"Computer games don't affect kids. If Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music."—Marcus Brigstocke
A well-known game developed by Namco (now Namco Bandai) from The Golden Age of Video Games, and one of the most popular games ever, Pac-Man was the first really successful Maze Game, and one of the first games to be popular with both sexes. It sparked a pop-culture phenomenon, and helped drive the early-1980s video game craze. Ironically, its poorly implemented Atari 2600 port helped turn Pac-Man Fever into Pac-Man Cancer. It also was the first video game to get an Animated Adaptation, with a reluctant Marty Ingels in the lead role.
The game depicts an abstract round yellow character vaguely reminiscent of a head with a mouth opening and closing to gobble up nearby objects. The player must steer the character around a maze and "eat" all of the dots and four special power pellets. Four ghosts pursue the character, and their touch is fatal unless Pac-Man recently ate a power pellet.
The original game famously had no random number generator: The ghosts moved through the maze in a completely predictable pattern. It is said that the ghosts were given different colors to enable the programmers to give each a different "personality" or movement pattern. Top players could develop and memorize specific patterns to clear levels without losing lives. However, the ghosts prove an equal challenge if run on a random AI.
A sequel, Ms. Pac-Man, was even more popular than the original, and featured more complex mazes and randomized play. However, it wasn't actually an authorized sequel. It started life as a bootleg hack of the original Pac-Man called Crazy Otto, which feature the player character as a Pac-Man head with legs. GCC, who created that hack, thought this game could be successful and brought the game to Midway, Namco's American distributor. Midway was impressed and, together with the hackers, edited the sprites back into Pac-Man–style sprites and released it without the permission of Namco because Midway wanted a Pac-Man game out while Namco was readying Pac-Man's true sequel, Super Pac-Man. This made Ms. Pac-Man the most popular bootleg video game ever.
Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man were known for having lots of bootleg versions, many with altered mazes and graphics. They also had unofficial "speed-up kits" that, added to a legitimate machine, made the game faster and presumably harder.
The franchise continued through an endless array of sequels, including a pinball machine and lots of console adaptations. One of the most notable of these is Pac-Man Championship Edition, released for the Xbox Live Arcade and iPhone — notable because it is the only sequel to have been designed by Pac-Man's original creator, Tōru Iwatani. It is also a much faster, more intense game than the original Pac-Man, and was heralded as being "actually a video game now" by several gaming sites.
There's also a special version of the game, Pac-Man VS. for the Game Cube, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and bundled with the Game Boy Advance link cable (as well as several other Namco games, and it was even given away for free at stores!). One of the few multiplayer entries in the series, the game allows up to three players to take control of the ghosts on the TV screen, while a fourth player controls Pac-Man himself on a linked Game Boy Advance, passing systems and controllers among one another between rounds. It also features Mario as an announcer, for some reason, and makes a great party game.
Another notable sequel is Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This game was an adventure game, except instead of controlling Pac-Man, you were an off-screen helper who suggested things to Pac (who had a mind of his own and was prone to moods which affected how he would respond), either by directing him to look in a general direction or by shooting things with a slingshot. You could also give him power pellets, of which you had only three but could find more around the levels. This game also included a full version of the original Pac-Man, and either Ms. Pac-Man (SNES) or the exclusive Pac-Man Jr. (Genesis). Pac-Man 2 was largely forgotten but still has a cult following.
Fun fact: It is one of the few games from the Golden Age to still make money in arcades in some form. Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga and Pac-Man were released as a multiple game arcade machine in 2001, with Pac-Man being hidden or not depending on the version of the machine. There is also a "Penny Falls" gambling machine called Pac-Man Ball that's notable for featuring a screen with a video game mechanic reminiscent of Puzzle Bobble. It actually pays out rather generously, so play it if you find one.
The game was originally released in Japan as "Puck-Man". It was changed for the North American release when marketing noticed how easy and tempting it would be to blot out a bit of the P to undesirably retitle the game. Either version of the name is based on the Japanese sound "paku-paku", for eating.
For the series' 30th anniversary, Google made a new version of the game using a custom map with their name on it. No, really, the map is their name. It's awesome to play, by the way (and the mechanics are scarily accurate to the arcade game, right down to the freaking Kill Screen).
- Adrenaline Time: In Championship edition DX, it's something to help you so the time slows down when you're in a dangerous situation.
- Alertness Blink: When sleeping ghosts are woken up in Championship edition DX, they'll do this with the ! thing over their head and a chirp sound effect.
- Artificial Brilliance: For the time, at least. Because the game doesn't have a random number generator, the ghosts' moves were deterministic, and as a result they all had different tendencies. In "Chase" mode, Red targets Pac-Man, Pink targets 4 spaces ahead of Pac-Man (unless Pac-Man is moving up, then it looks 4 spaces up and 4 spaces to the left), Orange targets Pac-Man when far away and the lower-left corner when close, and Blue... wow. Draw a line from Red to two spaces in front of Pac-Man. Now keep drawing this line past this space until it's twice as long. The end of the line is where Blue targets. Detailed here.
- Ms. Pac-Man mixed things up by making the ghosts move pseudo-randomly for the first 7 seconds. The upside is that you can't memorize paths this time around, the downside is that finishing a level quickly (or "perfectly") now relies on luck.
- Animated Adaptation: Hanna-Barbera in the early 1980s, as noted below.
- Bedsheet Ghost: Although the intermissions in the original game suggest they have some kind of body under there . . .
- The arcade game calls them "monsters". See Fan Nickname below for more information.
- Art Evolution: Pac-Man has changed a lot in design over the years; from this to this and now this. Recently, he and his friends got a complete design overall for Pac-Man Party.
- Big Eater
- Blue with Shock: The monsters/ghosts when an energizer/power pellet is eaten.
- Breather Level: In the round immediately after a cutscene, the ghosts stay blue for longer than usual.
- Cartoon Bomb: The Smart Bomb counter icons in championship Edition DX certainly look like these.
- Catching Some Zs: Sleeping ghosts in Pac Man: Championship Edition DX.
- Confusion Fu: Inky's behavior is somewhat unpredictable. It's based on the relative positions of both Pac-Man and Blinky, and there's a bug involved as well (normally "ahead of Pac-Man" means two tiles ahead in the direction he's moving, but when Pac-Man is moving up, the game thinks that ahead is two tiles up and two tiles left.
- Cutscenes: Speaking of which, are therefore Older Than They Think.
- Difficulty by Acceleration: Until the game eventually crashes.
- Distaff Counterpart: Ms. Pac-Man
- Dub Name Change: An interesting version, as not only were the original Japanese names for the ghosts (understandably) changed for the American market, but so were the descriptors cluing in the player to each ghost's particular movement style. They were:
- Akabei/Blinky - Chaser/"Shadow"
- Pinky - Ambusher/"Speedy"
- Aosuke/Inky - Whimsical/"Bashful"
- Guzuta/Clyde/Sue/Tim/ - Playing dumb/"Pokey"
- This could potentially be considered a little bit of a Dub-Induced Plot Hole due to the fact that the new descriptors for the latter three ghosts don't really match their movements. In fact, despite Pinky being called "Speedy" in the localized version, it's actually Blinky who is the quickest of the ghosts, increasing his chase speed at various stages of progress through the maze.
- Endless Game: As planned, but there's an unintentional Kill Screen after 256 screens. However, every level past 20 is exactly the same.
- Every Ten Thousand Points: Despite the trope name, only the first 10,000 points nets an extra life.
- Extreme Omnivore: Besides pellets, power pellets and ghosts, Pac-Man can eat fruit, Galaxian flagships, bells, keys, and much more.
- Graphics Induced Super Deformed: Rather radical example. In the cabinet art, Pac Man is drawn with legs and eyes. In-game, he's very stylized so only a pie chart remains. This image soon stuck with the audience.
- Hitbox Dissonance: Pac-Man's hitbox is usually smaller than it looks, allowing him to dodge the ghosts more easily.
- In rare cases, Pac-Man can even pass right through a ghost (if he and the ghost "switch tiles" at the same time).
- Invincibility Power-Up: Power pellets.
- Kill Screen: ...not completely endless.
- Marathon Level: World's Biggest Pac-Man, which strings thousands of different user-generated mazes into one gi-freaking-gantic mega-maze. Good luck completing it in your lifetime.
- Nintendo Hard: Pac-Man, Jr.. Large, scrolling mazes, ghosts will make dots slow you down, long corridors...
- Odd Name Out: For the orange ghost. Names of the ghosts were: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and... Clyde.
- The orange ghost's name varies depending on the protagonist -- in Ms. Pac-Man, it's "Sue", and in Jr. Pac-Man, it's "Tim".
- The original Japanese names of the ghosts were always "Akabei", Pinky (The only one who never went through a Dub Name Change), "Aosuke", and Guzuta Even here, Guzuta is still the Odd Name Out due to breaking the Colorful Theme Naming of the other three.
- Older Than the NES
- Our Ghosts Are Different: or possibly not ghosts at all.
- Pie-Eyed: When shown with arms, legs and a face, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man have eyes like these. Appropriate since their pupils are shaped like they are.
- Pinball Spinoff
- Power-Up Food
- Power-Up Motif
- Rule of Funny: Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures lives on this.
- Smart Bomb: You can use these in Championship Edition DX at the cost of opportunity to score higher.
- Something Person: Pac-Man, natch.
- Scoring Points
- Timed Mission: Championship Edition games.
- Turns Red:
- Well... Blinky is already red to begin with, but when a certain number of dots remain (20 in the first level, up to 120 in later levels), he moves faster and becomes even more of a Determinator. And once you've eaten half that number of dots, he'll speed up even more.
- In Namco Classics Collection Volume 2's version of Pac-Man Arrangement, the player is given a visual indication when Blinky goes "Cruise Elroy" (unless he is in his fused form). He raises his arms and gains angry eyes.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Pac-Man 2 gives you many ways to abuse the main character and others.
- Video Game Remake: Pac-Man Arrangement in Namco Classics Collection Volume 2 featured two-player co-op play, new power-ups, and new stage elements. It also introduced a 5th ghost named Kinky who could fuse with one of the other 4 ghosts to give them special powers. This game, in turn, got remade again for Namco Museum Battle Collection.
- From "Akai", Japanese for "Red"
- From "Aoi", Japanese for "Blue"
- From "guzuguzu", an onomatopoeia for sluggishness, and referencing the fact that the he's always the last one to leave the ghost pen at the start of each level.