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Pac-Man (Atari 2600) artwork

Pac-Man (Atari 2600) review


"Near-death experiences result in a dead Packy lying in a pool of ectoplasm. Tempting fate, moving recklessly and taking chances were what Pac-Man was all about. Take that away and you rob the game its soul."



1980. Where were you when Pac-Man Fever broke out? I was only a newborn then, too young to remember any of it. My parents and siblings recall days: the bodies piled in the streets, the quivering souls begging for quarters, the political outcry for a cure, the celebrity telethons... Then Atari developed a cure, mass produced it and shipped it to the public. They called this cure “Pac-Man on Atari 2600.” And did they ever laugh all the way to the bank. The cure was nothing more than a sugar pill that took the edge off the fever, but never broke it. It was a placebo rushed to the public to fill a void and make a quick dollar.

It wasn't long before one of my brothers came down with the fever. My mother sometimes cries when she recalls the symptoms: the shakes, the want for close brushes with death, the hunger for anything shaped like a dot or pellet, the phobia of sheets with holes cut in them. My family gave in and banked on the new cure.

The instant that cheap-sounding whistle played on the old TV speakers, they all knew they'd been duped. The creature they saw on the screen barely resembled Pac-Man, but looked like his deformed and overweight half-brother. They guided Poc-Man about the screen and expected that lovable wobble-wobble noise, but were instead antagonized by an incessant quack-quack.

They charged around the maze and tempted fate several times, but it always ended the same. There are no close calls in this Pac-Man. If you brush by the ghosts, you get caught and lose a life. The collision radius for both Packy and the ghosts is wider. Near-death experiences result in a dead Packy lying in a pool of ectoplasm. Tempting fate, moving recklessly and taking chances were what Pac-Man was all about. Take that away and you rob the game its soul.

Without its soul, the cure was no good.

My brother's fever never broke. No matter how many times he played the one maze this game has to offer, he only felt slightly better. An unchecked Pac-Man Fever can lead to other contagious illnesses like Mario Migraine or Tetris Infection. These illnesses lingered until he could communicate them unto me. I have yet to find a cure for them.

Thankfully no one suffers from Pac-Man Fever these days because actual cures are available for just about every system. If you're going to go Pac-Man, there's no reason to give the Atari 2600 version a glance. Skip it and grab either the NES version from Virtual Console or the Xbox 360 version on XLBA. Go for a true experience and not a cheap imitation.

Rating: 2/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (April 23, 2011)

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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SamildanachEmrys posted October 28, 2011:

The 2600 version of Pac-Man is the only one I've ever played. I didn't realise there was a difference. Well, that accounts for why so many people speak fondly of Pac-Man while I think it's kind of crap.
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zigfried posted October 28, 2011:

People stood in line for ages to buy the 2600 Pac-Man port.... and then they stood in line to return it. The game was a massive success, even though it also had more returns than any other game to date. It was a crushing disappointment to arcade fans.

Nice review -- I liked how you named Pac-Man's deformed brother "Poc-Man".

//Zig
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qxz posted October 28, 2011:

[begin New York accent]

Eh. I've played woiss Pac-Man clones.

[end New York accent]


There has always been something I've always pondered about the reputation of this particular version of Pac-Man. Would this game -- without changing the core mechanics -- have been more tolerated without the Pac-Man branding?
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 29, 2011:

Thanks, zig!

Good question, qxz. I think I still wouldn't like it, but perhaps wouldn't have been so hard on it. And by 'less hard' I pretty much mean a 3/10 vs. a 2/10.

Interesting bit-o-trivia: A lot of people blame the videogame crash in the early '80s on this rendition of Pac-Man, as well as ET.
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overdrive posted October 29, 2011:

For me, this was weird. The A2600 Pac-Man was the first version I ever played, so I didn't know better and had a reasonable amount of fun with it...until my parents bought me the more faithfully rendered Ms. Pac-Man and I never played the original again. Jr. Pac-Man was also good, but I preferred the one-screen maze where you could see everything in front of you over that game's taller ones that didn't fit on one screen.
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qxz posted October 29, 2011:

Overdrive wrote:
For me, this was weird. The A2600 Pac-Man was the first version I ever played, so I didn't know better and had a reasonable amount of fun with it...


Same case with me. The Atari 2600 rendition of Pac-Man was literally my first experience with the brand, and I also enjoyed playing it. Of course, this was before the NES came to be, and the inevitable conversion of <Pac-Man to said system.

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