How the hell do you start a post on the icon of video gaming?

Source // Wikipedia

Who remembers their first impression of Pac-Man? I don't. I haven't got a clue where I was playing it, how I was playing it, what year I was playing it, so how am I to know how I felt? Joy? Panic? No idea.

So I'll have to give you my first impressions of a few versions of Pac-Man scattered across gaming platforms throughout the decades since (avoiding sequels and spin-offs, unless I've made a monumental mistake).

Atari 2600, 1981


I can understand how one guy can only do so much in such little time, and credit to Tod Frye for working with what little he had (and even then relying on how it would be physically displayed on a CRT and biologically interpreted by some kids brain) but c'mon Atari...

Through emulation, it's worse. Only a few filtering options worked (and the CRT filter was one that didn't), and only one of them made the game blurry enough to even try to imagine how it might have played back in the day. It didn't play brilliantly.

Perhaps down to emulation, but probably down to old age and delayed reactions, the controls are slow. The sound isn't worth writing home about. I suppose it'd keep someone busy for a bit if it was the only game available, but I'd hope they'd have no knowledge of the arcade version, let alone any other version available.

The Wak-O-Meter saaaays: Waaah

NES, 1984

Oh hey look, it's Pac-Man. To be fair, the 2600 version looked like Pac-Man too, but the offering on Nintendo a few years later really does look obviously like Pac-Man, which is about the minimum someone would expect from a port or alternative version - to look like the original.

It's squished a lil, sure, but there's the maze, there are the ghosts, there's the abysmal score achieved by an aging 'gamer' playing via a Mac keyboard. It's all there, what more do you want?

It sounds alright, it plays alright. I wouldn't complain too much if it's the only one available.

The Wak-O-Meter says: Waka wak-ahh

Game Boy, 1990

Hmm. Bit of a problem here. Grey may have been all the rage back here, but it's not terribly useful to you if you're relying on knowing the colour of Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde in order to formulate a plan of approach (though you could work out who the wuss is if you see him hiding down in the corner, Clyde...).

The observant amongst you will notice a zoomed in view, which is not only useful for the size of the Game Boy screen, but tweaks the gameplay just a little bit so that you need to remember what's left on the maze so that you can get back to it later - don't want to miss any of those pellets. Otherwise, this version is Pac-Man for those who want a pick-up-and-play version.

The Wak-O-Meter says: Waka Wah

Neo Geo Pocket Color, 1999

Another portable, this time with a full maze to stare at and navigate through, squashing the useless information about scores and lives to the top and bottom of the screen, dedicating all the rest to the game itself.

For those wondering what is going on with the score, don't ask me. I hope it's just a problem with emulation, otherwise I don't know who holds the Neo Geo Pocket Pac-Man high score...

I've never even seen a Neo Geo Pocket. Would I want Pac-Man on one? Yeah, I guess. It does the job, it's not hideous to look at. It's a pick-up-and-play game for most of us anyway, owing to the fact that we're just not that good at it - not bothering to learn tactics and so on - so a portable gaming winner.

The Wak-O-Meter says: Waka Wah

Screw you, Blinky

Game Boy Color, 1999

Two coloured portable Pac-Man offerings in 1999, and you can imagine what you'd get from the one you slot into your Game Boy Color. Like the original Game Boy offering, the view zooms in to show more detail on a smaller screen. But... we've just seen a full maze on the Neo Geo... so how much detail does Pac-Man need?

The scores and lives and so on take up a fair bit of space on the right side of the screen, and should you be as great and successful as I am at Pac-Man, that space is going to be full of an awful lot of nothing. So is it a good use of the screen space available? The view zooms in to compensate, which as mentioned above gives it's own slight tweak to the game, but now I'm wondering if you need it.

On the one hand, I like how well I can see Blinky stab me in the back, or whatever it is he does, but on the other hand I really don't need to, do I? It's Pac-Man. Yellow blob navigating a blue maze. You don't need pixel perfect jumps, you've only got four directions and your wits.

I don't know any more. I'm torn. I like that it stands out a little, I guess. It's Pac-Man, but closer, which is fine.

The Wak-O-Meter saaays: Waka Wak

Fun Times

Pac-Man is obviously an icon for a reason, and as an icon he is bloody everywhere. You can find him in some form on damn near every piece of tech you own. Slight exaggeration, but the point is that wherever you do find him, it'll be Pac-Man. It'll be you, a maze, four ghosts and nothing but your skills and reaction times to get you up into the high scores.

Source // Techradar

Even in Google Maps. Briefly. I didn't play much of that version.

Final Word

You can't really go wrong with Pac-Man. It's so playable that the game breaks before the experts ever do, and even that screen, the glitched out level 256, is iconic - that's how iconic Pac-Man is.

If you rely on dumb luck, you succeed for a bite. If you study, you succeed for a while longer. If you play like it's the only game in existence, then you severely limit the amount of fun you can have gaming but, really, you have at least picked a pretty damn good game to solely focus on.

Do I need to say "You should play Pac-Man" at all? Hasn't everybody played it by now?

What more can be said?

Fun Facts

Anyone who claims to have scored more than 3,333,360 points on Pac-Man is a liar. This is fact. No exceptions. Unless emulating a Neo Geo Pocket.

Pac-Man, developed by Namco, first released in 1980.
Versions played: Atari 2600, 1981, via emulation.
Nintendo Entertainment System, 1984, via emulation.
Game Boy, 1990, via emulation.
Neo Geo Pocket Color, 1999, via emulation.
Game Boy Color, 1999, via emulation.
Google Maps April Fools, 2015, HTML5.