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Opinion — Pac-Man Has Always Been The Bad Guy

Dear Video Game Fans,

As readers of this fine web site and
magazine might know, I recently reviewed the 2016 video game 
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. I loved the way it reworks
concepts from the classic Pac-Man arcade game and modernizes them without
compromising its core conceit: eating dots and killing ghosts. I wrote that
review with confidence in my assertion that it was one of the exalted Good
Games and stand by what I wrote.

However, as I continued playing more
of it in my free time post-review, a seed of doubt began to grow within me. I
had been wantonly chasing high scores for the better part of an hour, looking
to score an S-rank on the Hexagon course. As I devoured my umpteenth ghost
train, one of the little suckers’ eyes caught my attention. They may have just
been several dots put together without a mouth or visible reaction, but they
nonetheless evoked an empathy I’d never felt before.

And I realized this entire time,
Pac-Man has been the bad guy, and we have all been complicit in his Pac-Mania.

Before we fall down this rabbit
hole, let’s establish what does and does not count when it comes to Pac-Man.
All the supplemental material (
the TV show, the other TV show, the cereal, etc.) does
not count as things we can use for evidence. It is puck propaganda; none of it
is true, and the fact that the networks who aired or produced it failed to
conduct even the most rudimentary fact-checking before showing it is shameful.

Most Pac-Man games beyond the first
Pac-Man and the Championship Edition series don’t count either. For one, the
details of Ms. Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man, and whatever other members
of the extended Pac-Family I’m forgetting are irrelevant to Pac-Man’s role as a
horrible monster, and I want to protect their innocence. Another reason they don’t
count is because there are just so many of them, and going through every
Pac-Man is more work than I’m willing to put in to make my point.

What does matter is Pac-Man’s
central premise. First, consider the inspiration for one of Pac-Man’s most
unique traits: power-ups. Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani 
has stated power
pellets were inspired by how Popeye becomes more powerful after eating spinach.
This puts into perspective the basic conflict at the heart of Pac-Man: that of
the slighted protagonist seeking revenge. Like Popeye, Pac-Man is helpless
against his foes until he eats his favorite food (in Pac-Man’s case, cookies,
which is what each dot represents 
according to Iwatani). He’ll die if the ghosts (who are
presumably other dead Pac-Men) touch him. But the power cookie grants Pac-Man
vindication: Finally, he can turn around and give the ghosts who have oppressed
him their due.

Now, we don’t know for sure why Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde chase
Pac-Man around. We can’t be sure if he’s an intruder in their realm searching
for cookies, or if the ghosts have invaded Pac-Man’s cookie-littered home.
Either way, Pac-Man has a right to defend either himself or his home from
ghosts who are aggressively attacking him. The conflict is justifiable, if a
little lopsided.

Pictured: A tragic massacre.

But with every new game, Pac-Man has
grown more powerful. By the time Championship Edition released, Pac-Man was
nearly unstoppable. In that game, he encounters enough power cookies to eat
ghosts almost constantly. In Championship Edition DX, ghosts are hardly a
problem – most of them lie sleeping around the course, and in his wanton
cookie-eating rampage, Pac-Man wakes them as he passes by. The ghosts rightly
become agitated and chase him around for waking them up. But because most of
them simply follow behind, they don’t really threaten him unless he turns
around (usually after eating another power cookie).

In Championship Edition 2, ghosts
don’t even harm Pac-Man the first time he bumps into them; Pac-Man has to
bother them repeatedly for them be a threat. And when he eats a trail of
ghosts, the game revels in his murder by panning the camera upward as he
ascends a spiral of ghost-death. The game's giant boss ghosts are a final
attempt to get Pac-Man to stop eating so many damn ghosts, but to deal with
them Pac-Man summons his own army of Pac-Men to devour them. The scene of a
crew of Pac-Men devouring a sea of helpless ghosts is altogether too much.

At this point, Pac-Man is far from
the vindicated Popeye character Iwatani set out to make him. Pac-Man has no
excuse for recklessly gobbling up ghost after ghost. This goes so beyond
self-defense. I could go a step further and suggest the Pac-Man series has
always been about the gluttony of modern consumerism, but by writing this
sentence, I already have. No way does a puck (or a pizza that’s missing a
slice, or whatever Pac-Man is) need to eat cookies that badly.

Some might say he’s not too
different from the average video game protagonist, who is often endowed with
more than enough tools to overcome any situation, even when they’re portrayed
as the underdog. The main difference here is that Pac-Man is a monster who has
decided to kill hundreds of Pac-Men who have already died. He is irredeemable.

I am not calling for a ban of
Pac-Man. There are no laws currently in place that could stop him, and I doubt
our legislature could put them in place. But that’s not what this is about. I’m
still going to play more of Championship Edition 2 and kill hundreds (possibly
thousands) more ghosts because I’ve decided that’s the kind of person I am. No,
this is about coming to terms with what our entertainment is telling us,
whether by choice or by accident. The Ghosts in Pac-Man have always been
portrayed as villains, but they are victims. Pac-Man has always been the hero,
but he is a monster. And we have been complicit.

Thank you for your time.


P.S. Please watch this video evidence if you are
not convinced. – The Feed

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Review – All Aboard The Ghost Train

At its core, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is still Pac-Man. You still run around a maze eating dots, and when you eat a power pellet, it’s time to go to town on some ghosts. But the Championship series tinkers with everything else core to the experience, modernizing the game to fit current standards of arcade fun. Championship Edition 2 further messes with the Pac-Man formula, modernizing the series yet again while proving its timelessness.

The biggest difference this time is speed. In Championship Edition 2, Pac-Man is less the happy-go-lucky puck you remember and more a bullet train of dot and ghost destruction. The game speed on each of the 10 courses starts slow, but ramps up to the point where just making a turn on time is a challenge as the course changes every time you eat a fruit. The best path might literally be laid out in front of you, since early portions of the map have only one string of dots to eat, but making sure you follow it (or find your own, better path) is the fun part.

Championship Edition 2 builds on its predecessor in a number of smart ways. In DX, sleeping ghosts are strewn around the course, and when you wake them up, they follow you until you eat a power pellet, at which you point turn around and eat several of them at once. It’s an incredible feeling, but Championship Edition 2 doesn’t hand it to you on a silver platter. Instead, those enormous ghost trains scatter when you eat a power pellet, and you have to outmaneuver them. 

As a reward for your hard work, when you eat the first ghost in a train, the view switches to an isometric perspective, giving you a more dramatic look at your ghost buffet. When you eat the last one left on a portion of the map, Pac-Man flies off the level as he eats the spiral of ghosts in the sky. It’s a ridiculous, amazing moment you have to see for yourself.

Championship Edition 2 makes lots of other minor changes, almost all of them for the better. Bombs are no longer a get-out-of-jail free card, the slow-mo close-up that happens when you got near a ghost in DX has been replaced by the ability to brake whenever you like. You can run into ghosts twice before they turn angry and go after you; to compensate, sleeping ghosts attach themselves to active ones instead of following behind you, making them larger obstacles. The overall speed is faster, too. All these changes make it harder and more intense. In my best moments with Championship Edition 2, I feel like I’m just barely in control of the world’s fastest ground vehicle, and its name is Pac-Man.

The game also gives you a few different ways to play with these changes. You can go for high scores in the main Score Attack mode, or you can practice on a course whenever you like for fun. Even without the external motivation to accomplish a task, running around these mazes is still a fun, frantic experience.

You can also test your skill the Adventure mode, which tests your skill by having you complete challenges under a strict time limit. Adventure also adds boss levels, which have an enormous ghost made up of dozens of other ghosts floating behind the course at all times. These ghosts collide with the course as you play, angering every ghost and making things more difficult for you. When you finally get to the single power pellet at the end of the stage, Pac-Man becomes an army of Pac-Men, which then devours the dozens of ghosts that comprise the big one.

Each trial has three difficulties, and depending on which you choose, you’ll get between one and three stars. In order to unlock each boss level and proceed to the next set of trials, you have to get a certain number of stars to unlock more trials. This isn’t really a problem until you have to unlock the final boss level, which requires you to be finish every trial in the game on Pro difficulty. This turns the game into a chore, since at the point you’re playing to accomplish a set goal that might be out of your reach instead of aiming for a high score. If running trials over and over again doesn’t sound like fun, you can always hop back into the score-based mode.

Pac-Man Championship 2 is an outstanding example of a franchise reinventing itself. Bandai Namco adds just enough twists on Pac-Man to make it fresh for modern audiences while making sure the game is still Pac-Man, making for one of the best arcade-style games in recent years. When we talk about how so many franchises mine our nostalgia instead of trying something new, it’s because games like Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 prove that with some revamping, our old favorites can be timeless.

This review pertains to the PC version. It also appears on PlayStation 4 and PC. – The Feed

Test Chamber – Chomping On Giant Ghosts In Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2

Despite how great the Pac-Man: Championship Edition games are, they don't seem to get a lot of attention. They're a great mix of regular Pac-Man and modern design sensibilities, and it's a ton of fun to eat a giant train of ghosts all at once.

You can read more about why I love Championship Edition 2 so much in my review, but you need to see it in action to really get it. Matt Miller, another big fan of the Championship series, joined me for a Test Chamber showing off the sequel's changes, modes, and giant ghosts. You can find the video below.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

For more Test Chamber, click the banner below, or check out our hub. – The Feed

This Dog Might Be One Of The Best Pac-Man Players

Looking for your daily hit of adorable? Check out this video of a dog running through a real life version of a Pac-Man maze.

HelloDenizen put together this impressive video of one of the best game playing dogs we've seen since the release of Tony Hawk Ride. Does this make you excited for a new Pac-Man game? You're in luck as Pac-Man 256 recently debuted on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. – The Feed

Remixing The Arcade Once Again With Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

The 2007 release of Pac-Man Championship Edition revitalized the classic arcade series in unprecedented ways. The rules were bent, a bit of adrenaline was injected, and the result was a pulse-pounding arcade experience that reinvigorated a fan base.

With Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, Bandai Namco looks to do even more renovating. The team is taking more liberties with its legendary formulas. While that kind of expansion beyond what made the original so great in the first place doesn't always work in entertainment mediums, if what I played of Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is any indication, this follow-up is well on its way to giving fans yet another reason to binge on dots and devour wandering ghosts.

Aside from the updated electronic music and surprisingly 3D visuals (despite the gameplay remaining staunchly 2D), the first thing you notice is that, much like its predecessor, this is no ordinary take on Pac-Man. Rather than playing through as many levels as you can, your focus is completing goals such as leveling up the dots to make them more valuable, or waking up sleeping ghosts in order to form massive ghost trains, which can be consumed for an enormous amount of points. Trust me, few things are as satisfying as finally catching a fleeing train of several ghosts and watching Pac-Man munch all of them down.

Another thing I learned early on is that the days of instant death when touching a ghost are behind us with Pac-Man CE 2. Rather than first contact with ghosts leading to a contorted Pac-Man with his famous death jingle, you now can run into ghosts three times before they get angry and attack. This may sound like it dumbs things down too much, but as the chaos mounts and more stuff begins appearing on-screen, you'll be thankful for the leniency.

Some stages now implement jumps, which are done by hitting a certain spot in the maze. Doing so causes your Pac-Man to leap over walls in the maze to the destination point of that jump. It came in handy when I was running from an angry ghost, or if I needed to make it to the other side quickly. 

In addition, a new boss battle mode lets you take on massive enemies in a frantic scurry to eat pellets to power up enough to damage the enemy. This continues on the tradition of remixing the classic arcade modes to fun results.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 gave me such a rush while playing. The stress of moving super fast while dodging obstacles, collecting fruit and pellets, and listening to high-intensity music makes for a chaotic experience I can't wait to dive back into. If you're excited to play you won't have long to wait too long, as Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is currently scheduled to launch on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in September. – The Feed

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Announced, Coming In September

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 was announced by Bandai Namco today. It will be released in September.

The follow-up to Pac-Man Championship Edition, released in 2007, this digital-only game will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game will be on the show-floor at San Diego Comic Con, which stars tomorrow, at booth 129. You can check out the first trailer for the game down below.

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For more Pac-Man, check out our review of Pac-Man Museum, released in 2014. – The Feed

Bandai Namco Brings Pac-Man 256 To Consoles and PC

If you missed the latest mobile Pac-Man adventure, you'll have a chance to play this Summer on consoles and Steam. The endless maze runner Pac-Man 256 will debut on PS4, Xbox One, and PC this June.

Pac-Man 256 debuted on mobile phones and tablets last August, bringing the classic gameplay and mazes to an all new platform. To celebrate the birthday of the titular hero, Bandai Namco announced today that the mobile game developed by Hipster Whale and 3 Sprockets will finally be headed to consoles and PC this summer.

(Please visit the site to view this media)

The game launches on June 21 with all the
features from the original mobile release as well as a brand-new local
multiplayer mode for up to four players. Players will have to work
together to conquer the ghostly enemies from the original 1980 arcade

The gameplay of Pac-Man 256 was inspired by the glitched final level in the original arcade version that would bring up a kill-screen ending the player's progress. There are plenty of Pac-Dots and Power Pellets to be consumed, and each run-through of the course will unlock new power-ups and abilities.

Additionally, in-app purchases like the Coin Doubler on the mobile version of the game will be discounted from May 19 to May 27 in celebration of Pac-Man's birthday. – The Feed

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night, Alan Wake, And Pac-Man Now Backwards Compatible On Xbox One

Microsoft announced today that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Alan Wake, and Pac-Man are all now available to play as backwards compatible titles on Xbox One.

We knew Alan Wake was on the way, thanks to a promotion related to the upcoming Quantum Break, and Symphony of the Night was accidentally revealed in a leak, but Pac-Man is a surprise.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Alan Wake and Pac-Man are Xbox Live Arcade titles, so you should see them in your library to download them on Xbox One if you already own them. Like all Xbox One backwards compatible games, you can either play the digital version of Alan Wake, or if you own the disc, you can use that to play, too.

[Source: @majornelson]


Our Take
Well, this is annoying. I have barely started The Division, and now I have to go play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night just because I am reminded it exists, can play it on the console that is currently hooked up to my TV, and it's awesome. Thanks a lot Microsoft! – The Feed

Pac-Man And His Ghostly Foes Star In New Funko Figures Line

The toy company behind the Pop imprint of pop culture vinyl figures, is releasing their take on the cast of
Pac-Man in March. Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and all those dastardly
ghosts are getting the Funko treatment with beady black eyes and extra big

Pac-Man is pretty much just a big
head already, so the adjustment isn’t as striking as seeing Peyton Manning's enormous noggin.
There’s no word on when these figures will be up for pre-order, but
they will be releasing alongside Dark Souls III’s Red Knight in March

For more information about when Pac-Man will gobble his way onto your desk, head here. You can also check out our other
Pop figure coverage here.

[Source: Funko] – The Feed

Ms. Pac-Man Going Under The Microscope At GDC

Ms. Pac-Man was the wildly popular sequel to an early arcade sensation, and it's the subject of a postmortem talk at next year's GDC.

The game didn't start as an officially sanctioned sequel. It began as an add-on kit for arcade operators looking to extend the lifespan of their Pac-Man arcade machines. That game – Crazy Otto – so impressed arcade giant Midway that they licensed the game and retooled it as Ms. Pac-Man.

Steve Golson, the game's designer and engineer, will be at GDC further discussing Ms. Pac-Man in depth. The event is being held from March 14-18 in San Francisco.


Our Take
I've gone to several of these classic-game postmortems, and they're a fascinating glimpse into gaming history. I'm looking forward to hearing more about Ms. Pac-Man, considering its fairly weird past. The simple addition of giving Pac-Man a love interest led to several family-themed sequels and laid the foundation for the cartoon. Pretty cool, considering how it came to be. – The Feed