After the let-down that was the Atari 2600 Pac-Man, it must have been a relief to finally get a port on the VCS that was true to the arcade and a blast to play. Ms. Pac-Man on the Atari 2600 still holds up today. Certainly, there are later ports for other consoles that are superior, but for those of you who still have your six-switcher hooked up to the tube, Ms. Pac-Man is a good bet for some arcade fun.
Ms. Pac-Man happens to be one of my favorite arcade games of all time, though it took more than two decades after the game’s initial release for me to truly fall in love with our little bow-topped coin-op pellet muncher. Most Friday nights while I was pursuing my Master’s degree, a group of English grad students would gather at a bar called The Granville. Though I did not always join my fellow students on Fridays, I put in an appearance now and then, sometimes even showing up several Fridays in a row. Between games of pool, competitions on who could hold a lit match the longest (a contest that was, sadly, of my creation), and other little bits of drunken revelry, I would always make sure that I spent at least a few minutes with the bar’s one arcade machine—Ms. Pac-Man. Every time I went to the Granville, I would put my Jack and Coke aside for a moment and make sure that I set the high score on the machine. It became a ritual, and it wasn’t a real trip to The Granville unless I walked away that night knowing that my initials topped the high scores.
Later, some misguided fool replaced that Ms. Pac-Man machine with a Golden Tee cabinet (why are these all over the place, by the way—I never see anyone playing them). Without my beloved coin-op to play, I turned to my consoles for a Ms. Pac-Man fix, but I had only one port: Ms. Pac-Man for the Atari 2600.
As I stated in my previous review, though I don’t believe the Atari 2600 Pac-Man is as bad as it’s made out to be, it is not a great game and becomes monotonous quickly. But what about Ms. Pac-Man? Was it yet another sloppy port that not even multiple Jack and Cokes could make fun?
Fortunately, Ms. Pac-Man does a much better job of capturing the original game than Pac-Man. The game moves at a faster pace and the graphics are truer to the arcade original, as are the sounds. As with Pac-Man, though, changes were made. Once again, the aspect ratio of the game has been changed to better suit a television. The ghosts still flicker, but not nearly as badly as they did in Pac-Man. The intermission scenes have been removed. However, these are all acceptable changes, since the game plays well and, as opposed to Pac-Man, is actually fun! As I played the game, I wanted to keep improving and get to new screens (which made me realize how much of a failing the lack of additional screens was in Pac-Man). Plus, I appreciated that the ghosts again have noticeable patterns of behavior, with Blinky (or Shadow, if you prefer) being relentless in later stages, running down Ms. Pac-Man whenever he gets the chance.
After the let-down that was the Atari 2600 Pac-Man, it must have been a relief to finally get a port on the VCS that was true to the arcade and a blast to play. Ms. Pac-Man on the Atari 2600 still holds up today. Certainly, there are later ports for other consoles that are superior, but for those of you who still have your six-switcher hooked up to the tube, Ms. Pac-Man is a good bet for some arcade fun, with or without the Jack 😉