Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-Man

Behind every great Pac-Man...

It seems that Pac-People have suffered greatly from personality conflicts; never quite sure who they really are or where they came from. No matter, so long as they know what they're doing, and in that respect, the first official sequel (which was also the best unofficial bootleg) to the biggest selling arcade game of all time was a dot eatin' sensation and gave birth to the original videogame family.

Toru Iwatani (Pac-Man's creator) had nothing to do with the sequel. Instead, it was born as an enhancement kit to the original coin-op circuitry built by a group of likely lads from MIT and dubbed Crazy Otto. This wasn't the first time these enterprising fellows had been caught tinkering in the back of an arcade cab, as its development was made possible by profits from a previous enhancement kit for Atari's Missile Command.

By blagging Midway into believing Atari's lawsuit had fallen in their favour, Midway decided to commission Crazy Otto as a direct sequel; changing its name to Mrs. Pac-Man. Then Miss Pac-Man, and finally (after much deliberation about the moral implications of an unwed virtual family unit) Ms. Pac-Man. Eventually, both GCC (the company formed by the MIT boys) and Midway panicked over a potential lawsuit from Namco, and signed over Ms. Pac-Man's rights to the Japanese developer. The insult ran deep, however, and it's only in recent years Namco have even acknowledged the game's existence.

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Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-Man

Hungry for more.

'Why bother releasing Ms. Pac-Man when Pac-Man's already on Live Arcade?' is a not an unreasonable question to ask. Well, for a start, Ms. Pac-Man is by far the better game, offering four different maze variations. "Four, you say?" Yes, four. As in four times as many as dear old Pac-Man, therefore, four times as much fun. 32/10!

Of course, its place on Xbox Live Arcade more than 25 years after its release is more down to Microsoft's (and specifically Namco's) ongoing desire to populate the service with as many bona-fide hall-of-fame-worthy museum pieces as possible, as opposed to considering how well it stands up to scrutiny by the current audiences. Besides, who cares what 'the kids' think when there are literally millions of people - this reviewer for one - who have so much nostalgia wrapped up in games like Ms. Pac-Man that their hilarious simplicity doesn't even come into it. It's a retro pill that you take that transports you back to a time when this new form of entertainment was at the stage where practically everything you saw was new and exciting - and in an arcade that enveloped your ears and eyes with unfathomable things that collectively screamed THE FUTURE. *Pop*

Back on planet Earth, the strange thing about Ms. Pac-Man was that Namco didn't even develop it, or have any part in its inception. With Pac-Man mania rife in 1980 and 1981, numerous clever types hacked the original machine and worked on slight variations. One such variant was Crazy Otto, a bootleg version of Pac-Man presented to Namco's US distributor Midway for consideration by some folks working for General Computer Corporation.

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Ms. Pac-Man going Live

On the Arcade tomorrow.

Kristan squealed with delight this morning when he learned that this week's addition to Xbox Live Arcade would be Ms. Pac-Man, set to waka-waka way onto the download service tomorrow morning at 9am.