This game isn't as bad as everyone says it is...
Ah, Pac-Man. How many people DON'T know what Pac-Man is? Actually, how many people have never PLAYED Pac-Man? I'd like to find them, and get them to play it. But, enough talk about that, let's talk a bit about the game.
You will immediately notice that the maze has been apparently run through a paper shredder, and barely even resembles the original maze. I'd guess it's due to size restraints, considering the size of this maze in comparison to the original. The maze, along with the other graphics, aren't really terrible - The worst part is actually Pac-Man himself, due to looking more like a blob than a round ball, and also due to being unable to face up or down. Also, for some reason, instead of eating round pellets, like in the arcade version, he's eating dash-shaped objects, which appear to be wafers. This is baffling, because it probably would use less pixels, and therefore less RAM, to just use a pellet.
One of the biggest problems noted about the game is that the ghosts flicker too much, so you can't see them very well. While it might be just because I'm playing on an emulator, I didn't have too much of a problem with it. Yes, it makes the game slightly more difficult to play, but it's not a game-breaking flaw.
The sound is ear-piercing, and is about as painful as an ear-piercing. When you start the game, and when you lose a life and restart, this horrible beepy noise plays. It really acts as a motivation to not die, so that you don't have to hear that horrible sound again.
Of course, this game only has the one maze, just like the original Pac-Man. It's really not too bad by Atari standards, by my judgement. Of course, there are problems, like the fact that the ghosts can go any direction from the ghost box, making the game that much harder. For some reason, it takes about two seconds to reappear on the other side of the maze when you use one of the shortcuts. This delay costs you valuable seconds, seconds that could be used to eat dots and run from the ghosts. I consider this a large flaw.
Of course, being an Atari port, the ghost AI is quite simplified, so that it mostly just tries to pursue you and cut you off. The maze design just makes it that much easier to get trapped by two ghosts, which I always hated.
The scoring system is also very simplified, with a digit removed and some point values being completely changed. The pellets/dots/wafers only give you ONE point, and basically everything in the game gives you more points than the dots and Power Pellets, which is a motivation to eat ghosts and treat items.
Of course, like the arcade version and almost all Atari games, the game gets more difficult and the ghosts become faster. After a few levels, it just gets really hard. The difficulty is somewhat lessened, by the fact that every time you complete the level, you get a free life.
Instead of describing the story, since there isn't one, I'll instead describe just how this game ended up the way it did. You see, the Odyssey console line was still in existence, and it was up to the Odyssey II, not to be confused with the Odyssey 200. To my knowledge, the system seems to have about as much or more power than the Atari 2600, but very little is known about it.
There was a game called K.C. Muncher, which was strikingly similar to Pac-Man, which hadn't come out on the Atari 2600 yet. Atari tried filing a lawsuit against them for making a game that was basically Pac-Man with a different name, but the game had enough differences that Magnavox won the lawsuit. Atari was then faced with a crisis - they had forgotten to work on THEIR version of Pac-Man, and it was only five weeks in development at the holiday season where it was planned to be released!
Atari, unfortunately, proceeded to just release the game as-is, as in an alpha state, to the public. 12 million copies were made, despite the fact that there were only 10 million Atari consoles, because they thought that the game being on Atari 2600 would boost the console's sales. The game didn't do too well, of course, and they ended up with a large number of copies unsold. It's been speculated that this game was a large contender in the Great Video Game Crash of 1983, but, really, what more was expected?
The fact that this game was an alpha version seems to cement that this isn't as bad a game as everyone says it is. It's fun for an Atari 2600 game, and a lot of fun by those standards, so where's the big problem with this? I just don't see where the bad rap comes from.
Rating - C+(Pretty good, but not good enough)