Review by Retro

"A completely flawless version of the arcade classic for the NES!"

As long as I can remember, whether I was playing it in the arcades, for the Atari 2600, Game Boy, or the NES, I've been playing Pac-Man pretty much all my life. Pac-Man is one of the biggest arcade hits of all time, to say the least. Grownups and kids alike were head over heels about the game because it was so simple to play, and it was also fun, challenging, and addicting. To say the least, there was nothing else like it.

In Pac-Man, you have to move a round, yellow creature (Pac-Man) that has an appetite that never ends around an unchanging maze. While maneuvering around in this claustrophobic maze, you must show the creature that has no eyes where all the dots are located. There are a lot of these dots on the screen, and they hold the key to advancing to the next level.

But it's not a peaceful meal for the pacster. Pac-Man will have to eat real fast and risk a tummy ache because there are four relentless ghosts lurking all over the maze that have a bit of an appetite themselves. However, the ghosts are hungry for Pac-Man, not dots. Fortunately, Pac-Man does have one defensive technique in mind. In all four corners of the maze, there is a flashing power pellet. When Pac-Man eats any of these flashing dots, the ghosts automatically turn blue and start scurrying away from the hungry, sun-colored creature from who knows where. While they're blue, the ghosts are literally scared of Pac-Man because he can now eat them for dessert and temporarily send them back to their base in the middle of the maze.

For a few extra points and a tiny snack, a piece of stationary fruit makes an appearance from time to time in the very heart of the maze. Depending on what level you're on, the fruit can be of a certain piece such as a cherry, peach, strawberry, pineapple, and more. Clear out enough screens of dots and you just might be able to force Pac-Man to eat some other items, such as bells (that's gotta hurt).

While you play Pac-Man, you just might have to use your wits at times when a ghost is right on your tail. I'll give you two hints: Pac-Man moves a little faster in open spaces than he does while he's stuffing his face. Also, if you look on the right and left sides of the middle part of the maze, you will see two holes in the screen. Travel through either of these portals, and you will quickly be transported to the other side of the screen. While in these black holes, Pac-Man moves much faster than the sluggish ghosts.

The maze in Pac-Man never changes form, which can be its falling point when you compare it to its later, better sequels, such as Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man. But the game gets harder and harder as you proceed in your quest of the dots. The ghosts get faster and so does Pac-Man after awhile. It's hard to believe that Pac-Man gets faster after he has eaten so much; I guess he has found a miracle cure for indigestion or something.

What really makes this game more difficult as you progress along in your twisting adventure is that the ghosts will not be vulnerable nearly as long after you eat a power pellet as they are at the beginning of the game. For instance, once you get real far, the ghosts might just flash for a second and change direction, whereas in the first few screens, they remain blue and depressed for close to 30 seconds.

Like everything in the game, the graphics in this version of Pac-Man are just like they are in the arcades. There's not anything flashy about the graphics, they just get the job done like they're supposed to. The maze is dark and haunted, the characters are well drawn with decent enough animation, and everything else, such as the scores and the cinemas, are basic, but well done. The sounds also go with the flow without being spectacular or innovative in any sense. From the constant background beat of the maze to the saliva-filled chomping sound Pac-Man makes while he eats, none of the sounds are bad at all, and they succeed in being hauntingly memorable. The controls are pretty self-explanatory. All you ever do is move up, down, left, and right. As long as your hand-eye coordination and controller is working, you won't have any problems guiding the hungry monster around every twist and turn of the maze.

If you're a Pac-fanatic, you have got to get this game! If you like Pac-Man even the least bit, then you'll definitely like it for the NES, because it's an identical port from the arcades; I can't stress that enough. If you get tired of playing the game by yourself, you could always play a two-player game (turn taking style) against somebody else to see who can keep their score on the high score list the longest.

So why an 8 instead of a 10? Pac-Man is one of the most classic video games of all time, no doubt. As I mentioned earlier, it's just not my favorite of the series. If I was to grade Pac-Man based on how similar it is to the arcade title of the same name, I would give it an easy 10, but based on how much I enjoy playing it, it's an 8.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/11/01, Updated 02/23/03

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