‘Ms. Pac-Man’ is a game for the ages

“Ms. Pac-Man” recently celebrated it’s 35th anniversary. Released in 1981, “Ms. Pac-Man” was originally conceived to be an add-on to the original game. However, due to copyright violations and contract disputes between Atari and the developer, General Computer Corporation, it was sold to Midway (the distributor of Namco product in America), who bought it and changed the character designs to match that of “Pac-Man.” The game ended up being sold, again due to copyright violations and contract disputes to Namco.


The gameplay is almost identical to that of “Pac-Man”. The player tries to collect all the dots and fruit on the screen, and uses large dots (or “energizers”) to defeat the game’s collection of colorful ghosts. Eventually, the energizers fade, like in the original, and running from the ghosts becomes the player’s only option.


Unlike the original, however, there are four unique maze patterns, three of which include two sets of “warp tunnels” for a quick escape from one side of the maze to the other. The original game had one maze pattern only, with one set of warp tunnels. The pink maze pattern exists on levels one and two, the light blue on three through five, the brown on six through nine, and the blue on level 10 to level 14. After this, the mazes alternate every four levels. Besides this, the only other noticeable difference between the two games is that Ms. Pac-Man no longed folds in upon herself, instead, according the the game’s original flier, “swoons and falls” backwards.


Despite the similarities between the two games, “Ms. Pac-Man” has regularly been heralded as the better of the pair, and one of the greatest games of all time. It is the single most successful American-made arcade game, beating out the original as well as other popular games like “Galaga” or “Space Invaders.” In 2009, Game Informer magazine, a magazine known for ranking and discussing new games, placed “Ms. Pac-Man” as nine on their list of 100 best games, stating, “Ms. Pac-Man had it all over her hubby.”


Strangely enough, in the summer of 1983, a trio of men by the names of Tom Asaki, Don Williams and Spencer Ouren from Bozeman got together and engineered a way to earn the most points on Ms. Pac-Man. They were called the “Bozeman Think Tank,” and they used a technique called “grouping” that forced all the enemies near one energizer, so that the player could then gobble them up quickly. They achieved some of the highest scores, well over 400,00, on the game between 1983 and 1984.


Undoubtedly, “Ms. Pac-Man” made an impact on the gaming world. The intro sequence, unlike games of its time that featured the same intro sequence every time a player started it up, featured a computer-controlled “Ms. Pac-Man” sprite playing against computer-fueled ghosts. “Ms. Pac-Man” is still available today in many retro arcades, as well as on both iOS and Android mobile platforms, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. If you haven’t played it before, get a quarter, head to your nearest arcade, and try and master “Ms. Pac-Man,” too.