Retro Game Guy

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Atari 7800 Pac-Man games…

The only officially released Pac-Man game for the 7800 was Ms. Pac-Man, but thanks to Curt Vendel and Bob DeCrescenzo, we now have a complete library of Pac-Man games for the Atari 7800.

Ms. Pac-Man…

Programmed by General Computer Corporation as part of the first set of games for the 7800’s release in 1984, Ms. Pac-Man is an excellent conversion.  Ms. Pac-Man demonstrates the strength of the 7800 as one of the best home consoles for arcade ports.   This game has great graphics and pretty much has it all…title screen, intermissions, four different mazes, and four flicker free pesky ghosts!  Better yet, since millions of copies of this game were produced, a boxed copy can be had for less than ten dollars.  The only thing that should stop you from picking up a copy for your collection is whether or not you decide to purchase the Pac-Man Collection described next.

Pac-Man…

It is hard to believe that Atari never developed a version of Pac-Man for the 7800.  Fortunately Bob ‘PacManPlus’ DeCrescenzo has come to the rescue.  Speaking of rescue, in 1996 Curt Vendel found the source code for Ms. Pac-Man in a dumpster.   It seems that in Atari’s haste to ‘go out of business’, they inadvertently discarded the source code for several games.  Through Curt’s efforts, this source code was preserved and released to the public domain.  Bob used this source code to develop several new Pac-Man games for the 7800.  Originally, Bob developed one game at a time, but already had the idea to put them together as a collection.  Included in Bob’s Pac-Man collection are:

  • Pac-Man
  • Pac-Man Plus
  • Ms. Pac-Man
  • Ms. Pac-Attack
  • Hangly Man
  • Puck Man
  • Random Mazes

Bob’s collection is about as arcade perfect as can be done on a home system.  He even ‘tweaked’ the already pretty awesome Ms. Pac-Man to be even better.  The Pac-Man Collection has been one of the best selling carts at AtariAge since Bob put it together.  If you have a 7800 you need to have this cart in your collection…don’t hesitate any longer!

Super Pac-Man…

After he released his Pac-Man Collection, Bob turned his attention to creating a version of Super Pac-Man for the 7800.  Before I started this thread on Pac-Man games, I really didn’t know much about Super Pac-Man and I don’t remember ever playing it in an arcade.  I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered my Super Pac-Man cart from AtariAge, but I have to say that I really like this game.   As always, Bob took care to make as accurate a port as possible and his 7800 version is a blast to play.  The colors are bright, all of the arcade features are included, and this game provides some variety from the ‘standard’ Pac-Man format.  If you are a fan of Super Pac-Man, then this cart should be in your 7800 collection!

Jr. Pac-Man…

This one started out as a fairly elaborate April fool’s joke on the AtariAge forum back in 2009.  Bob DeCrescenzo had been working on Jr. Pac-Man and got a few friends to go along with the hoax that a prototype cart of Jr. Pac-Man had been discovered.  The joke went pretty well until some discovered Bob’s initials in a line of code.

Jr. Pac-Man for the 7800 is another Bob classic and has become my favorite Pac-Man game.  Like the arcade (and unlike the 2600 version), the screen scrolls horizontally, there are six power pills, and the fruits have been changed.  As the fruit bounces, it changes the dots into larger, more valuable dots, but can also destroy the power pills.  Since this can be happening off-screen, there is some additional strategy to Jr. Pac-Man than other versions.

Jr. Pac-Man is another awesome game and is available on cart from AtariAge.

Thanks to GCC, Curt Vendel, AtariAge and, most importantly, Bob DeCrescenzo, almost every variation of Pac-Man is available to be played on the 7800.  I asked Bob which version was his favorite…can you guess what he said?  Considering that he goes by the handle ‘PacManPlus’, his answer should be easy to guess!

Pac-Man gamesfor the 7800

Pac-Man games
for the 7800


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Atari 2600 Pac-Man games…

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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Pac-Man the series…

In my next few posts, I am going to write about Pac-Man, the spin offs, and ports to the Atari 2600 and 7800 systems.

Pac-Man…

Pac-Man is probably the most well known video game in history.  It was developed by Namco in 1979 and distributed in the United States by Midway.  In Japan (and in parts of Europe) the game was known as Puck Man.  Pac-Man was developed over a period of about eighteen months by Namco employee Toru Iwatani.  When Pac-Man was first released in Japan, it was not a hit as Space Invaders continued to dominate the arcade scene.  When Pac-Man was released in the US, everything changed.  It seemed that the American public welcomed the change from Space Invaders and the seemingly endless number of arcade space shooters.  Midway sold more than 350,000 Pac-Man arcade units and it became an even bigger hit than Atari’s Asteroids.

The game of Pac-Man is based around a pretty simple concept.  The player must control Pac-Man and have him eat all of the dots in the maze, while avoiding the ghosts.  There are four power pills (at the corners of the maze) which give Pac-Man invincibility and the ability to eat the ghosts.  Each ghost eaten is more valuable.  The ghosts (Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde), which all have different personalities, get re-incarnated when their eyes return to the box at the center of the screen.  As the game progresses, the time period of invincibility becomes shorter.  Additionally, fruits appear periodically and, when eaten, give the player bonus points.

Most gamers don’t know that it is impossible to finish a Pac-Man game.  There are 256 levels, but there is a bug in the arcade ROM that prevents completion.  Normally there are seven fruits displayed across the bottom of the screen, but an error in programming causes 256 fruits to be displayed on the 256th level, destroying the right hand side of the maze.

Due to its popularity, Pac-Man was ported to almost every home console of the era including the Atari 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems.  It was also ported to the Intellivision, NES, and Commodore 64.

Ms. Pac-Man…

Believe it or not, Ms. Pac-Man started out as Crazy Otto.  General Computer Corporation (GCC) had developed an enhancement kit for Missile Command arcade units.  This didn’t make Atari very happy and they sued GCC.  The suit was settled when GCC agreed not sell any more enhancement kits without the agreement of the original manufacturer.  GCC also agreed to collaborate with Atari on some future projects.   GCC had developed an enhancement kit for Pac-man called Crazy Otto.  Per the agreement with Atari, they were compelled to show it to Midway.  Midway ended up liking it so much that they bought it from GCC and re-worked it into what is now known as Ms. Pac-Man.

Ms. Pac-Man became a monster hit for Midway when it was released in 1982.  In fact, Ms. Pac-Man became one of the most popular arcade games of all time.  It was the first to feature a female character and Midway sold more than 100,000 Ms. Pac-Man arcade units.  Unfortunately, Midway did not obtain authorization from Namco for the development and release of Ms. Pac-Man.  Fortunately, Ms. Pac-Man was so popular that Namco did reach agreements with Midway and GCC and Ms. Pac-Mac  became an officially licensed Namco game.

Like Pac-man, Ms. Pac-Man was ported to a number of home consoles including the Atari 2600, 5200, 7800, and 8-bit systems.   It was also ported to the NES, Commodore 64, and Apple II.

 Super Pac-Man…

This is the third game in the series and, unlike Ms. Pac-Man, was actually developed by Namco.  Super Pac-Man becomes ‘super’ by eating one of the two ‘super’ pellets.  When ‘super’, he is larger, faster and can eat through doors.  When ‘super’, he is also invincible to the ghosts.  When normal, he must eat the keys which open the doors to allow him to eat the fruits.

The Super Pac-Man concept was quite a deviation from Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man and was only a moderate success.  It was also developed to run on a Motorola 6809 CPU versus the Z80’s used the the previous Pac-Man arcade units.

Due to its limited success it was only ported to the Atari 5200, but was never released by Atari.

Pac-Man Plus…

Pac-Man Plus was released by Midway in 1982 and, like Ms. Pac-Man, it was not authorized by Namco.  Pac-Man Plus is similar to Pac-Man with the biggest differences being the green (versus blue) maze and the fruits being replaced by ‘other’ objects such as beverages.  Additionally, eating a power pill sometimes causes unexpected results such as making the maze invisible or only turning three of the four ghosts blue.

Because Pac-Man Plus was released just before the ‘Video game collapse of 1983′, it was never officially ported to any home consoles.  It was reasonably popular in the arcades and, actually, outsold Super Pac-Man.

Midway also developed a Ms. Pac-Man Plus arcade system which was identical to Ms. Pac-Man, only with different mazes.

Jr. Pac-Man…

Jr. Pac-Man was another version developed by Bally Midway without permission from Namco.  Jr. was closer to the original Pac-Man format than Super Pac-Man.  The biggest change is that the maze is now twice as large and, as Jr. moves, the maze will pan across the screen horizontally.  There are also six power pills instead of four and, due to the scrolling mazes, there are no tunnels.  Jr. Pac-Man also has the added challenge of things happening off-screen.  Additionally, the toy candies (versus fruits) transform the dots and make them more valuable to eat, but they can also destroy the power pills.

Released in 1983, Jr. Pac-Man was only a moderate success.  It was ported to the Atari 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems, but only the 2600 version was released.  Since Jr. Pac-Man was developed Bally Midway, the arcade systems run on Z80 CPU’s like Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man.

Pac-Man Aracde Systems

Pac-Man Aracde Systems

Next…

In my next post, I will write about the Atari 2600 ports of the Pac-Man series…