Hello gamers! Welcome to day two, week six in our 100 reviews in 100 days countdown!
Overeating its way into the 74 spot…
Pac-Man will always make me think of the beach. When I was a kid, my parents took my brother and I to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware almost every summer. During the day, we’d swim, bury each other in the sand, occasionally forget to unbury each other, get yelled at by my Dad. Y’know, vacation stuff. But the evenings? That was arcade time. I’m probably remembering the arcades on the boardwalk there as being much bigger and nicer than they actually were, but in my defense, I was five. In my time in those arcades, I spent hardly anytime playing Pac-Man. Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. Who has time for a yellow circle eating dots when Golden Axe and Space Harrier need playing? But the Pac-Man machine was always there, and almost always had someone playing it. And this was in 1986. Pac-Man had been around for over 6 years at that point, and already it was sadly and hopelessly outdated. But people were still playing it.
THE ORIGINAL “MOAR DOTS!”
When Pac-Man came onto the scene in 1980, the home video game industry hadn’t really taken off yet, and the arcade options were relatively limited. Space Invaders and Asteroids were still the kings of the hill. So here comes this bright, colorful, silly game with a yellow circle that sprints through a maze, eats dots and fruit and tries to duck ghosts. For people who were accustomed to moving along the bottom of the screen and repeatedly slamming the same button to blow up pixelated aliens, this was like going from black and white TV to Technicolor. The biggest reason it caught on, in my opinion, is that Namco essentially created the perfect early 80s Skinner Box with this game. It is literally nothing but repetition. Tmaze is always the same, you perform the same tasks (eat dots, eat fruit, dodge ghosts) on every single level. But it was so damn fun that people didn’t care, and on top of that it actually is genuinely challenging. Choice, story, characters that resonate, dynamic gameplay? The technology wasn’t there yet. All that stuff was still years away. You can’t miss something if you don’t know it exists. But Pac-Man filled an important gap in video game history, and gave the industry an icon when it badly needed one. You can’t build a marketing campaign around Space Invaders or Pong, but you could damn sure build one around Pac-Man. And boy oh boy, did it ever work. If you don’t believe me, just start stopping people on the street and asking them if they’ve heard of Pac-Man. And when the cops show up to stop you from harassing the general public, ask them to. They’ll all say yes. I guarantee it.
SHOULD YOU PLAY IT?
Sure, knock yourself out. Everybody should try Pac-Man at least once. Most of you reading this probably already have at least once in your life. It’s not tough either. Just go to the Googles and do a search for Pac-Man. The first thing that will pop up is an option for you to play one of the greatest arcade hits of all time, right there on your laptop, at no charge. Use the arrow keys to move Pac-man around, eat some dots and some fruit, and watch out for those damn ghosts. I hadn’t played Pac-Man for years before I played it for this review, but after all this time it’s still pretty fun. And that’s certainly a good thing. We’ll leave our circular yellow friend here with a respectable 3.5 out of 5.