Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 2, NO. 4 / JULY 1983

Games Department

Pac Man

by Robert Capparell, M.D.

I could play Pac-Man all day. In fact I did. Atari's 5200 PacMan is the gold standard for all home video maze games, and certainly rivals its arcade counterpart in all important aspects.

Visually it is colorful, without the flashes we saw on the VCS version, and the figures are distinct, with each ghost having a personality all its own. The 5200 version is horizontally laid out, in contrast to the vertical screen in the arcade game. This in no way detracts from the play. In fact, I found that patterns that worked in the arcade won't work on my 5200 version, so the learning process, and the fun of playing are actually increased.

If you're a Pac-Man junkie, then you'll enjoy the option of starting at a very high level of play (e.g. key-level). I found it very useful to practice patterns at higher levels so that when I started at the lower ones, I didn't get hung up for prolonged periods at the melons or bells.

I'm convinced Pac-Man was the beginning of the so called "cute games" so popular in arcades today. In fact, it started more than one trend. For some reason, (certainly with Freudian overtones), women started filling the arcades to play Pac-Man. It's the only home game my wife plays frequently. Some of the best players I've seen are women. Perhaps it's the passive-aggressive nature of Pac-Man, where there is no shooting, but after eating a power pill, one can chase and eat the previously antagonistic ghosts, for bonus points of course.

I have a few tips for beginners that will help you reach the upper levels. When starting out, the first two boards (cherries) should be cleared quickly, without becoming greedy. The object is to reach the higher levels with a bonus PacMan, awarded at 10,000 points, without losing any men along the way. Pac-Man is a game of patterns, and at higher levels, a workable pattern is a must to clear the board without losing a man. This takes a lot of trial and error, and fortunately not a roll of quarters. Try to avoid getting trapped in the corners without a power pill. This will almost certainly lose a man and gain nothing. Also, it is important to learn how to use the tunnel effectively to escape the ghosts on your heels. The tunnel can also be used to trap the ghosts, eat a power pill, then clear the tunnel (with a lot of practice).

The major problem I ran into, and apparently one that Atari is now confronting, is that the controllers quickly wore out during frequent use, with loss of fine control so necessary for this and other games. Fortunately, Atari has extended the warranty on the controllers alone, to June 30, 1983. So if you're having problems, take your controllers to the nearest authorized Atari Service Center. So far, my new controllers are holding up well.

In summary, Atari 5200 Pac-Man is the best translation yet of an arcade game, and will satisfy even the most hard core Pac-Man fans. I highly recommend it for children of all ages!