Review by Arkrex

Reviewed: 09/24/07

Forever Paku

In 1978, an enterprising Japanese chap named Toru Iwatani ordered a pizza. It must have tasted like something that rhymes with “puck”, for after devouring just a single wedge-shaped slice of hell and quite possibly regurgitating it on reaction, he stared long and hard at the remnants of the Italian classic in disgust. Who knows what his thoughts were exactly, but the combination of the one-eighth eaten pizza, a desire to curse the ill-prepared dish with something supernaturally ghostly, and probably some outspoken vulgar English, led to his defining “EUREKA!” moment - Puck Man was born soon thereafter.

We now (more appropriately) know the yellow muncher of all things pellet-like as Pac-Man. He is shaped like the one-eighth eaten pizza that was held in contempt by Iwatani san, and although life is simple with pellet-chomping constituting its entirety, he is forever haunted by four sickly bright-coloured, but nevertheless, threatening apparitions whose sole purpose is to smother him and end his unquenchable appetite. You job is to ensure that our mellow-yellow protagonist does not meet an untimely demise before gobbling up enough pellets and assorted fruits to break the current high-score on the box. That’s right. There are no princesses (in another castle) to save here, nor is there any semblance of a plot apart from whatever your imagination can conjure up; Pac-Man is all about running through a single one-screen maze, gobbling up all of the pellets on-screen, as well as the occasional fruity bonuses, whilst avoiding any confrontation with the four antagonistic ghoulies.

It may seem like an unfair situation - four against one – but amidst the abundance of strewn pellets lie four omnipotent ‘power pellets’ or ‘energisers’. Upon consuming these euphoric babies, his pursuers turn into wusses as Pac-Man’s chomping ability is enhanced to cater for spiritual cuisine as well as his staple pellets. It is now time to turn the tables and give chase to the ghosts, to rack up a combo of bonus points as he swallows each one whole. However, this super power does not last for very long. Care will need to taken as the effect wears off and the things are returned to the way they once were – it is finding the right balance between initiative and greed that will enable you to obtain as high a score as possible.

This is what makes Pac-Man so darn addictive, even to this day. The gameplay is simple, but effective; easy to pick up, but frustrating to conquer. (However, a ‘perfect game’ is entirely possible!) High scores are consistently broken day-in day-out. And although it was an original arcade release, it has been recreated more times than I can count as sequels, prequels, spin-offs, rip-offs, and even embedded into many websites as FLASH games. There is just something about this “paku-paku” sounding oddity that has gained timeless recognition as one of the most important games ever made. It is difficult to pin-point what it exactly is, but my best guess would be that despite its overwhelming simplicity, Pac-Man is simply overwhelmingly fun.

N.B. The opening paragraph may or may not be true :)

Rating: 9

Product Release: Pac-Man (US, 10/31/80)

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