Pac-Man and His Clones

Jake Spencer
25 April 2012


"Iconic" is too small a word.

As fun today as it was in 1980, Pac-Man just might be the quintessential video game. Its simple "get this, avoid that" rules laid the groundwork for nearly every action game to follow, and the temptingly-valuable fruits and role-reversing Power Pellets upset all but the most disciplined players' strategies with a perfect balance between risk and reward. The ghost are all at once cute, terrifying, and full of personality, and Pac-Man himself is as sympathetic as any featureless geometric shape will ever be. The maze is perfect, the speed is perfect, the sound is perfect - it's no wonder so many developers ripped off this masterpiece, and no wonder they failed to capture the expertly designed magic of the original.

Ms. Pac-Man

Most people think of Ms. Pac-Man as the sequel to Pac-Man, but this is only somewhat true. In its time, Ms. Pac-Man was what we'd now call a fan mod.

And, honey, dontcha know, she's more than Pac-Man with a bow. Pac-Man's true sequel, Super Pac-Man, is now a historical footnote, while Ms. Pac-Man went on to become the most successful American-produced arcade game of all time. In addition to giving the video game world its first significant female protagonist, Ms. Pac-Man had four new mazes (as opposed to Pac-Man's one), new music and sounds, and just enough randomness to keep players from ever "solving" the game.

This is the only Pac-Man clone that can compare to the original. It's good, but, personally, I don't find it to be an improvement over the first game in any way. Others swear that this is the only maze game worth playing. Ultimately, it's a Coke vs. Pepsi debate - trivial quibbling over minor differences, but I still wouldn't enter a serious relationship with a Ms. Pac-Man fan without serious consideration.

New Puck-X

Ms. Pac-Man may have borrowed liberally from Pac-Man, but at least it's easy to tell the two apart. New Puck-X is the same game with a slightly different maze layout. Honestly, it's not bad, but it is shameless.