Retro series: PAC-MAN forever
PAC-MAN 256 - Endless Arcade Maze
Mainland China calls him ‘Bean-eater’. In Spain, he’s Comecocos. Japan, his birthplace, actually first knew him as Puck Man. No matter the name, there’s no denying this moon-shaped maze-crawler is a worldwide cultural icon.
Released by NAMCO in 1980, PAC-MAN was an instant arcade hit. Many of us also played on a Famicom, NES or Atari – where it forever found a place in our childhoods.
Though perhaps paling in comparison to the graphics and gameplay of today’s blockbusters, it is precisely this simplicity that gives PAC-MAN its timeless appeal. The game has a strong fan base to this day, bringing us to the iOS release of PAC-MAN 256.
While remaining faithful to the original, PAC-MAN 256 packs in more than just nostalgia. It ups the challenge with more complex mazes and ghastlier ghosts, provides some cool new power-ups to chomp on, as well as other extras. Even that 256 in the game’s name is a nod to fans – and here’s why:
The original arcade version of PAC-MAN crammed in as many levels as technology of the time would allow – 255. Any player who managed to reach level 256, however, was rewarded with the famous kill screen. Half-filled with random letters and symbols, there is no way to clear it. It’s the ultimate ‘game over’.
So, in a sense, PAC-MAN 256 continues where the original 255 left off – by embracing its glitchy past. Those same, random symbols appear at the bottom of the screen and chase PAC-MAN. Sometimes, a safe-looking part of the maze will suddenly be swarming with them. Lesson learned: watch where you eat.
Of course, the PAC-MAN legacy would not be complete without his arch-nemesis: ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. A lesser known fact is that each behaves differently. For instance, red-coloured Blinky charges right out of the gate, while Pinky plots to cut off PAC-MAN’s path. But this ghoulish gang doesn’t stop there. There is a new addition, Glitchy – a rarely-seen ghost that, in the spirit of level 255, leaves a trail of random code as he gives chase. Scary stuff.
Ghosts aren't the only ones to get an upgrade. Players can unlock dozens of new PAC-MAN power-ups, including a laser to obliterate ghosts, and pellets that turn PAC-MAN huge, enabling him to literally crush his enemies.
PAC-MAN 256 strikes a great balance between nostalgia and new content, enough to satisfy loyal fans while drawing new ones. Here’s to 40 more a-maze-ing years of arcade fun.