Atari 2600’s flawed Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man ports

Ms. Pac Man at SoCal Retro Gaming Expo 2017

Attendees at the Southern California Retro Gaming Expo, held inside the Ontario Convention Center over the past weekend, were able to play Ms. Pac Man as well as many other older games for the Atari 2600.

The video below shows gameplay footage, and also gives a partial view of the exhibit hall at the convention.

There is no doubt, Ms. Pac-Man, back then, is aesthetically different than any Pac-Man port today. Besides the graphics, the sound effects are not exactly what younger gamers are familiar with, when playing Pac-Man.

Despite the primitive (but distinguished) looks and sounds, Ms. Pac-Man was surprisingly a step forward for the franchise. Just watch the older Pac-Man port for the Atari 2600 first in order to compare.

It is awful! For one, Pac-Man makes an even worse sound when eating pellets. Instead of what most people recognize, he makes a loud, clanky noise while moving across a screen far removed from the arcade version.

The sound made when dying is a bit brighter. But, it soon fades away into the screeching introduction tune and the same ear-crunching noise when eating the pellets. Pac-Man can eat the power pellet as usual in order to eat the ghosts, but then another screeching noise comes on screen to make players go deaf from torture.

To make matters worse, the ghosts warp across the screen in no time instead of taking a specific path.

Ms. Pac-Man, which is not perfect, at least has a somewhat pleasant sound when eating pellets. Also, when she eats a power pellet, rather than screeching noises there is a more subtle pattern. This time, the sound is more reminiscent of a timer gradually becoming louder, but not in an annoying fashion.

If the convention video is hard to watch, than check out the retrogameclips account for a more direct recording.

As strange as this might seem considering the so-so graphics, the graphics in Ms. Pac-Man are better than in Pac-Man. There is a better use of colors, and Ms. Pac-Man herself appears more mobile, if that makes any sense for a Pac-Man game. From reading the YouTube comments, there are apparently extra course maps too.

Anyways, retro video game conventions always stir up old memories and bring up discussions of whether certain games age well. The arcade Pac-Man certainly held up extremely well, but the franchise needed time to progress on the home console side. If nothing else, it went from painful with Pac-Man, to playable with Ms. Pac-Man.

These days, near flawless Pac-Man ports can be found on just about any console.

Yet, something remains special about playing a flawed home-console port of an arcade classic, whether it is Ms. Pac-Man or another game. Currently, arcades are almost extinct, so kids will never know the joy of simply getting a taste of higher gaming. In that sense, it is good retro cons exist, to remind everyone consoles were far from perfect.

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