Tag Archives: pac-man

Random Game #35 – K.C. Munchkin! [Odyssey 2]

K.C. Munchkin!

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

I’ve played little of this game since acquiring the Odyssey2 and expanding my collection. Put simply, it’s a Pac-Man clone. It’s not a 1:1 duplicate, but it’s hard to deny that fact. In fact, this game was the center of a lawsuit that Atari brought upon Philips, the parent company of Magnavox. Atari brought the case, rather than Namco, as they had the exclusive right to home versions of Pac-Man. The Wikipedia pages for the game and a related court case offer an interesting summation of the early days of video game copyrights, as they pertained to North America. As I mentioned, I’ve probably played this game a few times, but I remember it not.

As was the case with the bulk of the platform’s library, K.C. Munchkin! was developed by Ed Averett and published directly by Magnavox. This game released in North America sometime in 1981.

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Random Game #30 – Ridge Racer V [PlayStation 2]

Ridge Racer V

When you have a video game collection like mine, it can be hard to play all of the games. This is especially true when additions are made on an almost weekly basis. Still, I appreciate nearly every game I’ve accumulated for this reason or that. In the hopes of improving my writing through continuous effort and promoting ongoing learning of these games, I’m going to compose brief, descriptive articles.

There was a time when it wasn’t a PlayStation launch without a Ridge Racer game. The series’ peak was arguably confined to the era of the first PlayStation, but this game is also very well regarded. The only games in the series I’ve spent a great deal of time with are this game’s predecessor and successor. I have played this game maybe once. I’m interested to play it more but I don’t believe there’s a ton to do. This was a launch title for the PlayStation 2 and I would bet the development was constrained due to the impending launch of the system. I still get a kick out of reading OPM and PSM during this game’s preview cycle and reading the writers’ praise for the graphics though.

Ridge Racer V was developed and published by Namco. It was available for the PlayStation 2’s launch in all three major video game markets, which means it was available in North America on October 26, 2000. One cool unlockable is the ability to play as Pac-Man and his ghost enemies.

Pac-Man Friends [Android] – Review

Pac-Man FriendsWhen it comes to video games, I’m pretty easy to please. If you were to look back at the articles I’ve published here, I haven’t really ripped into a game or severely criticized one. I also haven’t written too much about mobile games. I’ve played many, really enjoyed a few, but avoid the majority. A game like Pac-Man Friends is why. Continue reading Pac-Man Friends [Android] – Review

Pac-Pix [Nintendo DS] – Review

Pac-PixPac-Pix was one of the earliest games released for the Nintendo DS. In fact, it was one of the first tech demos shown for the ugly-as-hell DS prototype at E3 2004. The core mechanic of drawing Pac-Man to chomp on ghosts has always intrigued me, but at the time, I was more drawn to Pac ‘n Roll due to its polygonal graphics. It wasn’t until this past week that I finally picked up a copy of Pac-Pix and devoted a few hours to completing it. I was happy to discover that its primary gimmick was well-implemented, despite some annoyances.

Each new gesture was accompanied by a tutorial.
Each new gesture was accompanied by a tutorial.

Reigning as one of the most identifiable characters in all of video games, drawing Pac-Man was a simple task. Personally, that meant it was a simple task that often resulted in a malformed Pac-Man as I’m no artist. Nonetheless, the game was forgiving. As long as the circle had a divot missing (representing his mouth) Pac-Man would form and chomp away in a straight line. Drawing walls allowed him to ricochet around and stay in play. In the later stages, the ability to draw arrows and bombs was added to increase the depth of mechanics, as well as the difficulty.

Composed of twelve stages, the game only took me a few hours to complete. However, the final few stages were very difficult. On the top screen in these later stages, many ghosts and switches resided. Hitting them to drop them down or activate a flame or door required ever more precision on my part. Perhaps the precision required made me a little sloppy, but many times my drawings wouldn’t be recognized and therefore, wouldn’t come to life. This grew frustrating and made me question the quality of the game’s recognition abilities. I was able to overcome though so they weren’t completely busted, just annoying on the harder stages.

That bomb is sure to destroy those four containers.
That bomb is sure to destroy those four containers.

Even today, nine years after its 2005 release, I think Pac-Pix is one of the more unique games on the Nintendo DS. It’s a simple game with little to its mechanics, but they are well-implemented. A second book was unlocked after beating the game, and it seems to be a repeat of the first book, with tougher enemies. All told, it’d be easy to spend a day with the game and not return to it, but it’s a fun diversion that makes interesting use of the DS.

Lock ‘n’ Chase [Intellivision] – Review

I dig the retro box art of INTV games, especially this one.

The primary objective of any thief is to steal anything of value and escape without being apprehended. That’s just what players do in Lock ‘n’ Chase, a Pac-Man like game with the objective of filling a thief’s coffers while evading the police. Originally a Data East arcade game, Mike Winans programmed the Intellivision version which was published by Mattel in 1982.

Um, Pac-Man?

John: A poor Pac-Man clone that loses a great deal of playability thanks to the Intellivision’s disc pad. Also, the soundtrack’s three sounds are grating. Not a great game.

Jeff:  There isn’t much you can do with the Pac-Man formula and Lock ‘n’ Chase shows that. As a clear clone of the excellent Pac-Man you would think it wouldn’t be difficult to make a similar “run around and collect things, while avoiding capture”, but I was wrong. Thank you Data East for this horrendous game; beep, beep and a boop to you!

Pac-Man and Galaxian [Atari 2600] – Comparison Review

Released a year apart from each other, it was enough time for Atari to redesign their box art template.

The Atari 2600 was host to plenty of arcade ports. None of them were able to 100% duplicate the original arcade game due to comparatively paltry processing power, but many were successful to varying degrees. Two games that well highlight the stark differences between landing on either end of the quality spectrum are Pac-Man and Galaxian. Ironically both of these titles are based on Namco arcade games.

The story behind Pac-Man’s development is an interesting one. Having previously obtained the rights to develop home versions of Namco’s arcade games, Atari sought to capitalize on the success of Pac-Man. Tod Frye, a programmer within Atari, was tasked with the game’s development, not with the most capable tools though; reportedly, rather than using a newer cartridge, one with more memory, his work was confined to the smaller cartridge to reduce manufacturing costs. This factor, along with the reduced processing power of the Atari 2600 compared to the Pac-Man arcade cabinet, compromised the game’s quality.

Pac-Man, fixing to eat some… fruit?

What Frye produced is totally playable, and resembles Pac-Man undeniably, but its differences are negatives. The maze is unchanging, the ghosts constantly flicker, they’re indistinguishable, the sound effects are grating, the game doesn’t have as good a sense of control over Pac-Man, and so on. It went on to be a great seller at the time (a whopping 7 million copies), but it’s a game that nowadays is best left for those with nostalgia or a deep interest in the medium.

Galaxian on the other hand was released a year after Pac-Man in 1983 on the newer, larger cartridge which provided more space for the programmers to work with. The improvements are night and day. Firstly, Galaxian resembles its arcade brethren to a striking degree (considering it’s a 2600 game). There’s a lot happening on-screen, the graphics are vibrant, and the action is smooth and brisk. Both games are of the score chase variety, but Galaxian is a more enjoyable experience thanks to its more appealing visuals and quality gameplay.

Now details surrounding Pac-Man’s development are well-known and easy to find, but not so with the Atari 2600 version of Galaxian. With some digging, I was able to find out that it was developed not directly by Atari, but rather by General Computer Corporation. GCC was initially a company that modded arcade games; in fact, they’re responsible for Ms. Pac-Man, not Namco! Anyways, Atari filed a lawsuit against GCC but later settled and began outsourcing projects to them.

Upon further digging I was able to determine that Mark Ackerman was the project lead for Galaxian and was assisted by Glen Parker and Tom Calderwood. Mark Ackerman also worked on the 2600 versions of Ms. Pac-Man and Moon Patrol before overseeing the development of a few Atari 7800 titles and leaving game development. Now a professor at the University of Michigan, I emailed Mr. Ackerman and got some feedback on Galaxian’s development.

The contrast between the graphical complexity and palette of colors between the two games is astounding.

Of note were a few programming tricks that resulted in a better game. Utilizing the random number generator from Donald Knuth’s The Art of Computer Programming resulted in smoother gameplay over Pac-Man. A more advanced algorithm was used to reduce the amount of flicker caused by movement – it definitely works! Lastly, Mr. Ackermen devised a way for eight characters to be displayed on screen when, technologically, the system wasn’t capable of displaying more than six. For this feat he was awarded a patent.

Bottom line is this: I wouldn’t be sad if I could only play the Atari 2600 version of Galaxian, not the case with Pac-Man.