Pac Man. A legendary video game that spawned numerous imitators and copy cats, resulting in a sort of new genre, the Pac Man clone genre. I'm not sure if Pac Man clones eventually got an "official" genre name (such as FPS for Doom clones) but they can be described as maze navigators/crawlers or dot munchers or something similar. Anyway in the list I'll feature games not only based on how much fun and enjoyable they are, but moreso how original and creative their designs are. Here we go.

Shark Attack would've placed higher if not for its lazy programming regarding collision and graphics, but it's still an enjoyabe and unique game regardless. You take control of a diver collecting gold pieces scattered around in a maze of reefs, all the while evading sharks moving from one side of the screen to the other. You have these "caves" at the four corners of the screen that lead to each other for quick navigation, and each level is beaten by gathering all the gold pieces and putting them in a special box in the middle. Since you need to keep gathering and storing while evading the shark, Shark Attack will provide some excitement and sense of satisfaction, hence its presence on the list.

#9: Alien

The video game adaptation of the movie Alien is a Pac Man clone, it's true. While it may look like just another run-of-the-mill Pac Man clone at first glance, Alien has a few tricks up its sleeve that help distinguish it from other similar games. You go around collecting alien eggs while evading the aliens in a cave like maze, and with the help of a flamethrower than can be used by pressing the fire button you scare aliens away if you find yourself in a tight spot. Also there's this mini game between stages than brings some diversity to the table, and with great graphics and sound Alien distinguished itself as one of the rather great Pac Man clones on the Atari 2600.

From here on come the EXCELLENT Pac Man clones. Mouse Trap lets you play as a mouse evading a couple of cats while eating little piece of cheese scattered everywhere. You can use the power that lets you eat cats (ghosts) at any time by simply pushing the fire button, but the thing that really makes Mouse Trap stand out is the fact that you can change the maze layout by holding down fire. See the maze has these dark green pieces that twist at your will so you can change the layout and in turn trap cats or escape from entrapment yourself. It's kind of a strategic Pac Man clone, and an excellent one at that.

Jawbreaker has a very unique design, being that you don't play in the typical maze as most other clones. Here you control a set of teeth moving across nine horizontal paths filled with dots and a strange face that moves in it and breaks your jaw if touched (hence the name). You move across these paths via small openings that constantly move in different directions and this, along with the movement of the faces create fast paced gameplay and quick thinking and reactions. The dots have to be all collected so going from one side to the other in all the lines can be a challenge, which is always good in games like these.

The other uniquely designed game on the list, Dodge 'Em can be considered a racer more than a Pac Man clone, but I decided to put it here because of the dot collecting and the maze like playing area. In Dodge 'Em you control a car moving in four small rectangular shaped tracks that you can alternate by going through a small opening located on each side. This mean you can change "lanes" and collect all the dots, but there's a catch. See there's this other car that moves in a similar fashion to you but doesn't collect dots and instead moves in the opposite direction and tries to crash into you! Your job is to collect all the dots while maintaing that you evade/dodge the opposing car by constantly switching lanes and changing speed. Yes, it is as cool and intense as it sounds, and it makes for one the greatest Pac Man-esque experiences on the system.

I don't know the exact story to Dark Cavern but it looks like as if you're some dude on an alien planet running away from your prison through some Pac Man style mazes. There aren't any dots to collect here but instead is a gun collectable that gives you some ammo for your weapon. You have a basic gun and your mission is to shoot all the aliens without dying. Gameplay is very fun and since enemies can still shoot a split second after they're killed this makes for a very strategic shooting type game. You won't die if you touch an enemy, but touching some kinds will either paralyze you or take away all of your ammo! Also some types are smarter than others, which makes sneaking up behing certain aliens and hiding in special places in the maze a thing requiring thought and strategy. Dark Cavern is a game that is sure to provide lots of fun and diversity and is the first of two games listed here that successfully blends maze crawling gameplay with weapons and shooting elements.

A highly under-appreciated game, Lock 'N' Chase is often put down as a cheap knock-off where it is in fact one of the best Pac Man clones there is. Here you play as a crook escaping a prison where you have to collect these key pieces while evading four cops on your tail. The great graphics, sounds and animation aren't what put this in 4th place, but rather the excellent gameplay feature that gives you access to create two barriers at any given time. Pressing fire will leave a barrier behind you that is inaccessible to anyone. With these you can slightly alter the maze course and even trap a cop inside if you're good. And given that you can only use these twice at any time, and that you have to go back to the door every time you collect all the dots/key pieces, LNC is a pretty fast paced strategic maze crawler/muncher that deserves much more than it is currently looked as by many.

Wizard of Wor is an wonderfully excecuted maze shooter type game that excels in all levels. Sure it has possibly the worst flickering of all Atari 2600 games, but it's definitely forgiven considering all the action and movement happening everywhere. You control some guy moving in a different maze type every time and shoot these aliens that constantly flicker and shoot at you as well. There is a handy radar at the bottom that shows where everyone is, which is especially important when hunting down invisible aliens that come at you from no where! Considering it has many different levels and maze types, and that gameplay is fluid and enjoyable, and that it even has a kickass multiplayer co-op mode to boot, Wizard of Wor establishes itself as one of the best maze shooters on the VCS.

A very interesting game which lets you play as a gangster in the 1930's. You control a 30's car, which you've probably seen before in old Mafia movies, and rob these banks located in a maze like area by simply running over them. When you rob a bank, a police car appears closely afterwards in its place and starts to follow and catch you. These can be taken care of however by throwing a dynamite stick behind you that explodes a little later, giving it interesting timing and simple but entertaining gameplay. As the difficulty progresses, the number of cars increases and throwing dynamites everywhere while driving and evading through the maze can be quite hectic. And given the very satisfying explosion and engine sounds, along with great graphics and control, Bank Heist is most certainly one of the best Pac Man style games on the Atari 2600.

Jr. Pac Man being the best Pac Man style game on the Atari 2600 is quite symbolic. First there was Pac Man, the horrible horrible port and one of the two reasons the video game market crashed. Then later on Ms. Pac Man was ported and it was pretty nice but just didn't hit the spot. Finally, in 1984, Jr. Pac Man was ported perfectly and overtook it's predecessors (ironic since Jr. is Pac Man's son) as the best best Pac Man game. Featuring HUGE mazes and unbelievable graphics and sounds Jr. Pac Man is almost as good as the arcade counterpart, which is really saying something. Too bad that it was a little too late on Atari's part, but at least it's here, so don't waste the opportunity to experience the best Pac Man game on the Atari 2600.

Those were the best Pac Man clones on the Atari, and since it's pretty easy to just play any one of them (since almost everyone has played a Pac Man variation before), then getting into any of the aforementioned games shouldn't be of any trouble to you, no matter who you are. And because it's always nice to just see how games used to be like and what crazy ideas some developers had, playing the games listed can grant amusement in many different levels. So don't waste the chance and try to experience some of them at least. You're bound to find one that you'll like.

List by red soul (09/11/2006)

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