The Game: As a round yellow creature consisting of a mouth and nothing else, you maneuver around relatively simple mazes, gobbling small dots and evading five colorful monsters who can eat you on contact. In four corners of the screen, larger dots enable you to turn the tables and eat the monsters for a brief period. Periodically, assorted items appear near the center of the maze, and you can consume these for additional points as well. The monsters, once eaten, return to their home base in ghost form and return to chase you anew. If you clear the maze of dots, you advance to a new maze and the game starts again, but just a little bit faster… (Atari Games [under license from Namco], 1987)
Memories: I still refer to this game, only half-jokingly, as Paxxon. It resembles nothing so much as classic Pac-Man played from Zaxxon‘s three-quarter overhead view. The only real game play innovation brought about by this vaguely 3-D perspective is Pac’s new ability to jump over monsters, though even this escape method has some bizarre physics: if Pac takes to the air as he’s going around a corner, he will still go around the corner, only airborne. Don’t ask me how that works!
Pac-Mania was the final Pac-Man arcade game released in the 1980s, and it was really as far as the basic Pac-Man structure could be stretched before evolving into a platform/quest game such as Namco’s Pac-Man World home video game in 1999. Still, even for its time, Pac-Mania was an incredibly sharp 3-D game, with some extremely crisp and colorful graphics. Things were made easy by making the light source and any necessary shading and shadows stable, so there’s not a whole lot of rendering required.
Pac-Mania was translated to a few of the home computer formats available in the late 80s, and Atari’s Tengen label also released versions for the NES and Sega Genesis. Perhaps the most faitful version appears on the final volume of the Namco Museum series for the Playstation in 1996. The game’s display was altered slightly to fit the horizontal dimensions of TV screens rather than the coin-op’s vertical display, but other than that, it’s the same game.