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Ms. Pacman - Back to the Classics of Arcade Games

Updated on March 21, 2011
Flickr photo by Marcin Wichary
Flickr photo by Marcin Wichary
Flickr photo by Szlea
Flickr photo by Szlea

A game of Sweet Simplicity in an age of Sex and Sensuality

In a day where video games are increasingly complex, violent and sensual - Ms. Pac Man is a stark contrast. We have managed to devolve from Ms. Pac Man to Grand Theft Auto in one generation. It is this degeneration that leads me to put the spotlight on the golden days for a minute.

Ms. Pac Man is an arcade style game in which the main character, Ms. Pac Man, is chased by four different colored ghosts. The red ghost is named Blinky - he is the best Ms. Pac Man hunter and leads the chase. The pink ghost is Pinky - she is the fastest out of the ring (other than Blinky who doesn't even start in the ring) and moves the fastest. The blue ghost is Inky - he is not quite as talented as the former two ghosts, but he is still known to make some quick catches. The last ghost is Sue - she is the orange ghost and is always just a bit behind the others.

Ms. Pac Man's goal is to eat all of the dots on the screen without getting killed by a ghost (it only takes one touch to kill the poor girl - so be careful!). If Ms. Pac Man eats one of the four power-pills she will have some time to hunt her hunters (this time becomes considerably shorter as the levels progress). Throughout each level, Ms. Pac Man also has a chance to eat fruit that passes by. She gets points for each dot, power-pill, ghost and fruit that she eats. Ms. Pac Man will get an extra life when she reaches ten thousand points.

Flickr photo by Halloween Jack
Flickr photo by Halloween Jack

How Many Points are They Worth?

Dots - 10 points

Power-Pills - 50 points

1 Ghost - 400 points

2 Ghosts (during one power-pill) - 800 points

3 Ghosts - 1200 points

4 Ghosts - 1600 points

Cherry - 100 points

Strawberry - 300 points

Apricot - 500 points

Pretzel - 700 points

Apple - 1000 points

Pear - 2000 points

Banana - 5000 points

-- Thanks for your help on the point values of those fruits! --

Flickr photo by Ilovememphis
Flickr photo by Ilovememphis

Different than Pac Man

Ms. Pac Man was a huge hit. Even though it is extremely similar to Pac Man, it blew it out of the water. Although the modifications to this game are small, they are very important. Some of the differences are:

Ms. Pac Man has multiple different grids that she has to navigate her way through. Each of these grids have a different color scheme and have different ports (the passages from one side of the screen to another).

The ports are more visible in Ms. Pac Man. The original Pac Man only had gaps in the walls, in this game it has drawn out passageways.

The name of the last ghost is now Sue

The storyline is different. There are three scenes that progress from Ms. Pac Man and Pac Man meeting, to a stork bringing them a baby Pac Man.

A Game of Lasting Legacy

Ms. Pac Man was released nearly three decades ago, but she is still a national icon. There is a cartoon series made of Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man (oddly enough it is titled Pac Man).

At the turn of the millennium, Ms. Pac Man became a spokeswoman for Breast Cancer awareness. Now she can be seen wearing a pink ribbon along with the classic bow.

Flickr photo by Szlea
Flickr photo by Szlea

The Creation of the Game

Ms. Pac Man is arguably the most beloved arcade game of the Baby Boomer generation (and it is surprisingly high on the list for the Gamer generation as well). The sweet simplicity, the romantic storyline and the skill required are what made this game so successful. Surprisingly, Ms. Pac Man was made by different designers than the original Pac Man game. It was created by a group called GCC and they named the game Crazy Otto.

The creators of this game knew that it was a bootleg of the Pac Man game, but they were amazed at how much more fluid, enjoyable and playable their version was. Knowing they could not distribute it on their own without facing a massive lawsuit from Namco, they sold the game to Midway (Namco's distributor). Midway had been waiting for Namco to release Super Pac Man (which sounds pretty sweet, if I might add), but they were getting impatient when they were offered the game Crazy Otto.

Midway took the game, modified it a bit and then released it in 1981. It was a huge hit! The only problem was, they were afraid a substantial lawsuit would rise quickly out of Namco headquarters, so they gave the rights of the game over to Namco without fighting.

Play Ms. Pac Man Virtually Anywhere

Nowadays you can play Ms. Pac Man virtually anywhere! Almost any restaurant, hotel or arcade stop with an arcade area will have Ms. Pac Man. You can find Ms. Pac Man games on the internet (although these are often a bit slow, glitchy and slightly different than the original). There are also adaptations of this game that you can buy for anything from Gameboy to Playstation 3.

Another very fun way to play Ms. Pac Man and other classics is to buy the Plug n' Play games. These are hand-held controllers produced by Namco that have a joystick and buttons. They hook directly to your T.V. with an RCA cable (which comes with the game). I have this version at my house, and I must admit - it is quite addicting. My family and I have spent hours together talking and playing Ms. Pac Man, Dig Dug, Pole Position and Galaga.


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