Pac-Man didn’t make it to Atari 8-bit computers until 1982, but that doesn’t mean that people were short of some dot-eating maze-based funtimes until then.
Nope; we had John Harris’ Jawbreaker, an excellent Pac-Man clone that was extremely well-received at the time of its 1981 release — and which was so uncomfortably close to Pac-Man that Atari ended up suing publisher On-Line Systems.
Atari’s suit was ultimately unsuccessful, but Harris chose to play it safe and follow up the original Jawbreaker with a successor that was less obviously based on the Namco classic. But that’s a story for another day!
We’re all pretty accustomed to arcade-perfect conversions these days, but what about back in the ’80s where programmers had to make home versions of arcade games from scratch without any handy emulation?
The results varied enormously — at least partly because in some cases the programmers in question didn’t have any original source material to work with — but there were a few very solid examples over the years.
One pretty great arcade conversion for Atari 8-bit was the Atari-published version of Namco’s Pac-Man. It’s certainly better than the notorious 2600 version!
Do you know what “trimetric projection” is? If not, take a good look at Atari’s Crystal Castles. That, dear reader, is trimetric projection at work.
This 3D perspective take on the Pac-Man formula is a popular game from Atari’s early days, and enjoyed numerous home ports over the years, particularly on Atari’s own platforms. It’s a fun — if challenging — game, and remains noteworthy from a historical perspective for being one of the first arcade games out there that it’s actually possible to “beat”. Although good luck with doing that.
Also, if you score first place on the high score table, you get to enjoy your initials presented in 3D trimetric projection for everyone to admire on the first level of each new playthrough!
I love it when game developers get creative. This is not an altogether unusual sight these days, of course, but back in the early to mid ’80s, it was always a real treat to see someone step outside of genre “norms”.
Such was the case with Time Bandit by Bill Dunlevy and Harry Lafnear, a top-down action adventure with elements of text adventures, role-playing games, Pac-Man and all manner of other goodness. While superficially resembling Gauntlet — which actually came out after Time Bandit was fully developed — there’s a hell of a lot of depth here, and some fiendish puzzles to unravel.
If you want a game that pretty much sums up what the Atari ST gaming experience is all about, you can do far worse than give Time Bandit the, uh, time of day.
There have been numerous attempts to improve on Pac-Man over the years by both Namco and third parties.
One such attempt by the former was Pac-Mania, a game which transplanted Pac-Man’s simple single-screen maze-based gameplay into a scrolling, oblique-perspective affair with jumping, power-ups and visually themed worlds.
Opinions vary as to whether it’s actually an improvement on Pac-Man or not, but one thing is certain: Grandslam’s port to Atari ST was very solid indeed, and one of the few Atari ST games I actually remember buying for myself back when I was a kid!
Poor old Pac-Man’s been put through the wringer since his first appearance in 1980.
He’s gone on adventures, been platforming, attempted to educate the masses and even kicked the snot out of his fellow video game icons. But somehow it always comes back to doing what he does best: munching his way through mazes while attempting not to, in turn, get noshed off by ghosts. (Although some people are into that.)
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is Namco’s latest attempt to put an interesting twist on the original Pac-Man formula. And it’s a ton of fun.
One of the most interesting inclusions in the Nintendo Switch release of Namco Museum is Pac-Man Vs.
Originally released for GameCube in 2003, it’s an unusual title for Namco in that it wasn’t developed in-house as an arcade game; rather, it was designed by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto and developed by Nintendo specifically for the GameCube, which perhaps explains why we haven’t seen it rereleased for anything other than Nintendo DS (via that platform’s own Namco Museum release) and, most recently at the time of writing, Switch.
It’s also noteworthy as one of the first examples of asymmetric multiplayer gameplay, which makes the fact it never got a release on Wii U somewhat baffling. But, well, it’s a bit late for that now!
Interestingly, for a shiny modern piece of technology, one of the most appealing things about Nintendo’s Switch is the amount of retro gaming funtimes that can be had on the platform.
While at the time of writing the system is yet to launch a Virtual Console service similar to that found on its two predecessors the Wii and the Wii U, some of the disappointment over this is mitigated by the fact that the Switch eShop plays host to a wide variety of excellent arcade ports, including a number of wonderfully enjoyable (and monstrously difficult) Neo Geo games as well as the bundle package we’re concerned with here today.
Namco Museum is a compilation of 10 classic arcade titles from Namco that roughly correspond to the 8- and 16-bit eras of home video gaming, plus a new version of 2003’s Pac-Man Vs., which originally appeared on the Gamecube as a game that made use of the Game Boy Advance link cable for dual-screen asymmetrical multiplayer. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy!