“ Ms Pac-Man is just like the mega hit arcade game from the intermissions to the bouncing fruit treats you had better catch her while you can. Now play this game alone or with a friend connect your gameboys for the double Pac Man mania. Scramble around your „
** Background **
The arcade game Pac-Man probably needs no introduction, and even in the unlikely event that it does, it's pretty easy to explain: you rush around a maze eating dots (and sometimes fruit) and keeping out of the way of ghosts, apart from when you eat a power pill at which point you can chase them. Simple! Unsurprisingly given the original's enormous success, it spawned a number of sequels which enjoyed a greater or lesser degree of success. This 1999 cartridge for the colour Game Boy brings together versions of the first two follow-up games: Ms. Pac-Man from the dim and distant days of 1981 and Super Pac-Man which originally appeared a year later.
** Ms. Pac-Man **
It's really rather remarkable that Ms Pac-Man managed to gain as much success as it did, given how very similar its gameplay is to its progenitor. It's true that for an arcade game to have a female protagonist was a very unusual thing in the early 1980s, and the game itself is well designed and pretty enjoyable to play, but you don't really get a *lot* out of it over and above what you can take from the original. One of the changes that is significant is that, while in the original Pac-Man the ghosts' movement followed very definite patterns, here there's a certain amount of (pseudo-randomness) which means that the old expert's trick of "blindfold" Pac-Manning won't work here.
The graphics and sound are very much in the same mould as with the original Pac-Man, but I rather prefer them. In particular, the little intro jingle that plays just before the game proper begins is much nicer than its equivalent bleepy tune on the older game. The character design for Ms. Pac-Man herself is not exactly original - she gets a ribbon in her hair and a dimple on her cheek - but I suppose when you're writing a game in which the central personality is a circle with a segment chopped out of it, there isn't an enormous amount of room for manoeuvre! The old "wokka-wokka" sound of dot-eating has gone the other way, in that I think the earlier game's sounds had more tension and drama to them.
** Super Pac-Man **
The other game in the pack is slightly more of a mould-breaker - though "slightly" really is the operative word here! You still control a (male) Pac-Man, and you still wander around a maze wary of ghosts... but it's now fruits (apples on the first stage) which play the part of basic score-racker-upper and which have to be cleared. Scattered around the maze are little keys, and when you collect one of those entry is enabled to certain other parts of the screen - you need to collect all of them, since the level cannot otherwise be completed. As you continue through the game, you'll find an extra challenge provided by the fact that keys no longer always open *nearby* doors!
The traditional power pills are still in existence, and still allow Pac-Man to gobble up ghosts; but now there's a second sort of pellet too, which when eaten will turn your little yellow character into an outsized version of himself - the "Super Pac-Man" of the title! This makes him invulnerable to ghosts (though he can't actually eat them) and allows him to barge down doors without having found the requisite key. Another potential way to rack up points is the "bonus box" which sometimes appears close to the centre of the screen, containing rapidly changing symbols; how many points you get for eating it depends on just what those symbols are at the time.
Although it's a later and rather more complex game (as is also demonstrated by the existence of against-the-clock bonus levels here and there) I'm not really anything like as enamoured by Super Pac-Man as I am by Ms. Pac-Man. Especially on the Game Boy's small screen - which itself forces a slightly annoying scrolling viewport of the maze - the enormous sprite that is the "super" version of the character looks rather silly, almost as though there'd been a strange bug in the programming! Apparently when it came out a number of players found it rather confusing, and I'm not entirely surprised. It didn't do anything like as well in the arcades as the earlier (or many later) iterations of the franchise.
** Buying and verdict **
Both these games are brought to the Game Boy Color with considerable fidelity, allowing for the obvious limitations of the handheld's hardware. These are old enough titles that even the frankly feeble sound capabilities of the GBC don't really get in the way, while the aforementioned scrolling viewport undoubtedly *is* annoying but can't be helped without making the sprites so tiny as to be eye-straining anyway. It's not a terribly rare cartridge, though you might have to shell out £7 or so, and if you can see past the really rather hideous pink-dominated label (and box, if you have it) design then Ms. Pac-Man is a great game, Super Pac-Man perhaps rather less so. Three and a half stars, nudged down to three because Ms. Pac-Man alone will be cheaper and almost as much fun.