Review by Wild Green Shell

Reviewed: 01/22/02 | Updated: 01/22/02

An unforgettable classic from the early '80s

This 1980/1981 Pac-Man spinoff, ''Ms. Pac-Man'', from Bally/Midway, might not appear as a great game to the new, ADD-inflicted, graphics-obsessed gamers. If one is willing to forget the technological advancements made in the last 20 years and just drop a quarter in the machine, one might see why exactly Ms. Pac-Man holds the title of ''Best Game Ever'' from me.

Gameplay. An important criteria of any arcade game is that it has to be simple to learn, but difficult to master. This will keep the player pumping in quarter after quarter. The main premise of Ms. Pac-Man is identical to that of Pac-Man. You must control Ms. Pac-Man as she races around a maze, trying to eat all the dots (worth 10 points each). A box in the center of the maze releases four ghosts: Blinky (red), Pinky (pink), Inky (turquoise), and Sue (orange). Each of these ghosts has a different speed, intelligence, and strategy to try and kill your Ms. Pac-Man. But you can turn the tables on these ghosts by eating an energizer (a large, flashing dot worth 50 points). This energizer causes the ghosts to reverse their direction, turns them blue and frowny, and most importantly, renders them vulnerable to Ms. Pac-Man's chomp. Each ghost you eat during this short energizer period gives you 200, 400, 800, or 1600 points. The ghosts' eyeballs then return to the box where they are restored to their evil selves and they continue hunting Ms. Pac-Man. The final part of gameplay is the fruit. Twice per level, a fruit (cherry, strawberry, orange, pretzel(?), apple, pear, or banana) will bounce around the maze. Eating this fruit will net you hundreds of points, but if you miss it, it will bounce off screen.
That is the basic gameplay of Ms. Pac-Man, but as levels increase the mazes get more complex and the ghosts get faster. The ever-changing gameplay gives this aspect of Ms. Pac-Man a 10.

Graphics. The simplistic 2-D graphics, while not great, are sufficient enough to make sure the player does not get confused. For example, you will never mistake Ms. Pac-Man for a banana or a ghost. The different colors of mazes and ghosts are well-contrasted against the black background of the screen. Ms. Pac-Man's graphics are perfect for the type of game - not so beautiful that you get entranced with them and die in the game, but not so ugly that you hate looking at them. Ms. Pac-Man scores an 8 for graphics.

Sound. The opening tune of Ms. Pac-Man is about as complex as the sound effects get, but that's alright. Ms. Pac-Man makes a beeping noise as she eats dots, a different beeping noise as she munches thin air, and a small fanfare when she eats a ghost (or vice versa). The fruit makes a deep thumping noise when it enters the maze, alerting the player to its presence. The music during the three Acts is cute and matches the actions onscreen perfectly. I often find myself tapping the side of the machine to the music during these interludes. The whimsical music of Ms. Pac-Man scores a 10.

Storyline. Ms. Pac-Man's storyline is flimsy at best, but then again, a strong plot is not necessary to keep one interested in this game. The interludes between certain levels (for example, Act 1 occurs after the second level, and Act 2 occurs after the fifth) provide the player with a bit of background on how Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man fell in love. The story is not vital to the game, but it scores a 7 nonetheless.

Value. This is as good as it gets. Upwards of twenty minutes of gameplay (twice as much if you are playing 2-player mode) for twenty-five cents each!? The value is off the charts, but for review purposes, I give it the maximum of 10.

Controls. Ms. Pac-Man's controls comprise a single 4-direction joystick, with two buttons to choose either 1 or 2-player mode. The Ms. Pac-machine that I play on most often has a standard large knob-topped controller that sticks every so often. One of my friends informs me that another Ms. Pac-machine in the area has a smaller joystick that fits right in the hollow of the palm for better control. Ms. Pac-man's simple to use controls score a 9.

Summary. Great gameplay, value, and sound. A decent storyline that at worst provides the player with a chance to wipe off her sweaty hands. Spectacular - okay, above average graphics considering the time it was created. Ms. Pac-Man is a perfect 10, and I encourage you to drop two bits in this machine if you see one!

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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