Pac-Land, Arcade

Developed by Namco and released into arcades in 1984, Pac-Land is a departure for the Pac-Man series because this time it’s a platform game. And a pretty good one at that.

Pac-Man runs along to a colourful, side-scrolling, cartoon landscape, dodging traffic, ghosts on pogo sticks, jumping over obstacles, eating dots and power pills and generally trying to get to the end of the stage (in this game the stages are called “trips”) without losing any lives. And within a time limit.

The control system is a bit strange. You basically push left and right to make Pac-Man move, and he runs – with momentum – at different speeds and can jump higher, the faster he’s running. To slow him down you push in the opposite direction. When Pac-Man is in a mid-air jump you can also keep jabbing forward to make him glide – vital for getting over some of the larger water traps. You encounter these in every level and you jump over them with the aid of a springboard.

The water jumps from level three onward require perfect timing on the springboards, and also perfect use of glide to get over. They’re almost impossible to make… Thankfully players can start at the beginning of any of the five available “trips”; a quite innovative feature for the time.

If you make it to the end of a ‘trip’ a fairy gives you a set of magic boots and you then have to run back home in the opposite direction. Luckily the magic boots allow Pac-Man to jump in mid-air, so getting back is much easier. It’s a nice little feature anyway – having to do the level in reverse with a new special power.

The music is jolly and memorable in Pac-Land; the graphics are simple but beautifully drawn and coloured. The unorthodox control system makes the game more challenging than it looks. If you had better control over Pac-Man then the game would probably be a walk-over… So it’s probably for the best that the control system is so weird.

Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto has said that Pac-Land had a profound effect on the Mario games that he made, which is some compliment, although in reality he was probably just determined to make something with a control system that didn’t suck… 🙂

More: Pac-Land on Wikipedia

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