North American arcade cabinet (1981)
General Computer Corporation|
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players, alternating turns|
|Cabinet||Standard upright, mini-upright and cocktail|
|Arcade system||Namco Pac-Man|
|CPU||1x ZiLOG Z80 @ 3.072 MHz|
|Sound||1× Namco WSG (3-channel mono) @ 3.072 MHz|
|Display||Vertically oriented, 224 × 288 resolution, 16 palette colors|
Ms. Pac-Man is an arcade video game from the Golden Age. It was produced by Illinois-based Midway Manufacturing corporation, the North American publisher of Pac-Man. Ms. Pac-Man was released in North America in February 1981, and is one of the most popular arcade video games of all time. This popularity led to its adoption as an official title by Namco, the creator of Pac-Man, which was released in the United States in late 1980. Ms. Pac-Man introduced a female protagonist, new maze designs, and several other improved gameplay changes over the original Pac-Man. Ms. Pac-Man became the most successful American-produced arcade game of 1982, selling 115,000 arcade cabinets.
The gameplay of Ms. Pac-Man is very similar to that of the original Pac-Man. The player earns points by eating pellets and avoiding ghosts (contact with one causes Ms. Pac-Man to lose a life). Eating an energizer (or "power pellet") causes the ghosts 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 ghosts' vulnerability, eventually stopping altogether.
There are also some differences from the original Pac-Man:
- The game has four different mazes that appear in different color schemes, and alternate after each of the game's intermissions are seen. The pink maze appears in levels 1 & 2, the light blue maze appears in levels 3, 4, & 5, the brown maze appears in levels 6 through 9, and the dark blue maze appears in levels 10 through 14. After level 14, the maze configurations alternate every 4th 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 ghosts' behavioral patterns are different, and include semi-random movement, which prevents the use of patterns to clear each round. Blinky and Pinky move randomly in the first several seconds of each level, until the first reversal. Inky and Sue 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 ghost 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 ghost 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 have changed to 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 attract opening sequence for Jr. Pac-Man.
- The sound effects and music are very different from those of the original game, including a new opening theme and death sound effect.
- As with Pac-Man, this game has a bug in the subroutine that draws the fruit, which renders the 256th round unplayable. However, the game also has other bugs that cause it to crash or become unplayable much sooner, making it impossible to reach Round 256 without the use of emulation.
|Level||Item||Points awarded for item|
After level 7, any fruit will appear, although its point value will be the same (unlike in Pac-Man, in which the Key will always be the fruit after level 13).
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 for the name Miss Pac-Man was chosen, but because of the family imagery in the third intermission, protests were feared about the Pac-couple having a Pac-baby out of wedlock. The name was changed to Mrs. Pac-Man, and then finally to Ms. Pac-Man, which rolled off the tongue easier. 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 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 accomplished 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. GCC co-founder Doug Macrae has disputed stories that the game was manufactured without Namco's blessing, claiming that then-Namco president Masaya Nakamura had even provided feedback over character artwork during the game's development.
Ms. Pac-Man was later released on the third Namco Museum game; however, there is no mention of it in Namco's official archives (including the archives on all Namco Museum releases).
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.
Like many other games of its era, Ms. Pac-Man has been ported to many platforms.
- A Mini-Arcade 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 awarded the Certificate of Merit as runner-up for Stand-Alone Game of the Year at the 1983 Arcade Awards held in January 1984.
- Atari, Inc. released versions of it for its Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, and Atari 8-bit computer line. There were also versions for the Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, IBM PC, Apple II, and Texas Instruments TI-99/4A. A version of Ms. Pac-Man was also created for the Puffer exercise bike controller by Jim Leiterman for the Atari 5200 as part of the Puffer project, but was never intended to be published.
- Atari Corporation later released a version for the Atari Lynx, introducing new mazes, a fourth cartoon (called School Bus), and a power-up that gave the player a temporary speed boost.
- The Mega Drive/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. All of these versions also allowed two people to play simultaneously, with player 2 as Pac-Man, either cooperatively or competitively. The game also ended at level 32, at which point an intermission that did not occur in the original game took place, where Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man say good bye. The Mega Drive/Genesis version of the game sold more than one million copies in the United States.
- Namco also released Ms. Pac-Man to the NES in 1993. Unlike the Tengen version, it was a straight port of the arcade game without any added features, except for 4 extra mazes.
- Ms. Pac-Man was ported to the CD-i as part of an Arcade Classics collection (released in Europe, but not in North America). It had all of the extra features of Tengen's ports even though neither Tengen nor Williams Electronics had made this version.
- It has also been 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.
- It was ported to the Game Boy Color with two new mazes and a bonus game (Super Pac-Man).
- 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.
- As of July 11, 2008, Ms. Pac Man is available for Apple's iPhone through the App Store, and features all 256 levels. The game was also released in July for Windows Mobile Professional.
- 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.
- In December 2013 it became available for Android.
- It was also included as downloadable content in Pac-Man Museum for PlayStation 3, Windows and Xbox 360, free to download until March 31, 2014. It then became a $4.99 paid download afterwards.
InfoWorld stated that Atarisoft's Ms. Pac-Man for the Commodore 64 was as good as the best-selling Atari 8-bit version.
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-violet challenge which will appeal to anyone" giving a final score of 79 out of 100.
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 ghost 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 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.
During Season 5, Episode 6 (“A Modest Proposal”) of the television show Weeds, live action gameplay captured from a Ms. Pac-Man screen forms a segue between scenes. It establishes the depressive state of main character Andy after lead character Nancy leaves him a ”Dear John” letter. He uses most of a cash windfall to purchase extravagances such as an arcade machine for his living room. Game sounds punctuate the episode’s plot, especially a later scene where Nancy leaves Andy’s house. Just after her departure, the game over sound plays, highlighting a turning point in the two characters’ relationship.
In Season 8, Episode 12 ("The One Where Joey Dates Rachel"), of Friends, Phoebe gives Monica and Chandler a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game as a wedding present.
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- Ms. PAC-MAN now available for your iPod
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- Walnum, Clayton (December 1990). "The Lynx Collection". STart. No. 39. Antic Publishing. p. 71.
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|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
- GCC 2004 reunion audio Presentation by GCC alumni of their company history, including development of Ms. Pac-Man
- Ms. PAC-MAN for iPod at NamcoGames.com
- Ms. Pac-Man (360) Reviews at Metacritic
- Ms. Pac-Man at MobyGames
- Ms. Pac-Man on IMDb
- Twin Galaxies has a scoreboard for Ms. Pac-Man high scores (registration required)