In 1983, Bally Midway introduced Jr. Pac-Man as the seventh Pac-Man game to date. For classic gamers (or maybe just me), this may be the third most famous variation, of course, after Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. The video game crash of 1984 probably hurt it's chances of being a big success, both at the arcades, and at home - as Atari never bothered to released the all-but-finished 5200 and 8 bit versions. The only thing apparently missing are the intermissions (chase scenes) between some levels.
As the son of Pac-Man, Junior dons a spinning propeller beanie and like-father-like-son is trapped in a maze being pursued by the ghosts, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Tim (looks just like Clyde). You now have 6 energizer pills, and you'll need them because of the unique challenges added to the Jr. Pac-Man mazes. Basically, the maze is now twice as big as the screen! and the bonus prizes create problems wherever they go, culminating in the potential elimination of a power pill. The exit tunnel has also been removed (no loss there).
A set of 7 new prizes introduced for Junior, (in increasing point value) are a tricycle, kite, drum, balloon, train, kitten, and beer glass. I believe the glass remains for the duration. The prizes now create a trail, as any dots they contact transform into super dots. These are worth 5 times the point value, but just as the dots slow you down from full speed, these super dots really slow Jr. Pac-Man down. This is often deadly, but fortunately, the Super Dots all disappear if you do loose a life. The prizes bounce around the screen (just like in Ms. Pac-Man), but not in a preset path (pattern). In fact, in addition to their randomness, the prizes are actually heading for the energizer pills (and sometimes they almost head right for them). The prizes continue to show up after so many dots have gone, but no prize enters after all the power pills are gone, at which point a prize already bouncing around now appears to head towards you. When a prize touches a power pill, both are destroyed in an explosion, and of course, if this is off-screen, the action is put on hold - so that you can see and hear it for yourself. Talk about kicking you when you are down.
Because the maze is twice as big, only half is visible on the screen. Junior remains on screen at all times, but the action scrolls left and right, following Junior, to display the entire maze. Thus one quarter of each maze is to the left and one quarter is to the right of the center section. The scrolling really adds to the challenge - not only might you forget what dots you need to eat, but you do not know where all the ghosts are at, until you find out that one is coming right at you from off the screen. Also like Ms. Pac-Man, each of the 7 levels is a unique maze, which are then randomly selected for levels 8 and up. Levels 6 and 7 only have 4 power pills.
(Level 7 - the dreaded boxed-in 4 corners.)
Arcade Game Designed in 1983 by Bally Midway
Classic Platforms: Atari 2600 ('86) & Commodore 64 ('88? Andrew Davie, Thunder Mountain) , plus the unreleased versions ('84) on the Atari 5200 & Atari 8-bit.
Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls
Have Nots: Atari 5200
Bronze Medal: Commodore
Despite the poor translation of the Gameplay, from the arcade, the intermission screens were included in precise detail. Too bad the scenes "They Meet", "The Gift" and "They Escape" are all titled the same "They Escape". Dooh! There is a pause feature added, two-player option, and choice of which of the 7 different starting levels (mazes), including the correct sequence of prizes - but that's about all that it has going for it. A bug in the code allows a prize to be passed through, so I was a bit harsh and scored the Gameplay as fair (5). The Graphics and Sound are superb (9), the best at home. The Controls are excellent (10). The C64 version is only available on disk, and since I just traded away my only original, you can understand why I only gave the Addictiveness a (6) - it's a decent game, nothing more.
Silver Medal: Atari 2600
Gold Medal: Atari 8 bit
(Come back next month when I plan to review the many faces of Mario Brothers aka Mario Bros. for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, Atari 8-bit, Apple II and Commodore 64. Alan Hewston can be reached at Hewston95@stratos.net)
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