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Pac-Man (Arcade) artwork

Pac-Man (Arcade) review

"I know what youíre thinking. Pac-Man? Survival Horror? Yes, a genre made famous by such classics as Alone in the Dark, Clock Tower, and Resident Evil actually got its start as one of the first video games ever created. "

I know what youíre thinking. Pac-Man? Survival Horror? Yes, a genre made famous by such classics as Alone in the Dark, Clock Tower, and Resident Evil actually got its start as one of the first video games ever created.

You still donít believe me? Think, man! Use that brain of yours for once in your life! Youíre alone. Youíre trapped. Completely unarmed and defenseless. There are murderous phantoms lurking the halls of your prison. You must survive. You cannot fight. All you can do is run.

Itís quite a terrifying experience. Thereís no hope of destroying these insane, ravenous wraiths. The best you can hope for is to collect one of the rare items strewn within your prison that will ever so briefly earn you respite from their soul-devouring advances. But it only slows their efforts. It can never stop them. Neither can you. And if they corner you, there is no hope. Your pitiful life will be snuffed out, extinguished in a secondís time.

So there you have it. At its core, Pac-Man is a game where the goal is to simply survive. And ghosts are scary. Survival + horror.

Luckily, itís an entertaining romp. Nothing terribly flash or pizzazz, but much like Tetris, the genius lies within its simplistic surface. The Pacster doesnít have wild hopes and dreams; he simply wishes to get his snack on and not become a snack in the process. So itís up to the player to dart the hungry half-moon through numerous labyrinthine mazes, gobbling up all of the tiny pellets strewn through every inch of each structure.

It is only by doing this can Pac-Diddy advance to the next stage. Essentially heís under a sort of Groudhog Day effect, though, as the next level only offers a slightly varied maze set-up and swifter spooks.

Pac-Man is about pure resiliency. How long can you hold out? How far can you advance? How high can your score go? Back in the olden days when score not only meant anything, it meant everything. Just so one could get that coveted number one high score and carve their virtual initials into that screen (or, for the super witty, something like POO or ASS). It was all that mattered.

The four pesky poltergeists that try and stop you are actually quite key to attaining a higher score. These power pellets--the larger, corner-dwelling versions of Pacís usual meal--again let Pac-man turn the tables on the ghosts for a brief time. Eating them all in one go can net some major points, as can chowing down on the randomly appearing fruit items that appear throughout our heroís trail.

In that way, not only is Pac-man Survival Horror given birth, but also a fine simulation of life. We eat, and we run from death as long as possible, battling our inner demons along the way--or ghosts, if you prefer. If you mess up, you have another chance to get things right. And isnít that what weíre all striving for? A second chance? Redemption? Think about it.

Now, not only can Master P run his yellow booty off to escape the haunts of Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde (my personal favorite); not only can he grab a power pellets to have them running for the hills for a change, but Pac-man can also make use of the open tunnels on the sides of the maze. Tragically, this does not grant him safety and freedom; they are not exits. The Gods of Mazes Full of Ghosts deemed that these tunnels should shunt Pac-man to the other side of the map.

Perhaps another sly commentary on how this game represents human life. We live and eat and such and our world is like a maze, twisting and confusing all the while. Just like a world map, should we get to one end of the map, we donít fall of the edge of the world; we pop up on the other side.

When to make use of the few defenses provided to you--the tunnels, the power pellets--adds a keen level of strategy to this dusty relic that betrays not only its simplistic design, but its age as well. As the saying goes, easy to learn, difficult to master.

The classics are classics for a reason. And while the sands of time may have covered this gem, they can never sully its luster.


turducken's avatar
Community review by turducken (March 01, 2007)

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