Remake Roundup: Pac-Man
Welcome to the Remake Roundup! Here we take a look at an unsuspecting old school original and roundup a tasty smattering of new retro remakes. In this edition: we take a look at the godfather of game characters himself: Pac-Man.
Born from a simple template, budding game designers have turned the game into anything and everything; from a physics-based puzzler, to a philosophical journey, to a nightmare of creeping dread. Wakka-wakka onward to learn more…
The Original (1980)
Pac-Man wasn’t the first video game, but it was the first video game. For a game about eating yellow balls while being chased by the undead, it’s probably the most singlehandedly game-changing force behind the popularisation of video games in the 1980s. What more could I say about this game that hasn’t already been said? For once, Wikipedia is on the money here: “Pac-Man is considered one of the classics of the medium, virtually synonymous with video games, and an icon of 1980s popular culture.” Pac-Man went on to spawn more ports and follow ups than I can count here, and even spawned a
mega 90’s radical 80’s cartoon series of which I embarrassingly watched far too many episodes (hint: more than one).
Despite The Pac’s heavyweight status as an enduring cultural and gaming symbol, Pac-Man the game, like many early video games, mostly failed to thrive beyond the era from whence it came. Sure, almost everyone knows who He is, but when was the last time you played the game? How many Pac-Man games do you own? Are you eagerly awaiting the latest gritty Pac-Man action adventure reboot on the PS4? Call it a hunch, but pretty sure the answers will all be in the negatory. Compared to say, Mario–a plumber who has become a master at kart racing, golf, tennis, intergalactic travel and also acquired a medical degree at some point, to name just a few–the fundamental gameplay of Pac-Man had not able to so dutifully continually reinvent itself during the 20th century (with notable albeit failed attempts):
Pictured: No, thanks
On to the remakes, then. Luckily, it seems, once we hit the 21st century the rules changed and people learned how to redo Pac-Man – Namco seemed to learn from its past mistakes, and independent game makers also stepped up to create some of the most vibrant, interesting and downright unusual remakes that you could possibly imagine.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ (2007-10)
It feels only proper to begin with an official remake. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+, isn’t, despite the naming convention, a Capcom release but a snazzy high speed neon soaked update from original developer Namco. While working with the core Pac pellet munching gameplay, DX+ adds a modern touch, including powerups, bombs and bulletime-style slowdowns, chains of ghosts to pursue you (the more chasing you the more points you get, the more you eat the faster you get) and a variety of levels and game modes. All of these things have been done in a way that both honours and enhances the core gameplay – making for a choice remake.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ | Steam
Pac-Man: a tribute project (2012)
Moving on to the free indie games, we open up, as per protocol, with a straight up remake. Pac-Man a tribute project faithfully replicates the gameplay of not only the original but its sequel, Ms. Pac-Man, and two bonus versions (Otto man and Cookie-Man). The remake goes beyond this though, adding a ‘learn mode’ where you can visualise and learn the ghosts’ behaviour, a ‘practice mode’ which allows you to slow down or rewind time, and a sophisticated procedural map generator. If you want to re-experience old skool Pac-Man, then a tribute project is kind of kind of like the holy grail of directors cuts.
Pac-Man a tribute project | Play Online
The Pac-Man (2012)
The Pac-Man should probably receive the award for “most in-depth narrative in a Pac-Man game”, since it provides a philosophical level of Pac-related commentary previously unheard of.
Aside from its meta-analysis of Pac-Man’s existential themes, The Pac -Man is deceptively colourful, and deceptively hard. You progress across a world map, gulping through bright, happy mazes, which get increasingly large and complex over time yet quickly begin to feel quite claustrophobic and challenging (especially given the tight time limits). The Pac-Man doesn’t stop there though, as it begins to play with the Pac-Man formula in subtle but important ways – don’t expect power pellets on every level, and don’t get comfortable thinking four ghosts is the maximum you’ll face. One level even declares “pellets are no longer enough”, requiring you consume the ghosts themselves to satisfy your cravings.
The Pac-Man may be pretty basic remake in many ways – but bright visuals, subtle inversions of the classic gameplay and well written dialogue make this one worth a place on the list.
The Pac-Man | Download
Pac-Man Zero G (2009)
Pac-Man gets experimental – because the LSD the developers took to design the original game apparently wasn’t enough. This take on the classic applies the real-world laws of physics to the otherwise inertia-less two-dimensional world, because reasons. Eat a power pellet, create a gravity well and watch the principles of gravity and inertia do their thing. It’s kind of like that version of Tetris which similarly applied real world physics – it’s a hot mess, but one that needs to be experienced at least once.
Pac-Man Physics | Download
Anyone with even a passing familiarity to the ‘.exe’ nomenclature will probably instantly recognise Pacman.exe as part of the ‘Creepypasta’ thrift (since retitled to just ‘Pac-Man’, but with those funky distorted letters horror games are so fond of). For those that don’t: it’s basically a format of “take an ordinary game and turn it into a horror game”.
While not a huge fan of the movement, it actually works fittingly well here, perhaps even making more sense this way. Here, the player’s field of vision is limited to see what Pac-Man can see – adding a whole new dimension to the gameplay (since you are after all in a maze), while the ghosts’ behavior is also… (more) unique, such as flicking in and out of existence and generally being far more well, ghost-like.. It’s suitably disturbing since after all, we’re talking about ghosts here. Oh.. One moment, I think I heard a sound in the basement, be right back… It’s… It’s in the room. It watcheESS >S #@$FDSG.
Pacman.exe | Download
This was just a handful of the endless Pac-Man remakes and re-imaginings that exist. Seriously, of the roundups we’ve done so far, Pac-Man is by far the most abundant well of innovation I’ve come across. We may even do the unheard of and make a second Pac-Man Remake Roundup (let us know if you’d like that), there’s just that much to choose from!
In the meantime, if you are looking for the classic Pac-Man experience, then both Pac-Man CE DX+ and the Pac-Man tribute are clear winners. If you want the classic gameplay but with modern touch, Pac-Man Remake is your man. If you want to experience something a bit different, both Pacman.exe and Pac-Man Physics are both worthwhile downloads.
We found so many colourful remakes and re-imaginings that we couldn’t fit them all in. Heck, there was even a re-imagined gritty reboot.
Check out part 2 of the Remake Roundup: Pac-Man here.
If you can’t get enough and want to obsessively learn more about Pac-Man and its many ports, followups and remakes, you can stay up all night sitting at the computer in your underwear while reading this extremely detailed retrospective:
or also this extremely detailed one:
or just check out this general Pac-Man themed blog:
Posted on February 22, 2016, in Arcade and tagged Free, Horror, Pac-Man, Pac-Man Physics, Pac-Man Tribute, Pacman.exe, Physics-based, Remake, Remake Roundup, The Pac-Man. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.