I’m honored that my blog has made the No Quarter Podcast show notes! That kind of lit a fire under my tush…it’s been months since I’ve written a new post, and I’ve been promising some strategies for, well…forever, so now’s as good a time as any.
High Score at Underground Retrocade: FINALLY!!
First off, I’m happy to say that I finally took the house high on the Ms. Pac-Man “turbo” cab over at Underground Retrocade! I was just inches away from taking George Strain’s score on June 22, 2014, and I still had another life in reserve. I figured that under these circumstances if I still couldn’t beat the 551,000+ score that stood for well over a year, I’d just have to give up…but nope, I made it! And I kept going…and going…and going…until I reached 760,000. Wow. I think it took about an hour and 45 minutes to reach that score. Honestly, after a while, I just kind of went on autopilot. After you’ve cleared a few dozen mazes with no ghost vulnerability, it’s almost like highway hypnosis. But you know what? I really admire George Strain for keeping that record — and setting all kinds of other house high scores, all of which require a LOT of concentration and endurance. How the guy did it for several games, I have no clue.
How Did I Do It?
So what’s my strategy? Well, it’s not all that complicated, really. All my strategies are based simply on observations I’ve made over the past, oh…thirty years or so I’ve been playing the Pac-Man games. And you know what? I’m not one of those people who won’t reveal their strategies. I mean, come on, now, yeah, your precious video game records are pretty cool accomplishments, but for Christ’s sakes, these are VIDEO GAMES, people; your accomplishments aren’t going to cure cancer, keep the country safe from terrorists, or even get you laid. Yes, I like being competitive, but 1) I consider my competitors (at least locally!) to be my gaming friends; many have shared their strategies with me, and I’m happy to share my strategies with them; and 2) in the end, it’s about having fun.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…
One big thing that helps is to know when the prize (cherry, strawberry, pretzel, etc.) will appear in the maze. As with the original Pac-Man, the prize will appear somewhere between the first 65 and 70 dots, give or take (including energizers), that you gobble up. In Ms. Pac-Man, I have developed mini-patterns that will put me right by a tunnel when the prize appears, and I’ll share my usual pattern for the first maze in this post.
Grabbing the Prize: A Pattern in Three Parts
I have three pictures of the first maze to demonstrate my pattern in three parts. In each picture you’ll notice that the top middle section of the maze is highlighted in red. That’s my warning to you: stay out of there; even in the “turbo” version, it’s all too easy for the ghosts to lock you in at either end. Save that part until the very end of the level if at all possible.
What I strongly recommend you do first is to clear the bottom middle part of the maze first. At the beginning of every level, only one ghost exits the pen in the middle; the rest come out one-by-one later on. It’s too easy to be trapped at the bottom of the maze when all four ghosts are on the run, so clear that part early:
The next thing I do after clearing the dots around that upside-down T-shaped island is pop up on the right side of the T, make a right, then up and clear the dots almost all the way around the horizontal island on the right, but before I complete the path all the way around that island I duck down toward the bottom of the maze, almost forming a question mark for part 2 of the pattern, ending up back on the right side of the “T” island:
Finally, to finish off this mini-pattern, I again exit the upside-down “T” and turn right, but head all the way to the right but I turn up before I get to the maze wall, so that way my path is now perpendicular to the tunnels. Note that I have indicated two points in the path with “1” and “2.” It’s very likely that between those two points, you will trigger the prize coming out of one of the tunnels. Even if the prize is on the other side of the screen, it’s easy enough to slip into a tunnel and grab it.
I Grabbed the Cherries (or strawberry). Now What?
My pattern only takes into account the first appearance of that level’s prize, and the same goes for my patterns for the second, third, and fourth mazes as well. The thing is, once the prize appears, run and grab it — and be careful not to have a head-on collision with a ghost! After that, it’s not really possible to give you a definite pattern, as it all depends on where you end up in the maze after you eat the prize. But to get the next prize to come out of the tunnel, you need to eat roughly 110 more dots (including energizers — those count as dots when it comes to that dancing pair of cherries as well!).
In the mean time, just work on eating as many ghosts as possible. On both levels that use the first maze it’s very easy to eat all four ghosts on all four dots once you get a little bit of practice under your belt, assuming the machine is set to standard difficulty. Pay very close attention, however, when the ghosts are no longer constant blue but flash blue and white. Count the number of times the ghosts flash; once you almost reach eight flashes, turn away, or else you’re in severe danger of losing a life. (I’d wager that the most common cause of death in Pac-Man games is going after the ghosts for too long.) Once you do eat the ghosts, keep in mind that when the ghosts emerge from their pen, they go left, so you’re safe on top of the pen if you’re on the right side — provided you’re not there when the ghosts suddenly decide to change directions.
Words of Warning
Remember, these patterns are specifically for the “turbo” variation of Ms. Pac-Man, which is actually a surprisingly common variation of the game. Even the seemingly ubiquitous Class of 1981 arcade box that includes Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga (and, as an Easter egg, Pac-Man) allows you to engage turbo mode, as does the less-common Pac-Man 25th Anniversary machine. I also use these same patterns with the “turbo” mode in Bob DeCrescenzo’s Pac-Man Collection! for Atari 7800. But yes, the pattern I posted here for the first maze and the ones I will post for the remaining three mazes are custom made for Ms. Pac-Man Turbo. I can’t guarantee that they will work as well — if at all — on the standard version of the game.
I also can’t guarantee that these patterns will even work 100% of the time on an actual turbo machine. One of the reasons that Ms. Pac-Man became much more popular than Pac-Man is that it was all too easy to come up with guaranteed patterns in Pac-Man. Ms. Pac-Man, though, is more challenging with its more unpredictable ghosts who don’t always move in the same patterns. Still, I find that I can easily call audibles on these patterns when necessary. Just make sure that you’re close to a tunnel entrance by the time you eat about 70 dots.
Not sure what my next post will cover. Maybe it’ll be my pattern for the second maze. Or perhaps the Pac-Man game watch that was out circa 1982. Or maybe I’ll be able to brag about achieving my next Ms. Pac-Man Turbo goal: reaching a kill screen.