Sunday, September 27, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Pac-Man (Atari 2600)


Retro Game of the Day! Pac-Man (Atari 2600)


Oh, Pac-Man. You will forever be maligned in the eyes of gamers everywhere, due to your tragic misstep in the very first home console port of your game. The 1981 Atari-published game by developer Todd Frye released on the Atari 2600, a year after the arcade machine showed up and took over the hearts of gamers everywhere, set fire to an industry, blah blah blah.

Alright, so look at this game. Look at it. I don't even have to bother showing comparison images of the original arcade machine for any gamer worth his salt to know there's more than a minor discrepancy here. History has not been kind to this little game - at all - and it is still the butt of several jokes and jabs, even nearly 30 years later. Is this constant abuse unfounded? Yeah, I think so. I mean, the game looks and plays like a heavily medicated version of Pac-Man, but still - it does play like Pac-Man. It is generally not mentioned much, but back in those days a console port of an arcade game was expected to be running on dramatically underpowered hardware than it's source material, and Pac-Man would be no exception. As a 6-year-old, seeing this game run on my friend Noah's color TV was nearly a religious experience! I didn't care that it wasn't a 1:1 facsimile of the arcade experience, it didn't have to be. You could play this at home, that was all that mattered.

Supposedly the one-man development team had about 6 weeks to put this together. Could more (skilled) manpower have produced a better effort? Certainly, it's been proven - but I don't know if it would have sold any more units. The game was a huge success aside from it's blasphemic interpretation of the game.

There's not too much else to be said of the game - it's Pac-Man - everyone knows the story here. I always found it humorous how the game's distinctive sound effects found their way into several TV shows for decades after the game released, symbolic of "cast member is playing a video game." I remember an episode of Roseanne where you saw the kid clearly playing a Super Nintendo and this noise was what was coming out of it. Those days are gone, the game still receives a lot of hatemail, but for my childhood, when I first saw this - it was where it was at!



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