|Developer(s)||General Computer Corporation|
|Platform(s)||Arcade, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit, VIC-20, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, Apple II, TI99-4/A, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Game Boy Color|
|Mode(s)||Single-player, multiplayer (alternating turns)|
|Cabinet||Upright, cabaret, tabletop|
|Arcade system||Namco Pac-Man|
Ms. Pac-Man[a] is a 1982 maze arcade game developed by General Computer Corporation and published by Midway. It is the sequel to Pac-Man (1980), and the first entry in the series to not be made by Namco. Controlling the titular character, the player is tasked with eating all of the pellets in an enclosed maze while avoiding four colored ghosts. Eating large flashing “Power Pellets” will cause the ghosts to turn blue and flee, which can be consumed for bonus points.
General Computer originally made the game as a modification kit for the original Pac-Man, titled Crazy Otto. Following legal action with Atari, GCC was forced to present the project to Midway, the North American distributor of Pac-Man, before release, who purchased the project. Multiple names were considered for the game, including Super Pac-Man, Miss Pac-Man and Mrs. Pac-Man, before the final name was chosen for being easier to pronounce. While the game was reportedly made without Namco's blessing, Namco president Masaya Nakamura provided feedback on the player character's design, and the company collected the same royalties on each cabinet as they had with Pac-Man.
Ms. Pac-Man was acclaimed by critics for its improvements to the original gameplay and female protagonist, some labeling it as superior to Pac-Man. It has been listed among the greatest video games of all time and one of the most successful American arcade games ever made. The game's success inspired several ports for home consoles and handheld systems, as well as numerous sequel and remake games, spawning a Ms. Pac-Man spin-off series. The rights to the game are owned by Namco's successor company, Bandai Namco Entertainment.
The gameplay is very similar to that of Pac-Man. The player earns points by eating pellets and avoiding monsters (contact with one causes Ms. Pac-Man to lose a life). Eating an energizer (or "power pellet") causes the monsters to turn blue, allowing them to be eaten for extra points. Bonus fruits can be eaten for increasing point values, twice per round. As the rounds increase, the speed increases, and energizers generally lessen the duration of the monsters' vulnerability, eventually stopping altogether.
Differences from the original Pac-Man
- The game has four mazes that appear in different color schemes and alternate after each of the game's intermissions are seen. The pink maze appears in levels one and two; the light blue maze appears in levels three, four, and five; the brown maze appears in levels six to nine; and the dark blue maze appears in levels 10 to 14. After level 14, the maze configurations alternate every fourth level.
- Three of the four mazes (the first, second, and fourth ones) have two sets of warp tunnels, as opposed to only one in the original maze.
- The walls have a solid color rather than an outline, which makes it easier for a novice player to see where the paths around the mazes are.
- The monsters' behavioral patterns are different, and include semi-random movement, which prevents the use of patterns to clear each round. Blinky (red) and Pinky (pink) move randomly in the first several seconds of each level, until the first reversal. Inky (cyan) and Sue (orange) still use the same movement patterns from the previous game to their respective corners, again until the first reversal.
- Instead of appearing in the center of the maze, the fruits bounce randomly around the maze, entering and (if not eaten) leaving through the warp tunnels. Once all fruits have been encountered, they appear in random sequence for the rest of the game, starting on the eighth round; a 5000-point banana can be followed by a 100-point pair of cherries.
- The orange monster is called Sue, rather than Clyde; her color was later changed to purple in Pac-Land to differentiate her.
- When Ms. Pac-Man makes contact with a monster and dies, she spins around, or as the back of the flier says, "she dramatically swoons and falls" rather than folding in on herself like the original Pac-Man did.
- The three intermissions follow the developing relationship between the original Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man (from when they first meet to having a stork drop off their baby). The latter later served as the basis for the attract opening sequence in Jr. Pac-Man.
- The sound effects and music are all new.
Ms. Pac-Man was originally conceived as an enhancement kit for Pac-Man called Crazy Otto, created by programmers employed at the General Computer Corporation (GCC). While Crazy Otto was under development, GCC settled a lawsuit with Atari over their Missile Command conversion kit Super Missile Attack. Part of the settlement terms barred GCC from selling future conversion kits without consent from the original game manufacturer.
Rather than scrapping Crazy Otto entirely, the programmers chose to present the completed game to Midway, Namco's American distributor of Pac-Man. Midway had become impatient in waiting for Namco to release its next Pac-Man game (which would be Super Pac-Man), and were enthusiastic that such a game had come to their attention. They bought the rights to Crazy Otto and worked with GCC and Namco to prepare the game for release. In final development, the game's name and characters experienced multiple changes. Sprites, text, and minor game elements were altered to better reflect the Pac-Man series. The game was initially titled Super Pac-Man, containing Pac-Man as the lead character. Inspired by the cutscenes of Crazy Otto featuring Crazy Otto's female counterpart, the lead character was made female and the game was renamed Pac-Woman. That name was dropped in favor of Miss Pac-Man, but the developers then realized that, given the third intermission showing a stork delivering a baby to Pac-Man and the player's character, confusion could arise about their relationship. In light of this, the name was changed to Mrs. Pac-Man, and then finally to Ms. Pac-Man, which rolled off the tongue easier. Programmer Steve Golson said "in the span of just two weeks, it went from Crazy Otto to Super Pac-Man to Miss Pac-Man. These later changes (Miss, Mrs., and Ms.) all occurred within 72 hours of actual production.
According to one 1982 estimate, a majority of Pac-Man players were women. Shortly before release, Stan Jarocki of Midway stated that Ms. Pac-Man was conceived in response to the original Pac-Man being "the first commercial videogame to involve large numbers of women as players" and that it is "our way of thanking all those lady arcaders who have played and enjoyed Pac-Man." The game was later awarded the Certificate of Merit as runner-up for Coin-Op Game of the Year at the 1982 Arcade Awards held in January 1983.
After the game became wildly popular, Midway and GCC undertook a brief legal battle concerning royalties. The Killer List of Videogames notes that the game was produced without Namco's consent, causing both companies to eventually turn over the rights to Namco. Ms. Pac-Man was reportedly the first in a series of unauthorized sequels that eventually led to the termination of the licensing agreement between Namco and Midway. However, GCC co-founder Doug Macrae has disputed these reports, noting that Masaya Nakamura, Namco's president at the time, gave him direct feedback on the Ms. Pac-Man character. In an interview, Macrae said, "We sent out ROMs to Midway, and they sent them over to Japan for the President of Namco, Masaya Nakamura, to look at. He said, 'Love the concept, get rid of the hair.'" He added, "There was a little bit of embarrassment [at Namco] of the fact that the sequel was being done somewhere other than in their own laboratories. ... The arrangement that Namco had with Midway was that Namco would still get their royalty on Ms. Pac-Man ... and Midway could choose to do whatever they wanted in paying us a royalty in addition to Namco."
Atari, Inc. released versions for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, and Atari 8-bit family. There were also versions for the VIC-20, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, Apple II, and Texas Instruments TI-99/4A released under the Atarisoft label. Unlike Pac-Man, most home versions of Ms. Pac-Man include all four intermission screens from the arcade game. The Atari 2600 rendition of Pac-Man was infamous for its flashing ghosts, while the 2600 port of Ms. Pac-Man had minimal flicker.
A tabletop version of Ms. Pac-Man was released in 1983 by Coleco. The unit was shaped like a miniature arcade cabinet, was controlled with a small built-in joystick, and used a multicolor vacuum fluorescent display. It was a runner-up for Stand-Alone Game of the Year at the 1983 Arcade Awards held in January 1984. In 1991, Atari Corporation released a version for the Lynx, introducing new mazes, a fourth intermission, and a power-up that gives the player a temporary speed boost.
Tengen would release an unlicensed port of the game in 1988 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1993, Namco released their original port of Ms. Pac-Man in North America themselves, eight years after its original release in Japan. The Genesis, Master System, and NES versions, by Tengen, and the Super NES version, by Williams Electronics, took a few liberties. They featured four different sets of mazes: the original arcade mazes, bigger mazes, smaller mazes, and "strange" mazes. There was also a Pac-Booster option that let players make Ms. Pac-Man move much faster which was only available in the original arcade game from a maintenance menu. These versions also allowed two people to play simultaneously, with player 2 as Pac-Man. The game ends at level 32, with an intermission where Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man say good-bye. It was released for the Game Boy Color with two new mazes and a bonus game (Super Pac-Man).
In 2001, Namco released an arcade board featuring both Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga in honor of the 20th anniversary of both games with the subtitle "20 Year Reunion / Class of 1981". It also features Pac-Man as a hidden bonus game. The later 25th Anniversary Edition allows all three games to be selected at the main menu. Ms. Pac-Man is included in the CD-i Arcade Classics collection (released in Europe, but not in North America). It has all of the extra features of Tengen's ports, even though neither Tengen nor Williams Electronics made this version. It is included in Namco's, Microsoft's and Atari's late 1990s series of classic game anthologies, and is an unlockable minigame in the SNES version of Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures and in Pac-Man World 2. A standalone, battery-powered version of the game released by Jakks Pacific can be plugged directly into a television. Ms. Pac-Man and four other games (Galaga, Mappy, Xevious and Pole Position) are included in a self-contained joystick hand controller. Ms. Pac-Man was also a free game bundled with every Xbox Live Arcade disc for the original Xbox. The Xbox 360 XBLA version was released on January 9, 2007, featuring an online leaderboard and twelve achievements. Ms. Pac-Man was later released on Namco Museum Volume 3; however, there is no mention of it in Namco's official archives (including the archives on all Namco Museum releases).
As of July 11, 2008, Ms. Pac Man is available for Apple's iPhone through the App Store. The game was also released in July for Windows Mobile. As part of Pac-Man's 30th anniversary, Ms. Pac-Man is one of the games included on the home version of Pac-Man's Arcade Party arcade machine. Pac-Man's Arcade Party was succeeded eight years later by Pac-Man's Pixel Bash, which added 19 games to the existing roster, but Ms. Pac-Man was only available if the machine was set to Free Play. It was included as downloadable content in Pac-Man Museum for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360. In June 2020, Tastemakers' Arcade1Up decided to announce that Ms. Pac-Man would finally be added to their lineup of 3/4 scale arcade cabinets. The unit will also contain a few other Bandai Namco arcade games, including Galaxian, Pac-Mania, and Pac-Man Plus.
InfoWorld stated that Atarisoft's Ms. Pac-Man for the Commodore 64 was as good as the best-selling Atari 8-bit version.
The Genesis version of the game sold more than one million copies in the United States.
Reviewing the Super NES version, three of Electronic Gaming Monthly's four reviewers said the gameplay is timeless and universally appealing, and the enhancements appealing. The fourth, Sushi-X, felt the original game was a cheap cash-in on the popularity of Pac-Man, and had not aged well. Doctor Devon of GamePro liked the original game but questioned the value of the Super NES port since it has somewhat frustrating controls, and since Ms. Pac-Man had already appeared on the Super NES in the form of an unlockable in Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures.
In STart, Clayton Walnum praised the Lynx version's new mazes and the added twist of the lightning power-ups, and found the game transferred well to the small screen. Julian Rignall reviewed the Atari Lynx port for CVG Magazine writing that "it offers a fun and non-violent challenge which will appeal to anyone" giving a final score of 79 out of 100. Les Ellis reviewed the game for Raze Magazine in February 1991, he liked the "neat little between-level scenes" and the "jolly title tune" giving a final score of 79%. Robert A. Jung also reviewed the Lynx version which was published to IGN. He wrote in his final verdict, "A decent adaptation overall, and a good game in its own right." Giving a final score of 8 out of 10.
In 1996 Electronic Gaming Monthly reported that the Genesis version of Ms. Pac-Man, which was released in 1991, was still among the top 20 best-selling Genesis games. The same year, Next Generation ranked the arcade version as number 12 on their "Top 100 Games of All Time", saying that it has aged far better than the original Pac-Man due to its smarter monster AI, varied mazes, moving fruits, and intermissions. They added, "It has the broadest appeal of any game Next Generation has seen, with the possible exception of Tetris. Women love it. Men Love it. Children love it." In 1997 Electronic Gaming Monthly listed the Genesis and Super NES versions as number 89 on their "100 Best Games of All Time", stating that the "Two-player simultaneous play and new mazes completely revive this classic." In 1999, Next Generation listed Ms. Pac-Man as number 41 on their "Top 50 Games of All Time", commenting that, "It sounds easier than it is, and it makes the game one we consistently go back to, week after week."
In 2009, Game Informer put Ms. Pac-Man 10th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time", saying that it "trumped [the original Pac-Man] in nearly every way". This is down one rank from Game Informer's previous best games of all-time list. Entertainment Weekly called Ms. Pac-Man one of the top ten games for the Atari 2600 in 2013. In 2016, Ms. Pac-Man placed 5th on Time's The 50 Best Video Games of All Time list.
The GCC group had sold the rights to Ms. Pac-Man to Midway in 1982, as at the time, they held the intellectual property license for Pac-Man from Namco. In the years since, the Ms. Pac-Man license fell back to Namco (now Bandai Namco) after Namco terminated the licensing deal with Midway in 1984.
Around 2019, AtGames, a company that specializes in microconsoles featuring older arcade games, had approached the GCC group members about licensing Ms. Pac-Man. AtGames had learned that while some of the ongoing royalties for the Ms. Pac-Man were being met by Bandai Namco, they were not meeting all the terms. Bandai Namco, on learning that AtGames has been seeking these rights for a possible mini-arcade game, filed a lawsuit against AtGames, declaring that AtGames was violating Bandai Namco's control of the license.
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- Good, Owen S. (September 26, 2019). "AtGames, sued by Ms. Pac-Man's owner, buys up royalty rights to the icon". Polygon. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ms. Pac-Man.|
- Ms. Pac-Man at the Killer List of Videogames
- Ms. Pac-Man at the Arcade History database
- Ms. Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 at Atari Mania
- GCC 2004 reunion audio Presentation by GCC alumni of their company history, including development of Ms. Pac-Man
- Twin Galaxies has a scoreboard for Ms. Pac-Man high scores (registration required)