Atari 2600

Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 3

Sound: 2

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 3

pacman.gif (4384 bytes)There are many mysteries that have yet to be solved by mankind: the statues at Easter Island, the existence of extra-terrestrials, and the Atari 2600 release of Pac-Man. Whereas in my opinion the first two mysteries solve each other, I can't even begin to understand the latter. Were the game designers rushing things a bit? Had they ever actually played Pac-Man in the arcades? Perhaps extra-terrestrials created the game and slapped an Atari sticker on the mold. There's surely an explanation to why this game was released the way it was, but whatever it may be, it was a grave disappointment to the Pac-loving community.

For starters, the graphics are just plain awful. At a time when third-party developers had seemingly unlocked the mysteries of VCS game design, Atari turned around with this effort that looks like it belongs in the first wave of carts, right along with Breakout, Outlaw, and Slot Racers. But wait - this was 1981, more than three years after those titles were released! There is some serious flickering going on when the ghosts get close together, which varies depending on how many of them are in the game. Mighty distracting, I’ll tell ya. Then there’s the missing bonus items suspiciously replaced with a “vitamin tablet”. No cherries, strawberries, etc... just that tablet. A square, orange tablet. Complements the square dots, square maze pattern, and squared-off Pac-Man and ghosts. My friends, this game is squarer than the squarest thing you ever saw.

Then there’s the sound, which consists of some unusual “clang” effect that would have been terrific in a shooting game but seems out of place as the dot-gobbling sound Pac-Man is supposed to make. The death sound and maze intro tune are pretty good, though. Still, what you’ll hear and remember the most is mostly clanging as you play, and that doesn’t sit right with me.

You could almost forgive Atari if they had just tried to simulate the arcade game in terms of its gameplay, but they failed there as well. The layout is completely different than the arcade and the blocky walls and oversized dots completely alter the atmosphere. A huge scoring display and boxes that represent “number of Pac-Mans left” add to that non-Pac, squarish feel.

One good thing about the game is the control - I had fewer problems “missing the turn” than on other Pac-clones, probably because the openings are so large and the game moves so slowly that you really can’t miss!

A truly forgettable experience. In fact, forget you even read this review and get on with your life.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:29 PM