Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-Man
Company: Atari
Model #:
Allen Wells and Bruce Burns
Year: 1987
Port of the 1981 arcade game


Although just about everyone is familiar with the bow-wearing, fun loving, sex-symbol of the 1980's Ms. Pac-Man, very few people actually know of her rather odd origins.  For you see, Ms. Pac-Man originally started out not as a she, but as a he!  That's right, "She's a man, baby!".  Unbeknownst to most people, the original version of Ms. Pac-Man featured an odd little squat character with long legs named Crazy Otto.  Crazy Otto was actually a complicated hack of the original Pac-Man game created by GCC (this was long before their 2600/7800 days).  When GCC showed their creation to Midway they were shocked by the quality of the game, and bought the rights from GCC.  Crazy Otto was given a sex change and the 'Pac Treatment', and Ms. Pac-Man was born!


Ms. Pac-Man improves on the original Pac-Man formula is several ways.  Ms. Pac-Man features four different maze (as opposed to one in the original), bonus items that move around the maze, improved Ghost Monster AI, and more escape tunnels in most of the mazes.  These gameplay improvements along with better graphics and sounds and brand new intermissions made Ms. Pac-Man a winner from the moment it was released.  Ms. Pac-Man went on to be the top grossing arcade game of 1982 and stayed in the top five for 1983 and 1984.  By 1988 Ms. Pac-Man had sold over 125,000 units and is still a common sight in many arcades to this day.


Since Ms. Pac-Man was such a huge arcade hit, Atari wanted their home ports to be the best they could possibly be.  Since GCC had developed the original arcade game it only made sense that they should develop the home versions as well.  GCC ported Ms. Pac-Man not only to the Atari 5200, but also to the Atari 2600, Atari 400/800, and Atari 7800.  Ms. Pac-Man was also ported to just about every system and computer and even made its way onto modern systems like the Genesis, Super Nintendo, and even the iPod.  To date there are over 25 official ports and just as many unofficial ones.  That's a lot of ports!


Did you know that the original launch titles (Centipede, Asteroids, Ms. Pac-Man, Joust, and Dig Dug) were all supposed to have color labels?  Atari was originally planning on releasing the 7800 cartridges with the same color labels as the 2600 (only with a grid pattern and the artwork tilted), but decided to go with gray as a cost cutting measure.  A small number of each game with the colored label was made for the original test run of 7800s (the boxes for these games also had the grid pattern and the manuals were in color), but very few of these cartridges exist to this day.  Food Fight was also supposed to be made with a color label, but only pre-production art proofs exist. 


The Atari 7800 version of Ms. Pac-Man is a bit of a disappointment.  Not only does it look suspiciously like the Atari 5200 version, but it sounds pretty much the same as well.   There appear to be minimal upgrades to the graphics (the fruits have more colors, the maze walls are thinner, and the maze is more vertically stretched), but it does play a little faster than the sluggish 5200 version.  Programmer Allen Wells was involved with both versions, so one has to wonder if some code wasn't reused.  While it's not a bad game (Ms. Pac-Man will always be a fun game), the 7800 could do so much better.


Version Cart Text Description
?/??/84 Ms. Pac-Man
Very close to final


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