This is the one Namco doesn’t like to talk about, and only begrudgingly acknowledges because it’s so darn popular.
While the original Pac-Man was developed in Japan by Namco, this sequel was actually the result of an unofficial modification made by a U.S. company called General Computer that specialized in conversion kits of popular arcade games. Through some interesting lawsuits and business dealings with Namco’s American partners, Atari and Bally/Midway, the game that was originally called “Crazy Otto” ended up becoming an official part of the Pac-Man legacy.
One has to wonder if some amount of hubris is at work here. Ms. Pac-Man trumped her predecessor, and ended up becoming one of the most successful arcade games of all-time in North America. None of Namco’s own internally developed follow-ups, including Super Pac-Man and Pac & Pal, managed to catch on in quite the same way.
Ms. Pac-Man made all the right improvements on the original game to make it even more fun and challenging. There were four different mazes instead of just one. The bonus fruit bounced around all over the screen instead of just sitting in the middle. The ghosts followed far less predictable patterns, preventing the kind of manipulation that allowed for “perfect” games to be achieved in the original. Even the game’s intermissions (or cutscenes) told a story, rather than simply present random skits.
While Pac-Man was deliberately designed to appeal to women, Ms. Pac-Man was even more successful at this, as well. Not only was it one of the first games to have a female protagonist, but the pastel color scheme and cheery music and sound effects also made it popular with female players.
There’s not really a whole lot to say that hasn’t already been said about such a classic. This is one of those timeless games that’s as much fun now as it was in 1982. The game is available on just about every platform and digital store that you’re likely to have access to, so it’s extremely easy to get your hands on it. (Heck, unlike the original, even the Atari 2600 version is pretty good!)
In fact, this year marks the 30th anniversary! So, now’s a good time to play a few games of Ms. Pac-Man to celebrate the occasion! Just don’t expect Namco to join in. (Party poopers.)