Thursday 23 July 2015

Ms. Pac-Man (Atari Lynx review)

Developer: Namco
Publisher: Atari
Released: 1990

Ms. Pac-Man was ported to the Atari Lynx eight years after it first appeared in the Arcades.

There's a total of 25 mazes on offer which include different layouts as well as multiple grid sizes and tunnels. The main objective is simple as you must gobble up all the dots scattered around the level while avoiding ghosts; touching one of them makes you lose one of your three lives. Each corner has an Energizer though and if you collect one you'll be temporarily invincible and be able to eat ghosts for bonus points; the more you eat in a row the bigger your score. Other items occasionally appear around the maze and as soon as you see fruit and pretzels it's worth grabbing them as they also add to your point total. Even on the easiest setting the difficulty in classic mode is sky high as enemies move quickly and the A.I. is smart in reacting to your movements. This is a shame as it's not very accommodating to new players by easing them in for the first few levels. The sprites are very small and it can be tricky keeping up with your character, especially when the action is clustered to one part of the screen. The controls are responsive though and I love the different maze layouts as it keeps things fresh. Pressing the Option 1 button on the title screen reveals a series of more complex mazes that have a unique power-up called the Lightning Bolt. If collected you can activate it with A or B and it makes Ms. Pac-Man zoom around the level at high speed for 15 seconds! This is a great idea as you can rack up some big scores by using it in conjunction with an Energiser. It actually leaves you wanting other power-ups to see how they would affect the gameplay. The A.I. is still brutally tough in this mode but at least the expanded mazes are more interesting and engaging.

Ms. Pac-Man should be a perfect fit on the Atari Lynx but the difficulty is just too high; as a result most people probably will only play for a few minutes before becoming disheartened. It's a real shame too as the gameplay mechanics are generally enjoyable.

Random trivia: When the game was being developed for the Arcades it underwent several name changes including Pac-Woman, Miss-Pac-Man and Mrs. Pac-Man. The final name was decided because it apparently flowed better!

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