Originally titled Puck Man, Pac-Man hit the arcade scene first in Japan when Namco released it on May 22, 1980. Shortly after receiving a lukewarm response, the game was released in the U.S. by Midway. Compared to other arcade hits in the early '80s, such as Space Invaders, Defender, and Asteroids, Pac-Man put a friendlier face on its bizarre action and thus had the ability to appeal to a much broader audience. Toru Iwatani has said that he was looking for a way to attract women into arcades, which at the time were almost exclusively male locations. Having discarded ideas for a fashion based game and a love simulator, he had a eureka moment after a meal with his girlfriend. He noticed she ate a lot of dessert. Iwatani realized then that eating was a universal concept which he could exploit in a game.
The game was considered a smash hit in the U.S. and spawned many sequels and spin-offs, including an animated television show (known as Pac-Man: The Animated Series), a breakfast cereal, and the song Pac-Man Fever by Buckner & Garcia. Not to mention NFL star, Adam "Pac-Man" Jones.
The original Pac-Man game was ported to various systems, including the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, NES, PC, Apple II, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Game Gear, Commodore 64, Atari 8-bit, Intellivision, MSX, NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-8801, FM-7, Sharp X1, Commodore VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, Neo Geo Pocket Color, mobile phones, iPhone, and iPod. The game was also released as an Xbox Live Arcade game under the Xbox Live Marketplace. That version was also included in the compilation disc Namco Museum: Virtual Arcade. The NES version was also re-released for the Game Boy Advance under its Classic NES Series program and for the Nintendo Wii in its Wii Virtual Console platform. The arcade version was re-released as a secret game under the Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga 20 Year Reunion cabinet (in the game selection screen, move the joystick up, up, up, down, down, down, left, right, left, right, left, and press both start buttons before inserting tokens). In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Pac-Man the cabinet was re-released with Pac-Man freely playable. The arcade version was also bundled with compilation discs such as Microsoft Return of Arcade, Microsoft Return of Arcade Anniversary Edition, Namco Museum Vol. 1 for the PlayStation, Namco Museum 64 for the Nintendo 64, Namco Museum for the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube, Namco Museum DS for the Nintendo DS, Namco Museum Battle Collection for the PSP, and Namco Museum Essentials for the PlayStation Network (PS3).
The Atari 2600 port is infamous for being considered one of the worst video games ever created. Having a very short development time frame and a very small staff, Pac-Man for 2600 wound up being a failed attempt at bringing an arcade classic home. Alongside E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, it can be considered a major factor in the collapse of Atari, Inc. as well as the Video Game Crash of 1983.
The basic premise of the game involves the character, Pac-Man, a yellow circle with a slice cut out for a mouth. It's said by developer Toru Iwatani to represent a pizza with one missing slice as well as the general idea of a mouth eating. The player controls Pac-Man through a seemingly-endless amount of mazes, collecting pellets (or "dots") for points while avoiding the four ghosts ( Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, each with their own unique movement patterns). If the player runs into any of the ghosts, the player loses a life. However, the player can run into a power pellet, which make the ghosts temporarily edible for points. This ability, which most players would consider fundamental to Pac-Man, was absent from the game until mid-way through development as Toru Iwatani and his team were fed up being constantly chased and decided to turn the tables on the ghosts.
Players can also get bonus fruit pieces which show up at random intervals in each level. The primary goal is to maneuver around the level and eat up all the pellets without losing lives.
Veterans of this game noticed patterns about the four ghosts and have developed movement patterns for each level that guarantee success. While hypothetically there is no ending to this game, level 256 is considered a kill screen. A bug in the routine on level 256 eliminates most of the pellets on the right side of the screen, replacing them and the maze with garbled text and graphics. It is impossible to clear that level legitimately. Because this level marks an end-point, the game can have a "perfect play" where the player achieves the maximum possible score on the first 255 levels without losing a single life and then scoring as many points as possible on the kill screen before losing all his lives. The maximum score possible in this game is 3,333,360 points. The first person to achieve this score was Billy Mitchell on July 3, 1999.