Two out of three Pac games ain't bad
By Darryl BrundageOctober 15, 2004
Shouldn't that be Pac-Man Jr.?
Bouncing toys increase the dots value.
Thankfully, you only have to complete a maze only once to move on.
Hmm... They never miss a chance to put in an Atari logo, do they?
As far as a series of arcade games go, you
can't beat the Pac-Man series (unless you didn't like it to begin
with). Pac-Man started the revolution, while Ms. Pac-Man
proved not to be the sophomore slump, having the mazes change and adding
prizes that bounced around the mazes. Super Pac-Man required more
intuition, as you had to unlock doors in order to get to the food that
you constantly crave (while always in pursuit ghosts pursue YOU), while
Jr. Pac-Man gave you a huge, scrolling maze that you had to cover
a lot of ground (food runs?) in order to complete.
As far as the 2600 Pac adaptions went, Pac-Man was a
stinker, not playing much like the arcade original, but Ms. Pac-Man
was a huge improvement, and the game I will review today, Jr. Pac-Man,
is even more amazing. (Super Pac-Man wasn't released for the
2600, although it was planned and mostly finished for the 5200 before
the project was cancelled due to the video game crash, and I left out a
ton of other Pac games in that intro, but I was mostly talking
about the 2600 adaptions .)
Of course, the original 4K setup of the 2600 couldn't handle Jr.
Pac-Man by itself, so new technology was developed in order to
handle all the action (via superchip). Graphically, it doesn't look much different than
2600 Pac-Man, with "wafers" rather than dots again, and the
ghosts still blink (but not as much), but that's the only thing these
two games have in common; it's like comparing apples and orangutans.
Like the previous Pac-Man games, you have to clear mazes of dots
by eating them, while employees of Weight Watchers chase you
around...wait, they're ghosts actually. Eating energizers in the corners
temporarily gives you the chance to eat the ghosts for once (if they
catch you, on the other hand, you're dead), and prizes appear that are
worth bonus points.
However, Jr. Pac-Man upped the ante here, since the prizes have
an inherit mean streak in them: as they move around the maze, they turn
the dots into thicker ones that, even though they're worth more points
than the regular dots, majorly slow you down once you start eating them
(hey, just drop an anchor on me, willya?). (My guess is the prizes are
jealous that you can eat and eat and eat but still have the metabolism
to run around at breakneck speed.)
As far as being compared to the arcade version, the mazes run more
vertical than anything else, which leads to some bizarrely-designed
levels, like ones that have energizers in the middle of the screen,
rather than in corners, which is kind of odd. There's also a lot of
corridors that have more than one opening, and with ghosts hot on your
tail, it's hard to guess which path they're going to choose: are they
going to keep following you, or is one going to head you off at the next
pass? It's hard to assume, and with things running at breakneck speed,
you're going to lose a lot of lives on this one.
Oh yes: Atari really cranked up the speed with this port. The arcade
game was paced better, whereas the difference between the 2600 and the
arcade version are as plain as night and day (and I don't mean the
graphics, I'm talking about the speed), as different as driving a Ford
Pinto through a speedbump-plagued American neighborhood vs. driving an
European sportscar through the no speed limit enforced Autobahn in
Germany...and, just like the latter, there's going to be casualties.
If you don't have a joystick for your computer -- if you're playing an
emulated version of this and don't have the physical cartridge, that is
-- using the keyboard is very difficult for navigating those turns at
100 miles an hour (while the ghosts are going about 115; someone arrest
these guys!). I kept on having to start over games using the so-called "childrens"
versions (I say "so-called" because the speed wasn't slowed down, dang
it) since they have fewer ghosts, and I still kept on getting my butt
whipped. This isn't the slow build-up of Ms. Pac-Man, when things
get gradually faster as you clear a few screens, it immediately starts
fast with the first screen and stays that way. So unfortunately I can't
comment on how the controls respond, since I don't have a physical copy
of the game. It's not hard to find nowadays, though, but I've yet to
find any places here in Houston that sell Atari stuff, but then again, I
haven't been on a die-hard search due to no money coming in recently,
plus I have thyroid problems and no ac in my car (yeah it's hot as hell
down here, it's currently summer as I'm writing this, with near 100
degree temperatures every day, plus humidity at 80% or more daily!).
Once I get some money coming in on a continuous basis, though, I'm going
to start seeking out Atari places and stock up on 2600 and 7800 stuff I missed out back "in the day". ;)
This is an awesome game, even though, after you die, the ghosts pour out
of their pen pretty quick, which is wrong, since for the arcade game,
they'll stay in the pen and only come out one at a time with several
seconds spaced apart (I mean, come ON, you just DIED, give junior a
break here!). If you want something to relax by, then play Flag
Capture or something, this isn't a quiet evening game for you. If
you want to get your adrenalin pumping within just the first few seconds
of the great sounds, action, and breakneck speed, this'll wake your
couch potato butt up in a hurry.
Looks like the second and third time was the charm for the Pac
games for the 2600. :)