(Atari/Namco, 1980, 1982)

Pac Man is The Total Recall Dud of the Month!? Atari Pac Man yes but not the real Pac Man of course! See why the mega successful and very popular Atari 2600 started to lose a lot of thunder thanks to one insanely bad translation here.

Namco's Pac Man was lighting the video arcades on fire in 1980 thanks to its simple but intense arcade maze action and lovable characters. It was one of the greatest success stories of the 80's and thanks to some big Atari muscle, they were able to score the license for themselves. Atari got 'Pac Man' and the Atari 2600 would be the first game system in the world to translate the fun pellet munched to the home market. Everything was going well but Atari's Pac Man creator Todd Fyre only had a mere 4k memory cart to work on and 5 year old hardware to work so the end result was at best a weak arcade port at best that's almost nothing like the original Namco mega hit we all know in love. Witness one of the biggest flops in gaming history.

So what do you do in Pac Man anyway (just in case there are a few of you who don't know)? You have to eat all the rectangle pellets (named video wafers in the manual) on the board to finish the level but be careful of the four ghosts that want to end Pac Man's quest for food. Luckily for you though that Pac Man can eat one of four corner power pellets so he can even eat his ghost enemies but only for a short time. Fortunately, Atari Pac Man keeps the basic game play here but everything else was just looks rushed to market.

Here are all the changes made to one of the most popular arcade classics of all time: first the maze is completely different now and is filled with more repetitive and boring patterns plus the portals are now on the top and bottom of the screen for some reason. Secondly, the fruits and toys have been replaced by a stupid multi-coloured block (they call it a vitamin in the manual) thus removing even more personality from the arcade game. Lastly the four ghosts (they don't even have their original names) are now all pink and the background colours are a light blue and peach, why? This game is nothing like the arcade legend; Pac Man himself is extremely blocky he can't even look up and down. Atari Pac Man makes crap look good.

"Wait, it gets worst!" The famous waka-waka sound effects are gone now and replaced with loud beeps when he munches on a pellet. Even the whimsical start up music is different and very low budget sounding. The truth is that the programmers (or programmer?) didn't have a lot of space on the small memory cart and the graphics and sound really suffer for it.

The game play however still remains mostly intact because as Pac Man moves on to the next level the ghosts speed up their attack and the game becomes more intense with each board. The ghosts even give you more bonus points as you eat more than one. If you give Atari Pac Man a chance you find it's still very playable. The Difficulty switches selects how long the Power pellet last (A for quick and B for slow) and game variations control the speed of the ghosts.

Despite everything wrong with Atari Pac Man it's still kind of fun though with new and unique sound effects, and beeps exclusive to this cart. You may even have heard these weird sound effects on certain TV shows if anybody is playing a video game (this game or Atari Donkey Kong for that matter) in the background. Don't expect to play the real Pac Man though because it just isn't here. Maybe it’s worth the dollar in the discount bins but not much more. Many say the unsold game cartridges of Atari Pac Man are buried in some New Mexican desert just so Atari could write off their loses. Now that's pathetic.
Model #2646



overall rating: 38/100
Find this game on eBay here!

For 1 or 2 players

graphics: 1/10
sound: 3/10
gameplay: 4/10
replay: 3/10

(Ryan Genno) 2003

See other Total Recall duds of the month