PacMan was female, either.

I also really liked PacMan Jr as it really diverged (IIRC) from the arcade game's map. But I don't think I ever checked this game out. So I'm interested, again.

I have a few games in your list of recently reviewed games I want to check out for the first time, actually. Too much else to do at the moment, though.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 24, 2012:

Ms. Pac-Man and Desert Falcon were the first games I ever owned. Before that, I had to play my brothers' systems (Atari 2600 and TI-99). It's a shame more people didn't give Ms. Pac-Man a chance, because it really blew its predecessor out of the water. Thanks for reading, Schultz!
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aschultz posted April 24, 2012:

Ooh, TI-99. Any chance of you reviewing a TI-99 game soon?

I remember being jealous of my friend's TI-99 just because it had MunchMan. Different friend from the Coleco friends.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 24, 2012:

I would, but I think I would have find an emulator. My brother's TI died ages ago. He has some great stuff on it: MuchMan, Munchmobile, Super Demon Attack, a D&D game, Hunt the Wumpus, Protector II (a Defender knock-off), a horse racing simulator... It's been ages since I've played any TI games, so I wouldn't be the best judge for a review.
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aschultz posted April 24, 2012:

Hm, yeah, I can see that, but sometimes I need that change of pace of a new system I haven't poked at for a while. But just so you know--a TI review from you will get at least one hit.

And it'll be hard for the rest of us to question your authority on the subject, anyway :)
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 26, 2012:

Well, I found a TI-99 emulator. Now there's just the matter of finding ROMs. I can find some, but need to register to download them (I'm not fond of registering to emulation sites). If I can get this up and running, I may do some TI-99 reviews in the future.

EDIT:
Oh! I found an emulator, Classic99, which actually has games programmed into under license from Texas Instruments. Apparently TI has given their fullest blessing to this emulator. It even comes with Munch Man and Hunt the Wumpus. Sweet!

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