What do you give the video game that has everything? The original Pac-Man was all that a good arcade game should be easy to learn, difficult to master, incredibly addictive. Machines became choked on quarters as players plunked down coin after coin to keep munching those glowing dots. But not even millions of dollars in revenue could buy that little yellow fellow the one thing he lacked: love. So, one year later, Bally/Midway created Ms. Pac-Man.
In reality, Ms. Pac-Man was designed to address a few concerns about the original. First were the Pac-maniacs who had managed to memorize unbeatable patterns, allowing them to play for hours on a single quarter. Ms. Pac-Man fixed that little quirk by making its four ghosts – Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Sue (filling in for Clyde) smarter and therefore deadlier. The new game also featured four different mazes, each with different side exit locations, adding to the challenge for veteran gamers.
The second concern was that video game players were still predominantly male. Ms. Pac-Man’s saucy good looks were designed to change all that. The yellow, round, missing-slice body remained intact, but the Ms. knew how to accessorize-bright red lipstick, cheek mole and a red bow on top (along with a single eye, one more than her male counterpart). The game’s new look was also reflected in the brighter graphics, which changed color schemes with each new maze.
Gameplay, of course, remained the same. Ms. Pac-Man chomped her way through a maze of dots, pursued by the four ghosts. The four energizer pellets turned the tables on the spirits, allowing our hero a limited amount of time in which she could chomp them into temporary oblivion. Once a maze was cleared of dots, a new one began, occasionally preceded by an inter-act animated retelling of the Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man romance.
The only other major change was in the nature of the bonus fruit. Instead of sitting invitingly in the center of the maze, Ms. Pac-Man’s treats – cherry, strawberry, peach, pretzel, apple and more – bounced around the field, playing hard to get.
The changes may have appeared minor…some technical, some cosmetic, but they made a world of difference. Ms. Pac-Man carried on the Pac-Man family name with pride, becoming a mammoth success in its own right. Of all the Pac-Man games (and there were many), this is the one most likely to still be plugged in and ready to play in a small corner of your local arcade. She may not have been first, but in the minds of many Pac-fans, this little lady will always be the best.