Written by Paul Monopoli

Released: 1999
By: Namco

System: Neo Geo Pocket

Ah Pacman. Not a lot you can say that hasn’t been said already. The game’s 30th anniversary is this year (2010 for those reading in 2011 onwards) so I thought it might be appropriate to do a review on one of the home ports for the little yellow guy.

Which to choose though? There are a lot of unique ports of the game, a lot of which tend to deviate a bit from the original game concept. I tried to find an authentic version of the game steering clear of the horrible Atari 2600 version. I decided to settle on SNKs pocket wonder machine the Neo Geo Pocket. Let’s see what it offers in its port of Pacman.

First thing you’ll notice is the little red circle in the box image above. What does the circle do you ask? Well the Neo Geo Pocket controller moves quite freely, which is great… for most games. If you play a game like Pacman that only requires you to move in 4 directions you can run into problems if you’re a little imprecise. The circle has little grooves in it that when placed around the joystick will only allow 4 way movement. Just make sure you put it on correctly or you’ll have problems.

Now let’s just assume for a minute that someone out there doesn’t know what Pacman is. In Pacman, you play the titular man of pac himself. The goal is to eat all the pellets on the stage while avoiding the ghost monsters. The big pellets allow you to eat the ghosts for a short time, but once they return to their base they’ll be back after you. Once you eat all the pellets you move on to the next round. The sound is basic but iconic & referenced frequently in the media today. The controls use the basic 4 directions & that’s it. No fire button or anything fancy.

There are 4 ghosts: Inky, Blinky, Pinky & Clyde. Each ghost has a different pattern of movements, so learning these is the key to the game. The manual provides a little insight as to how each ghost behaves, so having a quick glance at the rather tiny 8 page booklet will help.

With the Neo Geo Pocket being a handheld, it’s understandable that some people may not appreciate playing Pacman on such a tiny screen. Well Namco have introduced “Scroll” mode, as well as playing the game in the normal full screen. Let’s have a look at the scroll mode first:

The screen is nicely zoomed in to Pacman himself. You are a little restricted as you can’t see where the ghosts are until they’re close to you which can cause problems. If you don’t like playing it that way there’s the full screen mode…

… which really isn’t that bad & is perfectly playable. Playing the scroll mode is like playing Bubble Bobble on the Gameboy. I can’t think of any other comparison off the top of my head. Anyway, I found that frustrating enough, but at least Pacman gives you the full screen option. Bubble Bobble on the GB never did.

I confess to be being a 5 minute Pacman player. I like the game, but I can’t play it for more than 5 minutes without getting bored or frustrated with it. I’ll be as objective as I can though, because it is a classic & I acknowledge that. That being said it is a bit hard to be fair to it when most of the time you see this screen…

… but then again I’m not very good at the game & don’t have the patience to try & be. That being said, as a port Pacman is really well done. As far as I’m concerned I can take or leave the scrolling option. The full screen mode is as good as you’re ever going to see on a handheld. I bought this game for $10 on Ebay, & I wouldn’t personally pay any more for it than that. I give this one 80%.

Yes it was a short review, but it’s Pacman. As I mentioned at the start: There isn’t a lot you can say that hasn’t been said already.

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