The Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around a relatively simple maze, gobbling small yellow dots and evading four monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, red power pellets enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period for an escalating score. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to chase you anew. If cleared of dots, the maze refills and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Coleco, 1981)
Memories: When Atari’s VCS translation of the immensely popular Pac-Man debuted to almost universal scorn, Coleco’s marketing division must have cheered. The market was primed for a good game of Pac-Man, and with the first in its line of licensed “mini-arcades,” Coleco had just the ticket every kid was looking for.
Coleco’s Pac-Man features a version of the original arcade game, plus two Coleco-invented variations and a demo mode. In its native mode, Pac-Man is a decent game, playing very much like the arcade game. While the jury’s out on how much it looks like the arcade game, it certainly veers much closer to hitting the mark than Atari did on the VCS. What that same jury would likely unanimously agree on, however, is the sound: this game has, quite possibly, the most gratingly annoying sound ever produced by an electronic device, at least until the invention of ringtones. Yeah, it does mimic the constant “siren” sound of arcade Pac-Man, but in the worst possible way. I distinctly remember this machine being confiscated from me during a long childhood road trip at least once.
Eat & Run Pac-Man is basically Pac-Man without the dots – there are only the four power pellets (differentiated from the other dots by being red instead of yellow), you, and the ghosts. Head-To-Head Pac-Man, a nifty combination of the original arcade game and Coleco’s trademark two-player games dating back to Head-To-Head Football, is a real hoot – provided players can keep track of whose Pac is whose. Once that mix-up occurs, it’s usually lunchtime for the ghosts.
Despite the sound, one has to give Coleco a lot of credit – with incredibly limited audiovisual resources on their hands, the Pac-Man mini-arcade did a fantastic job of bringing the arcade game home (just like Coleco’s commercial involving an arcade-bound Pac-addict and his long suffering ladyfriend said). It’s a great game, but what I wouldn’t give for a volume switch…