|Source // Retrogamer.net|
There have been a few occasions where I've seen or heard mention of Pac-Land, but I genuinely think I've always imagined it as being a copyright infringement case or a homebrew game of sorts - 'something this weird couldn't have been official', I'd think, but sure enough it is a legitimate offering from Namco.
Pac-Man has gone from gobbling pills in mazes to escorting a fairy hidden under his hat home to Fairyland. And then travelling back again, without the fairy, because no trip is complete without arriving back home to be welcomed by Ms. Pac-Man and Baby Pac-Man.
What happened in the 1980s?
I'm not able to play Pac-Land, but thanks to the magic of Internet video, I'm still able to be driven insane with the music. The only good thing about the music is that I'm getting an urge to watch some old silent comedy; Buster Keaton and the like.
The game has been described as Mario before Mario. If side scrolling platformers were perfected by the moustachioed plumber, then the attempt by the spindly-limbed ball here should get a mention. You need to navigate Pac-Man from left to right across dangerous lands, populated by fire hydrants and tree stumps, ghosts in cars and planes and bodies of water, all of which require you to jump over to make any sort of progress.
While you do so, you can collect fruit for some extra points and will need to dodge the odd projectile until you step through a door into Fairyland. Thankful that one of the fairies has been returned, the Fairy Queen then gives you some magic boots and sends you back to Pac-Land where you must navigate home. The challenge is slightly harder on the way back, not only because you travel right to left (if that's an issue for you), but you're likely going to need to put those magic boots to use - they allow you to hover/fly across and through the level. After a short while you're back home, trip complete.
Then you just repeat it a few times, watch the difficulty go up and see how far your get.
I suppose it's bright and cheery enough to keep some of your attention. It's repetitive though, even if new obstacles are introduced in later trips, such as vision cones making the navigation of indoor platform mazes a little trickier, but it doesn't strike me as a taxing game.
The graphics aren't too bad, and the addition of parallax scrolling gives it a much needed illusion of depth, because it doesn't have any height beyond what you can fit on the screen. You can tell where it got the 'Mario before Mario' remarks from.
I still can't get over the fact that Pac-Land is an official Pac-Man title though. It reminds me of that Zelda game I forget the name of, the one nobody mentions because it is so unlike any other Zelda game, to the point where fans want to disown it, forgetting it ever existed. The phrase 'never meet your heroes' springs to mind, not because Pac-Man is a hero of mine, but because in Pac-Land he is rendered as the ordinary family man going about his fairy transporting business, complete with legs and arms and all these things that reduce him from arcade smash hit yellow blob to an average joe. It's weird.
Pac-Land is a good game. Perhaps better for a younger audience, but solid nonetheless. If I get the chance to play it I'll be sure to hit the mute button though.
The Galaxian flagship makes a cameo appearance as a bonus collectable in the game, worth 7650 points.
Pac-Land, developed by Namco, first released in 1984.
Version watched: Arcade, 1984 (Old Classic Retro Gaming)