The 5200 got a great version of the arcade original. The 2600, 5200, and 7800 all got incredible ports of Ms. Pac-Man, and the 2600 even got a great version of Jr. Pac-Man. Yep, pretty much anytime after the first that a Pac-Man landed on an Atari, it was gold. This tradition has even extended to hacks, as the 2600 Pac-Man hacks have really been something to behold. However, it isn't only the 2600 that has been getting hacker Pac-Man love, as Bob DeCrescenzo has hacked a version of the game from Ms. Pac-Man for the 7800. Does this one continue the Pac-Man blessing that most Pac-Man/Atari pairings have achieved, or does it fall prey to whatever curse hit the original 2600 version? To end the suspense early, I'll give you the short answer: this game rocks.
This version of Pac-Man is basically like any good version of Pac-Man. You control Pac-Man, who tries to eat all of the dots in a maze while avoiding ghosts. If he touches a ghost under normal conditions, he dies. If he eats a power pill the ghosts turn blue for a short time, and Pac-Man is able to eat them for points. Simple concept; never gets old.
However, as this is an arcade port, I feel I should address how close the gameplay is to the arcade version (which I've only played on the numerous Namco collections). To me, the ghosts seem a little faster in this version than in the arcade. Not blindingly faster, but a little more speedy. For example, after playing this version for an hour I pulled out the GBA version on the Pac-Man Collection, and I felt like for the first level or so the ghosts in that version were set to the teddy bear difficulty. I also find the ghosts more prone to direction reversal in this version. This makes it easier to hit them when you think you're about to be safe.
Otherwise though, this port plays just like in the arcades. The fruit is all here, the speed of ghosts increase well as levels progress, and the maze is really well done. Also, you still have the proper advantages, like one-way paths that you can escape ghosts in, faster cornering, and faster progress through the tunnel. Thus, gameplay wise, this game certainly IS Pac-Man.
Also, it is important to note the variety of modes available. One difficulty switch lets you choose whether you will be playing with 3 or 5 lives, adjusting the difficulty for you. As well, moving the stick left and right on the title screen lets you adjust which level you will begin in, up to the first key. Finally, the other difficulty switch lets you choose a second maze. This "Puck Man X" maze is either harder or easier than the normal maze, I can't decide. There are A LOT of corners and turns in this one, making it seem much harder. However, to be fair, there are also three tunnels, which give you more escape routes that let you race the ghosts around the maze. In any case, with your starting level selectable, 2 difficulties, and 2 mazes, there's a lot of gameplay variety in this package.
No complaints here. Pac-Man and the ghosts are very nice looking and animate correctly (e.g. the ghosts look where they're going to go) while the maze looks like it should. Also, the intermissions are all here, and they all look great. If you have ever played a real version of Pac-Man before, you'll know just what to expect. It looks just like it should, end of story.
Unlike a lot of 7800 games, the limited sound capabilities of the 7800 really don't come into play on this one. Pac-Man has simple sounds, and the 7800 is capable of reproducing these. A pretty good rendition of the start music plays, and the ghosts make an appropriate noise when eaten. The only parts where I really noticed a difference (and even these were minor) was that the intermission music seemed a little off and Pac-Man makes chomp noises rather than Whaka-Whaka noises when he eats the dots.
These are as simple as they come. You start the game with either button and control Pac-Man with the stick. That's basically it. The controls are responsive and I haven't had problems with them.
With great graphics, solid gameplay, great controls, and very good music and sound, this is a pretty solid port of Pac-Man to begin with. However, throw in the multiple difficulties, level select, and second maze and it is likely this would have been seen as a great package even if it were officially released for the 7800 during its time as a supported system. If you have a 7800, you need to try to track down a copy of this game.