It was fully my intention to post this book review a little bit earlier, with a “In case you’re still shopping for that nerd on your holiday list…” vibe, but life is what happens…but happy Christmas, solstice, Hanukkah, etc.
I don’t remember the occasion, but I distinctly remember my mother buying this book for me; might have been that she saw it for a cheap price while shopping and thought I’d enjoy it. Over the years my copy had fallen apart from overuse and the general handling of a typical nine-year-old. A year or so ago I was fortunate enough to find a replacement fully intact for a pretty cheap price, probably on Amazon, so I bought it immediately. But before I get into the details, I need to give an update about a Ms. Pac-Man Turbo grab-the-prize-immediately pattern update.
Ms. Pac-Man Turbo Prize Pattern: Atari 7800 Update
Recently I fired up Bob DeCrescenzo’s most excellent Atari 7800 homebrew/hack, Pac-Man Collection! Since I was planning a trip to Underground Retrocade, I set it to Ms. Pac-Man mode, high speed, to get some practice in. Unfortunately, I noticed a slight problem with my pattern for the third maze: Inky would get in the way every time. However, I did find a reasonable workaround. In short, you just need to wait patiently when you get to the bottom right corner, as you can see here:
I apologize for the lousy video quality; for some reason I couldn’t get a bright capture from my Grass Valley device, but you should easily be able to see what’s going on.
Reading Material for the Pac-Maniac
At first glance, Pac-Mania looks like a haphazardly thrown together money grab to cash in on the Pac-Man craze. It might be, but it’s surprisingly well done. The editors of Consumer Guide didn’t make any serious earth-shattering revelations, nor did they go deep in to the origins of the game, but the range that this book covers is pretty wide. As with any other Pac-Man book, there are the obligatory maze patterns, but when I say wide range, I mean wide range: there are patterns not only for the arcade game but also for the Coleco table top and the Atari 2600 versions. There are write-ups about practically every known Pac-Man variation that was available at the time: in addition to the aforementioned Atari and Coleco table top games, Pac-Mania also delves into handheld electronic games (at least one of dubious legality), bootleg arcade games, and even K.C. Munchkin (recently released as a homebrew for Atari 7800, by the way).
Pac-Mania really gives you a good idea of just how rampant the Pac-Man craze was at the time. The book is dense in its 64 pages filled with information about arcade games, home games, handheld games, Pac-Man fan events, and even political cartoons and discussion of legal issues. And this was all when the only Pac-Man arcade video games in existence were Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, plus the Mr. & Mrs. Pac-Man pinball machine, which also gets a little bit of attention.
While Pac-Mania is loaded with information, it doesn’t have everything. There’s no discussion of the famous 256th level, nor is there any discussion of the original inspiration for the game, which itself is up for debate. There’s also no mention of Crazy Otto…or much history behind Ms. Pac-Man at all, come to think of it. But the information that is in the book is both educational and entertaining.
I felt the need to include a lot of pictures to give you an idea of just a fraction of the variety covered by Pac-Mania. Of course, to be fair and encourage you to actually get the book, I had to leave some stuff out, including discussions of the Tomytronics Pac-Man handheld game and the obscure Entex PacMan2 electronic game that gets kind words from the editors of Consumer Guide. And even though technically it’s not a Pac-Man game, the Odyssey2 game K.C. Munchkin! surprisingly gets a great deal of coverage in both a discussion of the game itself and a separate spread about the lawsuits that Atari filed against Magnavox in an attempt to put an end to the game’s distribution. Having said that, I have not done the research, but I’m guessing that games like Clean Sweep for the Vectrex system and MunchMan for the TI99/4A computer — and even the arcade game Lock’n’Chase — hadn’t yet been released to the public at the time Pac-Mania was written, or else the book would have also included discussions on those games, given their obvious Pac-Man influences. (Starting in 2015, I plan to feature one Pac-Man-like game per month in this blog.)
So I’ve mentioned several times about the wealth of information crammed into the 64 pages of this spiral-bound book, but that means there probably wasn’t enough room for pictures, right? Wrong. There’s also a surprising wealth of interesting photos, including not only screen shots and drawings, but also seemingly random photographs of Pac-Man fan events across the country, a Pac-Man sound-alike contest, Pac-Man’s presence in Hollywood, and even a picture of hundreds of Ms. Pac-Man cabinets being assembled outside of Chicago.
As you can tell, I highly enjoy Pac-Mania. It’s a great addition to not only a Pac-Maniac’s library but also anybody who has an interest in video games. This book did an excellent job of capturing the Pac-Man craze, both in text and pictures. As I’m wrapping up this post, I see a few copies for sale on Amazon (which incorrectly states that the book is a hardcover) for about $50 and higher, but a nice copy on eBay for about six bucks; yes, this is a fun book, but not fifty dollars’ worth of fun. If you can find a decent copy for a reasonable price, don’t hesitate to claim it.