Ok, I was born in 1984 and didn’t get my hands on a home games console, a Master System, until I was about six years old in 1990. As a result I missed out on the true classic games such as Gallaga, Space Invaders and of course Pac-Man. I can vaguely recollect a friend of mine having an old games console with a wooden front called an “Atari” (of course in my wiser years I now know this was the classic Atari 2600 that I would kill to get my hands on). He would occasionally get it out and we’d play it but never for long and we ended up on the SMS or the NES which was what was hot back then. Therefore I had no nostalgic investment or loyalty in Pac-Man clouding my judgement when I recently found myself in possession of Pacmania for the SMS as I went looking for the next instalment of my growing SMS library of games. It was in fact my wife who suggested I give it a go as she had the game and the original on an Atari 2600 when she was a kid. So what did I think?
First off, you should know that this not exactly the original Pac-Man. It is a reboot of the classic game featuring an isometric viewpoint to give the illusion of it being in 3D. The goal remains the same; to eat as many of the little blobs on the screen as possible and fruit for extra points while avoiding the ghosts. The first level has a Lego look to it in that Pac-Man is travelling between giant Lego bricks. I have to say that this is one of the best looking levels I have ever seen on a Master System game. It is colourful with a lot of detail. Sadly however, except for one or two other levels, this quality doesn’t continue throughout the game and most of the levels are rather bland looking in comparison. Can’t help but feel they started off too high in terms of the quality of the levels.
The controls on this game are extremely frustrating at times and getting Pac-Man to change directions sometimes becomes a feat only witchcraft can accomplish. On occasion it feels like he downright refuses to change direction and just strolls past the turning. That’s annoying enough but if you are being cornered by ghosts and he refuses to take the escape route you are directing him to it becomes a hair ripping experience. It’s been a long time since I have shouted at a video game but that’s what I found myself doing as though Pac-Man was going to hear me and go, “Oh you want me to go that way!” You can jump over the ghosts but that is like playing the lottery. It’s here the disadvantages of the isometric view come in to play because I suspect the programmers made it so that if Pac-Man’s pixels pass over a ghost’s in anyway you lose a life. This means that you seem to be able to jump further over them with more success going sideways than when going down the screen.
With all these faults then why is it I keep going back to this game? Why is it I have developed a furious obsession with defeating this game? There’s just some charm about it and when you finish a level there is a real sense of achieving something and to me that is one of the most important features in any game. I don’t think this is going to make my top 10 but I have a sneaky suspicion that Pacmania will be a game I will be returning to time and time again. Maybe I am just a sadist. Who knows?
Thanks for reading…