Reviewed: January 28, 2007
Released: January 10, 2007
I never really associated gender to the original Pac-Man character. After all, “man” was part of his name so I just naturally assumed he was either male or gender-neutral, but in the world of videogame anatomy, apparently the only difference between male and female is a bright red bow and some lipstick. Either Pac-Man was a cross-dresser or a new videogame character was born.
Either way, Ms. Pac-Man sprang into action shortly after her male counterpart had paved the way for maze exploring, ghost gobbling, dot munching gameplay. Long before the Spice Girls coined the term, Ms. Pac-Man delivered serious “Girl Power” and attracted a whole new gender to the arcades. Video game nerds huddled in corners like a high school dance, as females actually invaded what was previously a “boys only" clubhouse - the arcade.
Ms. Pac-Man introduced several new concepts to the early days of video games. In many ways, we all got an early taste of cutscenes, as we explored the complicated romantic entanglements of boy meets girls, boy chases girl, boy bumps into girl, stork delivers baby. Holy crap! With sex ed. like this it’s no wonder the boys were all avoiding the girls at the arcade.
Ms. Pac-Man also changed up the Pac-Man gameplay by offering new and more colorful mazes to explore, increased difficulty, and fruit pick-ups you actually had to chase down and eat for those coveted bonus points. All of that 80’s glamour is back in this latest Barbie-pink Xbox Live Arcade remake, complete with Live Leaderboards and moderately challenging Achievements.
I won’t drag this section out longer than it needs to be. You simply move Ms. Pac-Man around the maze with the analog stick, D-pad, or arcade joystick, avoiding the ghosts, eating dots, and chasing down the various fruit and other bonus objects that bounce through the mazes. Four power pellets located around the maze will turn the tables on the ghosts and for a brief time you can eat them earning big points.
As you get further into the game the ghosts get faster and smarter as they work together to surround you and head you off at the pass. The duration they remain blue after you eat a power pellet also gets shorter, so you have to work harder at grouping them together before you eat the large dot. Eventually, they won't even turn blue at all. The mazes also get much harder with long passages offering no escape and circular paths that you can easily get trapped in.
As seems to be the trend with these XBLA remakes, there is no support for two-player gaming. In the 80's we used to be able to take turns playing these arcade games, but apparently 21st century gamers are perceived as too selfish to pass the controller when they die. Personally, it's not a huge deal for me, but I can see friends and family waiting impatiently for a gamer to lose all three (or four) of their lives before it's their turn.
The visuals for Ms. Pac-Man are spot-on accurate, and much like other classic arcade games that played on a 90-degree rotated screen, the Xbox fills in that unused space with cheery cabinet art. It’s a little too pink for my taste, but it fits with the female theme of the main character in the game.
The vibrant colors really glow in high-definition and the animated sprites, mazes, dots, ghosts, and fruit all look 100% authentic. This is as close as you can get to the original game without going out and buying an original arcade box.
“Wocka Wocka Wocka” is what you hear for the most part, although you do get some cheery tunes during the intermissions. It’s all very authentic and very 80’s and very “bad” by today’s standards, but we expect nothing less from a retro remake.
As with any arcade game there is no real end; only the quest for earning the highest score. Back in the arcade the game only logged the high score but no initials of the person who earned it. Now, with Xbox Live Leaderboards, you can stake your claim to Ms. Pac-Man fame for the entire world to see.
There are 12 Achievements that will earn you the standard 200 points for an XBLA title. These are as simple as merely getting to certain milestone levels within the game and eating the fruit to more challenging goals like eating 16 ghosts in a single level (perfect score).
I can remember playing Ms. Pac-Man when it launched as a stand-up coin-op game, but I really remember logging hundreds of hours playing the sit-down table version of the game at one of the nightclubs I used to DJ at. I’d show up early for my shift, drop one or two quarters and kill several hours.
The Xbox Live Arcade version is a perfect recreation of the original in every way from the 255 original mazes to the graphics and authentic sounds. Chances are you won’t spend too much time with the game after you log those 200 Achievement Points, but for those looking to claim the top spot on the leaderboards, there is a lot of addictive fun to be had with Ms. Pac-Man.