Play this Milestone of Classic Arcade Gaming
The most successful video games birth franchises, but few are the games that create a cultural phenomenon. In that hallowed company stand the likes of Super Mario Bros, Doom, and, of course, Pac-Man. Developed by Namco and released in 1980, Pac-Man is about the titular cheese-wheel-missing-a-slice looking character navigating a maze to eat dot-size pellets and fruit while being pursued by the most aggressive ghosts this side of a Spartan graveyard.
A memorable jingle opens each level before Pac-Man gets to his gluttonous work, uttering his distinctive “waka waka,” and the ghosts give chase. Should they get too close you can follow a path off the screen to wrap around to a matching path on the other side. You can also travel to a corner of the map and eat a large power pellet which allows you to turn the tables for a few seconds and eat the ghosts themselves. The action stays frantic since each ghost is programmed with a differing level of aggression, from red ghost Blinky giving chase to orange ghost Clyde acting somewhat randomly (he’s billed as the stupid one in the Japanese translation). Sometimes after clearing a stage a short vaudeville type scene between Pac-Man and the ghosts will play. While not exactly establishing a sweeping epic, these intermissions are an early use of cutscenes in gaming to break up periods of gameplay.
There is no real ending in Pac-Man from any kind of story perspective, as with most classic arcade titles. However, the nature of the coding at the time the game was made makes the game unplayable past the 256 screen, or “kill screen,” which is regarded as the final level. To get all possible points up to the kill screen is regarded as playing a perfect game of Pac-Man and very few have been able to accomplish this feat, former professional gamer Billy Mitchell being recognized as the first in 1999 and only a handful succeeding after him. This challenge alone on such an iconic title is a great enticement for anyone into or interested in getting into classing gaming.
Pac-Man has been incredibly successful over the decades. It has been referenced across popular culture, from live action mazes with everyone in costumes to the 1982 hit single “Pac-Man Fever by Buckner & Garcia. The character himself has gone on to star and cameo in numerous other titles. He is in the running for the title of most widely recognized video game character in the world. Any and all fans of video games should play this industry milestone, even if it’s just for a few minutes on one of the numerous web browser or mobile application ports.