Ms. Pac-Man (Arcade)

When I was writing for Clear Vision Gaming, I covered games from a wide range of systems. With so many to choose from, I used it as a medium to cover games I either hated or loved. There was no need to cover the unmemorable and mediocre. Ms. Pac-Man fell into the category of games I loved. From the length of the review, it is easy to see that I frequently played it. I choose to share the review because I like the introduction and the fact that I seemed to have a Ms. Pac-Man fetish back in early 2002 when I wrote it. When reading this, it is helpful to know that I wrote under the name “Num104” for the website, and online friends commonly referred to me as “Num.”

Title: Ms. Pac-Man

System: Arcade

Developer: General Computer Corp.

Publisher: Midway Mfg Co.

# of Players: 2

Genre: Puzzle

Release Year: 1981

In Depth:

How do you start out a review for one of the top selling arcade games of all time? Do you start with something really funny? Do you take a moment to talk about the impact of the game on the videogame industry as a whole? Do you bore your audience with an inane story about your last encounter with the game at a rundown old bar? Or perhaps you would just ask a bunch of questions in hopes to pass that off as an introduction. Either way you choose to start a review for it, Ms. Pac-Man is and, considering the state of the arcade industry now, probably will always be at the top of arcade games concerning its sales. There are a lot of reasons for this. But perhaps the easiest explanation is that Midway took a proven formula and improved upon it. This kind of simple idea always ends up with a winning product.

Ms. Pac-Man built upon the formula used for the very popular, yep you guessed it, Pac-Man. Pac-Man became an instant hit and made a ton of money. Featuring a rounded yellow character that gobbled up pellets while avoiding ghosts, Pac-Man’s simple and addictive gameplay quickly caught on to arcades across the country.

“Hey Num!!!”

“What?”

“This is a review for Ms. Pac-Man, not Pac-Man.”

“Oh yeah, thanks.”

Anyway, Ms. Pac-Man kept the same basic idea and expanded upon it just enough to make the game better without ruining the style as a whole. With Ms. Pac-Man taking the role of the pellet gobbling rounded yellow puck thingy (and yes, that is the scientific name for her), she must now avoid the four irksome ghosts as they try to stop her feeding frenzy. Three of the ghosts return from the original Pac-Man (Blinky, Pinky, and Inky) with the ever lovable ghost Clyde being replaced by the new fashionable ghost Sue (ok… there is really nothing fashionable about her… I just wanted to make this review sound really descriptive and good). The graphics remain basically the same as Pac-Man. Ms. Pac-Man is depicted as a yellow circle with a chunk missing to represent her mouth. However, she does get a bit of a makeover. With red lipstick, a bow, and a black dot (a mole?), Ms. Pac-Man is looking much hotter than Pac-Man. The ghosts take the same shape most often drawn by small children: an ellipsis with jagged edges at the bottom. Each board is comprised of a single colored maze filled with yellow pellets and energizers (I know… it is amazing that there was not a lawsuit over the name) placed in each of the four corners. The energizers are nothing more than bigger versions of the pellets. New to Ms. Pac-Man is the inclusion of four different mazes that are cycled through while playing. Each maze is represented by a different color and fruit (well, one of the boards is represented by a pretzel… maybe pretzels were considered fruits back in the early 80s). As a whole the game does not look amazing but it certainly does all that it needs to. Ms. Pac-Man definitely looks better than the original Pac-Man, and everything plays a lot faster and smoother. Another addition is the use of cut-scenes after every few boards. These show the story of Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man meeting and falling in love. It is all very touching. *takes a second to wipe tear from eye*

The sound in the game is very minimal. This is probably due to the fact that arcade games usually sat in really loud places and no one ever paid attention to the noise coming out of the arcade cabinet. Chomping sound effects are used when Ms. Pac-Man gobbles the pellets and ghosts. When an energizer is grabbed a fast paced ditty plays. The only other sound is the music playing during the cut-scenes. This music would probably be really annoying except for the fact that it is too short to have time to be.

The control in Ms. Pac-Man is as simple as can be. Players can move Ms. Pac-Man throughout the mazes by holding the joystick up, down, left, or right. There are no buttons used in the game. This simple control is definitely a positive aspect of the game. Players do not have to worry about a bunch of different play control elements, but can instead focus on maneuvering their character around the board and avoiding ghosts. Ms. Pac-Man, as mentioned earlier, plays at a faster level than Pac-Man did. This helps to keep the action from dragging. The ghosts’ AI has also been stepped up making it nearly impossible to find any kind of pattern like in the original. Players are forced to hone their maneuvering and reflexes instead of memorizing patterns. This definitely adds to the replay value of the game as well. The bonus items (fruits and the oddball pretzel) now travel through the maze instead of showing up at the center like in Pac-Man. This adds a new element of skill to the game. Ms. Pac-Man is awarded an extra life at 10000 points and players have to choose whether to go after the higher point rewarding goodies and risk being hit by a ghost or earning points by conventional pellet gobbling. The game ends when all the player’s lives are used up. Two players can play by taking turns. Once the first player dies, the second starts their turn. This continues until both players lose all their lives. This kind of two-player action is fun as players compete to see who can get the highest score. If a second player is not available, players can always try to beat the high score stored in the game itself. The game stores and displays the highest score achieved at the top of the screen.

Ms. Pac-Man is truly one of the greatest games ever made. And that is not just because she is so hot (I mean come on… have you seen the marquee for the arcade game?). With a winning formula to build off of, Ms. Pac-Man did everything right to create a successful sequel. It is no wonder the game is among the top selling in history.

Low Point:

The sound is very minimal.

High Point:

Fast paced, pellet gobbling, ghost chasing action.

Classic Appeal:

Ms. Pac-Man alone is appealing enough for me.

Retro Rating: 9.9

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