PAC-MAN is a yellow lump that opens its mouth every now and then to eat pills and scare ghosts. While some wonder what this munchkin is made of, others wonder if the games based around the yellow ball are any good at all. In the meantime, PAC-MAN 99 has even been released, which is like Tetris 99, only without Tetris. Which anyways wouldn’t work, because Tetris with a round object would be just as absurd as a square PAC-MAN
Everything in moderation is healthy, I keep hearing. But eating or drinking in moderation is exactly the opposite of PAC-MAN. His insatiable hunger blinds him. If he is not guided, he runs panting in front of the wall. And if his relentless drive doesn’t get in his way, there are the ghosts that chase after him and his gluttony. But thanks to the consumption of pills, he simply eats them and sends them back to their cage. But if these remedies are missing, there’s trouble. Then only one thing matters: Stuffing in what you can until you kick the bucket.
And so, despite my glorified romanticization for such milestones in video game history, I may also find the reason why I never really got excited about PAC-MAN.
“The 99 series finally gives <em><em>PAC-MAN</em></em> what’s always been missing: a goal.”
No matter how much I admire PAC-MAN after consuming game design videos on the ingenuity of the AI, I can’t stand it. The erratic movement patterns are not a challenge, but harassment, and always lead to death sooner rather than later. Even as a child in the early 90s, I rejected the prospect of being able to at best delay demise. Why eat pills at all if the spirits always win in the end. What’s the point of crunching numbers if there’s no hope of salvation? But now, decades after the arcade release, the game finally gets a purpose. Having already upgraded the barely-improvable Tetris and turned the dusty Super Mario Bros. into frenetic fun, the 99 series finally gives PAC-MAN what’s always been missing: a goal. Beating 98 other maniacs to finally give Pac the breather he’s been waiting for since 1980.
Since the ghost-eating pie chart always reminded me too much of geometry class, I’ve never been an avid PAC-MAN player. I still played the DS spin-off PAC-PIX most often, as it let me draw my own PAC-MAN, which in turn reminded me of my results in geometry class, and rewarded me not with bad grades, but fun animations. The game was not very good. And especially not accurate. Still, it was kind of fun. You can always excite and entertain me with self-drawn stuff. Even though I definitely wouldn’t have won a prize in any Excel class with my results.
It was Pac-Girl that was my first contact with the dots-swallowing game back then. No, not PAC-MAN or Miss Pac-Man, whose name sounds as gender-dissonant as the ownerless ladies’ bicycle. A presumably gray-area-legal rip-off of the original PAC-MAN, Pac-Girl had fed first itself and then my cleanup neurosis. Every dot had to be grazed. This purism didn’t even need an implied mouth shape in a yellow circle, because Pac-Girl had the aesthetic appeal of Snake on a Nokia 6210. Leaping into modern times, I find it exciting how such quaint concepts are combined with modern genres, like a battle royal. There’s nothing purist about it anymore, and I can’t even clean up when everything re-spawns, multiplies and shrinks back into itself every second. I guess that’s what it feels like to grow old.
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