Retro Game Guy

It's the 1980's again!

Atari 2600 Pac-Man games…

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There were three officially released Pac-Man games for the Atari 2600.  In this post, I will discuss these as well as some homebrews and hacks.  Be sure to read my previous post about the arcade versions of these games.

Pac-Man…

Released by Atari in early 1992, Pac-Man ended up being the best selling game ever for the 2600.  It went on to sell more than seven million copies at $37.95.  That was a heck of a lot of money back in 1982 and would be more than $80 today.  The 2600 version was programmed by Tod Frye who was one of the first Atari programmers to receive royalties.  It has been reported that Tod was paid more than $1 million for his efforts.   Atari spent more than $1.5 million on advertising and marketing for Pac-Man.

Unfortunately, the game was horrible and it looked nothing like the arcade version.  The maze was nothing like the arcade maze and since when did Pac-Man grow an eye?  Pac-Man’s orientation doesn’t change when he changes direction and there is a tremendous amount of flicker with the ghosts.  Supposedly, there were better prototypes that had been developed, but Atari wanted to squeeze the game onto a 4K cartridge to save money.

Pac-man did sell seven million copies, but Atari had produced twelve million and, after playing the game, many customers returned it for a refund.  Thus, Atari ended up with more than five million unsold copies.   Unless you need to have this game for some collecting reasons, don’t even waste one dollar of your money on Pac-Man!

Ms. Pac-Man…

Released by Atari less than a year after Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man turned out to be an excellent port to the 2600.  Maybe the reason why is that it was actually programmed not by Atari, but by Mike Horowitz and Josh Littlefield of General Computer Corp (GCC).   Mike and Josh managed to get pretty close to that arcade experience, given the limitations of the 2600.  In fact, they pretty much have it all…four ghosts, bouncing fruit, animated title screen, four different mazes, and Ms. Pac-Man looks like Ms. Pac-Man.  There is still some flicker, but much improved over Pac-Man.   Ms. Pac-Man uses an 8K cartridge, versus 4K, and it is worth every K!

Ms. Pac-Man belongs in every 2600 collection and is the basis for several hacks.

Jr. Pac-Man…

Developed in 1984, but not released until 1987, Jr. Pac-Man was also programmed for Atari by GCC.  This time, Ava-Robin Cohen did the programming and she did an awesome job.  Once again, almost all of the arcade features are present in the 2600 version and it is a blast to play.  The biggest difference between the arcade and the 2600 version is the scrolling.  The 2600 version scrolls vertically, instead of horizontally.   Other than that, it is all there…Junior, the ghosts, candies, scrolling screen, etc.!

Pac-Man Arcade…

Using the Ms. Pac-Man code as a starting point, Rob Kudla created the Pac-Man that Atari should have done in 1982.  Rob extensively hacked Ms. Pac-Man to create a great version of Pac-Man for the 2600.  The mazes, sounds, graphics, and gameplay are all much closer to the arcade than Atari’s original version.  Photos of the game and several review comments are posted, so be sure to check out AtariAge to learn more about Pac-Man Arcade.

Pac-Man Plus…

Using Rob Kudla’s Pac-Man Arcade as a starting point, Bob ‘PacManPlus’ DeCrescenzo did some additional hacks to create a ‘plus’ version of Pac-Man.  Bob changed the mazes to be green, changed the ghosts to have leafs on their heads, and changed the fruits to match the bonus items in the arcade version.  I don’t think that this variation has been made available on a cart, so you will need a multi-cart or emulator to play to version of Pac-Man Plus.

Pac-Man 4K…

Dennis Debro set out to make a 2600 Pac-Mac version, as close to the arcade as possible, using only a 4K cartridge.   Recently his Pac-Man 4K has become available from the AtariAge store.  For a 4K effort, Dennis has done an amazing job.  The maze, graphics, and gameplay are just about as close as you can get to the arcade, especially given the 4K size of the game.  My only feedback is about the amount of flicker for Pac-Man and the ghosts.  Photos and a video of Pac-Man 4K are posted at AtariAge, so go check them out.  Flicker aside, Dennis has shown what Atari could have done with a 4K limit for Pac-Man!

Hack’em/Hangly Man…

At one point, the folks at Ebivision had developed a Pac-Man game for the 2600.  Due to licensing issues, they instead turned it into Pesco.   Nukey Shay took their original Pac-man code and has made many changes and updates to create one darn good Pac-Man for the 2600.  He has even included the Plus mode and is working on a Ms. Pac-Man game as well.  To read more about his efforts, see his thread at AtariAge.

There have been plenty more hacks of Pac-Man games for the 2600, but I have tried to cover the most significant ones.  This actually took a lot more time and research than I thought it would!  Next up…Pac-Man games for the Atari 7800…for now, I need to go play some Pac-Man!!!

PacMan for the 2600

Pac-Man for the 2600

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One thought on “Atari 2600 Pac-Man games…

  1. Those were leaves in Pac-Man Plus? I always thought of them as little flags. Doesn’t make any more sense; I think even then, I figured it was some Japanese design quirk.

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