The 1982 sequel to the smash hit Pac-Man originally started out as a third party modification kit for Pac-Man machines, developed by General Computer Corporation, and called ‘Crazy Otto‘.
After legal action from Atari, GCC was forced to present Crazy Otto to Midway, the North American distributor of Pac-Man, who bought the game and developed it into Ms. Pac-Man.
Further complicating the story, apparently Midway did this without Pac-Man‘s original owner Namco‘s consent, which caused some licensing issues later. The truth is by no means clear, but in the murky world of video game licensing it is sometimes the case that people sell and exploit rights to products they have no right to.
Ms. Pac-Man is generally regarded as an improvement over Pac-Man. This time there are four different mazes, differentiated by their unique colours. Three of the four mazes have two sets of warp tunnels (as opposed to one in the original). Bonus fruit items now bounce across the maze, rather than appear in one place. The ghosts also have different movement behaviours that change from time to time, including semi-random routines that prevent the player from completing a level to a set pattern. There are also cute intermissions that develop the relationship between Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man.
Overall, though, what characterises Ms. Pac-Man is that it is very, very hard! Much harder than Pac-Man, in my opinion. You need nerves of steel and the reactions of a cat to really get anywhere. The scoring is quite measly too, but you get an extra life every 10,000 points, so that can sustain you – especially if you eat enough bonus fruit.
Arguably the best game in the entire Pac-Man series, Ms. Pac-Man is the brilliant, American response to the Japanese innovation of the first game, and the game was a huge hit with gamers the world over in the early ’80s. In fact: it’s still popular today.
More: Ms. Pac-Man on Wikipedia