Sunday, November 1, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Super Pac-Man

Retro Game of the Day! Super Pac-Man

Super Pac-Man by Namco, released 1982 in the arcades. Hot on the heels of the craze of the initial Pac, what has Namco wrought here?

Without going into deep specifics, Japanese developer Namco made the Pac-games, and Bally/Midway distributed them over here in the States. As the first was a huge hit, many knockoffs/bootlegs and such appeared, the extremely successful Ms. Pac-Man (a year prior to Super) was one of these. Namco didn't have any say, or hand in any of these, and of course weren't too pleased to have their intellectual property being used in such a way (also missing out on the money!) To capitalize on their own success, they developed Super Pac-Man.

The game turned out to be quite forgettable - it was not so charming an evolution of the series as other games (again, Ms. Pac-Man) had already proven to be, prior to this release. Super removed all the dots and gave you nothing but fruit to eat, and added in the element of keys and locked doors to the mix. Additionally, you still had power pellets (Pac-Man is always vulnerable to being eaten by ghosts, but eating a power pellet grants you the temporary ability to do the same to your tormentors, without vulnerability) but now there were also "Super" power pellets, which would grant Pac the ability of flight (flyover the ghosts, can't be eaten) and the ability to smash through the locked doors (removing the need for keys). This was pretty much the entire game, and it was a significant departure from what made the original formula work so well.

As a kid, my 7-year-old self was fascinated to see a new Pac-Man game - but almost immediately I was turned off. The HUGE Pac-Man sprite looked cool and felt "powerful" to control, the screens looked more colorful since they were adorned with lots of colorful fruits now - but the game was missing a lot. Namco had completely missed the point of what to carryover from the predecessor.

In hindsight, the game wasn't terrible, it had some merit - if anything, it is certainly an interesting footnote in the history of this incredibly-important milestone in gaming, the early iterations of the Pac-Man franchise. It also showed a lot of developers what not to do to capitalize on the success of a series. There is some brief enjoyment to be had with this game, but overall it is worth passing over altogether. Sorry Pac!

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