Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Baby Pac-Man

Retro Game of the Day! Baby Pac-Man

Baby Pac-Man by Bally/Midway, released in 1982.

In case you were asleep at the wheel, there's a bit of hubbub around All Things Pac right now with the recent downloadable release of Pac-Man CE DX Hyper Mega Ultrachomp Liberace (....) Let's take advantage of the moment with a look back at one of the more notorious entrants into the franchise's lineage - the hybrid videogame/pinball machine unit known as Baby Pac-Man.

A beast of a thing, I first gazed upon this Frankensteinian contraption at my local arcade when I was all of 7 or 8 years old. What deviltry was this? A pinball machine attached to a Pac-Man arcade cabinet, some unholy union, this... blasphemy? Apparently the original Japanese Pac-Man creator (and copyright holder) Namco felt this way, as this (and other "dilutions" of the brand by domestic distributor Bally/Midway, such as Jr. Pac-Man) led to bitter relations between the two. And yet here you had it, the two game worlds merged together in a Freak of Nature.

The typical Pac-Man rules were in play here, at the base - navigate through a maze, eat dots, bonus fruits, pass through warp tunnels, avoid ghosts. You could chomp down on Power Pellets to briefly get the upper hand on your pursuers, but you needed to "earn" the powerups by unlocking them on the physical pinball playfield below. Likewise you could enhance other elements of the game (increase your tunnel travel speed, and level up your bonus fruit). To access the pinball table, you must guide Baby Pac through vertical warp tunnels located at the bottom of the playfield. You get one entry per turn, and then they'll lock you out (unlock if you clear a board, or lose a life).
All of this, coupled with (even for Pac-Man) enhanced unpredictable ghost behavior, made an already challenging game that much more difficult. I think I burned my quarter inside of a minute "what just happened?" Baby Pac-Man has indeed taken a lot of flack from the Pac-loving community, for several reasons; but to me it stands out as a true departure and a bold experiment, and absolutely an item to collect if you are into novelty amusement machines. The game is a rough ride, but the combination actually does make for quite a fun experience overall. Ignore the derision of the namby-pamby critics, Baby Pac-Man is a true gem out of the vaults of classic gaming history and should never be forgotten! Here is a well-made video to see how the whole setup handles!

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