Pac-Man [Atari 2600]

pac-man_coverAfter neglecting writing about console games for the past 20 years or so, here’s not one, but two for the Atari 2600. One is Pac-Man, the other one a clone. Welcome to Pac-Manday.


Yes, this is the infamous port of Pac-Man on the Atari 2600. A port that was nothing like the Arcade game, which shouldn’t be that surprising, considering the hardware limitations of the 2600.

For everyone who never heard of Pac-Man (do you people really exist?) let me just lazily copy and paste what I wrote for Pac-Mania here a brief explanation of what it’s about: You are Pac-Man, a 30-something, yellow medicine ball suffering from gluttony, always on the lookout for food. One day you find this awesome maze with all those delicious food pellets inside, and that’s just too much for you to resist. Unbeknownst to you, the maze is guarded by a bunch of old-school ghosts, prepared to hunt down anyone who dares to nick those pellets. [Source: The Life Of Pac-Man, Vol. I]

Screenshots (click to enlarge)


If you had a closer look at those couple of images, you would’ve noticed that there’s only one ghost present. “One?! But wasn’t there like four of them in the Arcade game?” I hear you say. Don’t worry, there’s four ghosts, but thanks to the way the Atari port was programmed, only one at a time gets displayed every four frames, creating an ‘interesting‘ flicker effect.

Now, I could go on and talk about how this game was supposedly jointly responsible for the North American video game crash that started in ’83, together with the even more infamous E.T. on the same console [note to self: Put E.T. on shortlist], but I really don’t want to bore you with my unqualified drivel.

Nuff said, watch the video below to see flickering ghosts in action.



That was weird, wasn’t it? Anyhow, I actually did enjoy it on the 2600 somehow and, apart from those flickering enemies it wasn’t all bad. And if you can’t get enough of Pac-Man then read the next short article about one of its clones.


7 thoughts on “Pac-Man [Atari 2600]

  1. Pingback: Alien [Atari 2600] | The Retro Years

    • Oh great. I thought I did come up with some innovative term, but then you come along to show me it’s already been used somewhere else. Booo!

      Edit: Just realised they wrote it differently. Mine was intended to be a pun on Monday. Phew.

  2. My friends and I really enjoyed this port, despite its dissimilarity to the arcade version. Not to mention that the elasticy-bonk sound from eating each pellet is amazing, and forever etched into my brain.

    • I’m just glad that the sound changes every time you collect one of those power-ups, otherwise it would’ve been quite difficult to determine if they’re still active or not, due to all that flickering.

  3. I remember enjoying this on my friend’s 2600. I was surprised when I read all the articles about how bad a conversion it was and just assumed I didn’t realise it at the time because I was too young and naive (those were the days!)

    Given what you guys are all saying, maybe I wasn’t so far off the mark. I need to go back and play it again to find out.

    • There was at least one video on YouTube where the ghosts literally warped through the maze. It did look like a proper glitch-fest, but not because the game was buggy, but because of the way the video was recorded. Remember, there’s technically only one ghost on the screen every frame.

      But yeah, it’s actually not that bad.

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