Retro Game of the Day! Pac-Man
Pac-Man by Namco, developed by Toru Iwatani and his team and released in the arcade in 1980.
It is hard to think of a more classic, iconic videogame character than good ol' Pac. Not the first "collect the dots" maze game (I couldn't tell you which one was!), although Pac-Man certainly popularized the trend more than anything which came before.
Central to the game's appeal was the notion of power-ups, which enabled you to turn the table on your pursuers. For the majority of the game, Pac-Man is vulnerable to his enemies and must flee them constantly. Grabbing a large flashing "power pill" would temporarily allow Pac-Man to eat his opponents and rack up huge points. The addition of this novel mechanic was absolutely genius, and elevated the game so far above the "maze-collect-and-avoid" themes it otherwise presented.
Pac-Man truly resonated with gamers all over the world, 30 years ago as much as today. This was one of the first games which could truly appeal not only to hardcore action players, but also young kids and females. It was also so perfectly designed with extremely limited input (a 4-way joystick, no fire buttons) and completely defined "pick up and play" like no game before; plunk in a quarter and you're off.
Pac-Man was ported to countless platforms, following its released all the way up to the present. The questionably-designed Atari 2600 cartridge came very close to sullying the brand forever, but the game was able to transcend that infamous port and dominate on various other formats. In my house, we had the Atari 400 cartidge (with its "interesting" illustrative box and manual art) and stretched-out maze layout. The game wasn't a close match to the arcade, but it was still quite fun (my Dad and I would compete against one another's scores for hours!). This will always be the definitive Pac-Man of my childhood.
Pac-Man has survived through various incarnations and still continues to captivate audiences all over the world in various formats. Ms. Pac-Man may have topped him in the arcade as the most well-designed game of the sort, but the recent Xbox 360 Champion Edition receives high marks for bringing the old design an exhilarating new relevancy. If you haven't played it yet, be sure to do so.
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