In 1984, on the back of a huge wave of success for their Pac-Man arcade game, Namco developed a platformer which saw Pac-Man reimagined as a proto-Mario.
21st January 2015 KingofMetal79
The game sees you control Namco's iconic character as he navigates his way through Pac-Land in a series of 'trips' (a.k.a. levels) while trying to avoid his arch enemies, the ghosts! However, like many or most platform games the story is not of the upmost importance and the game makes no attempt to explain the reason for Pac-Man's actions or the world in which the characters inhabit.
The game is a traditional platformer where Pac-Man has to progress through the levels avoiding ghosts and obstacles with the goal being to reach the end of the round before the the allotted time expires. At the end of every 3 rounds you enter Fairy Land and are greeted by the Fairy Queen. She supplies you with a pair of magic boots that give you the ability to float/fly by tapping the jump button repeatedly. At this point the game starts scrolling from right to left and you are required to replay the previous 3 levels in reverse and return to your home/start point. If you are successful you progress to the next 'Trip' or level.
The game retains several elements of the classic Pac-Man game such as ghosts, collectable fruit, power pills and the ability to 'eat' ghosts following the ingestion of said power pills.
The game has some great, uplifting, catchy-as-hell coin-op music that can easily hold its own with any of the other platforming greats.
In hindsight the game seems very ahead of its time. While it is one of the first examples of what came to be known as a platformer it introduced many elements that would become staples in the genre - i.e. hidden secrets, collectable helmets/power-ups (for example a baseball helmet that can protect you from falling projectiles) and level warps. Many of these traits would later appear in the more well known Super Mario Brothers franchise (Surely the Tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros 3 was influenced by the Magic boots?)
The game has lovely, big colourful sprites and paralax scrolling (something that wouldn't be commonplace for several more years) - again elements that would define many future examples of the genre (inparticular games like Bonk and Alex Kidd). In terms of art style and vibrancy it is still one of my favourite looking platformers that I still love playing today.
I must admit I do find the game to be challenging. This is primarily to do with the erratic and unpredictable nature of the enemies (which makes avoiding some of the ghosts a challenge) rather than the actual platforming element in most instances. Luckily this is a little offset by the poor collision detection which gives the player that little bit extra breathing space when things get busy. I also find the swimming pool segments frustrating too as the game doesn't explain how to complete these and if you are playing on a cab with a joystick, attempting to repeatedly double tap forward (the stick motion needed to make Pac-Man fly over a swimming pool once he leaves the diving board) becomes problematic as the obstacles get larger.