Submitted by: Ian Marks
In the early eighties we as home computer/console users were desperate for arcade action. There was a time when we’d buy anything that even pretended to be like an arcade game (just look at Kong by Ocean on the Spectrum). Sadly there were many examples of this lazy conversion problem on the Atari VCS.
Sticking out of this mire most sore thumbly was Pac Man on the Atari VCS. It was a travesty. Not only was it so flickery it could cause fits at twenty paces – much like the Japanese Robots in the Simpsons. It also played a very poor game of Pac Man. It therefore failed the playing a good game of Pac Man test. Atari thought they were the king of the home consoles, and they could do whatever they wanted… they couldn’t.
Along with cocky alien ET, VCS Pac Man nearly killed the video game industry, not to be completely beaten though Atari gave it another go a year later with Ms. Pac Man… and what a difference a year makes.
Ms. Pac Man is a triumph. The lady herself is flicker free, and although the ghosts do shimmer occasionally they are not anywhere near as migraine inducing as their older brothers. Not only that it actually plays like Ms. Pac Man should. The ghosts don’t just move about randomly anymore, they have patterns, like the real arcade game.
If you play it today, it’s still quite impressive just how smoothly the Pac lady moves around the maze. She really does seem to be at home there, unlike her sibling who hobbled about his maze flashing at everything like a dirty old man.
Ms. Pac Man (along with Space Invaders and Battle Zone) really shows what the VCS was capable of creating in arcade conversions when it tried. It also shows up just how lazy some early Atari 2600 games were, because if the machine was capable of arcade conversions of this quality then embarrassing games like Defender should never have happened.
Finally Ms. Pac Man passed the does it play a good game of Pac Man test…. Because the answer is an emphatic YES! Girl Power indeed.