The game was first introduced to the Japanese arcade market in May 1980 and caught the hearts and imaginations of the public like no other game before it, and few since. It is still regarded as the hallmark of the 'golden age' of video games and an icon of 1980's popular culture.
The game was originally known in Japan as Puckman, but due to the West's predilection with changing words to vulgarities by scratching part of the word off (in this case, changing the word 'Puck' to something rather less socially acceptable by scratching off part of the letter 'P'), the name was changed to "Pac-Man
" for its release to the American arcade market in October 1980. The name 'Pac-Man' comes from the Japanese slang term 'paku-paku', which describes the motion of the mouth opening and closing during eating and translates to English as 'to eat'.
Toru Iwatani, author and designer of Puckman: "Puckman's character is difficult to explain even to the Japanese -- he is an innocent character. He hasn't been educated to discern between good and evil. He acts more like a small child than a grown-up person. Think of him as a child learning in the course of his daily activities. If someone tells him guns are evil, he would be the type to rush out and eat guns. But he would most probably eat any gun, even the pistols of policemen who need them."
Puckman was, quite literally, conceived at lunchtime. Iwatani, then in his mid 20s, was very hungry and ordered himself a pizza for lunch. He took one slice, and, looking at the rest of the pizza, Puckman was born. However, in later years, Iwatini has suggested the shape was based on the Japanese character 'kuchi', meaning mouth. He rounded off this shape, and created the classic shape. The game took 1 1/2 years to complete and had five people on its team. Puckman is the greatest selling arcade game of all time and is arguably also the world's most recognized video-game character of all time. It had its own cartoon, lunch box, board game, stickers and hundreds of other products. This was largely due to Puckman being the first truly distinctive video-game 'character', and it changed the face of video games forever. Puckman was the first video game to be as equally popular to women as it was with men.
A place in video game history: "Pac-Man is the most universally known arcade game," said Chris Lindsey, director of the National Video Game and Coin-Op Museum in St. Louis. "Everybody knows about Pac-Man. And, I've noticed, almost everybody can play Pac-Man pretty well. Pac-Man makes just about the best use of the joystick one can imagine. It's so intuitive that it puts other games to shame in terms of how easy it is for a person to walk up, stick a quarter in the machine, and start doing something meaningful. At the time, Pac-Man introduced a completely unique style of game play and was also highly identifiable in terms of its music. With Pac-Man, everything was there. The video game industry needs another game that captures the public's heart like Pac-Man, and so far, no one has been able to come up with it."
The great 25-cent escape: "People expect to see Pac-Man when they come into the museum, and without fail, when they see it, they want to play it," Lindsey said. "People remember spending hours and hours at Pac-Man. They like to see how good they are now when they play it. And I would say that, perhaps more than any other game, the same playing skills still apply. Perhaps it's because of the intuitive game play. You don't have to memorize the behavior of a wide array of enemies as you do with some other games. You just have to remember that when the ghosts turn blue, you only have seconds, until they start seriously blinking, to go and get them. And Pac-Man is a little looser in its style of game play - more open. For instance, you can kill time in the lower left hand corner until you see an opening between the ghosts, and you can strategize a bit more: You can play with the tunnels, you can play with the position of the ghosts in relation to the energizers. Even people who haven't played in years remember those strategies."
After all these years, the challenge of Pac-Man still remains.
"You can also get into some really fun jams, when you've got a ghost on your tail and you have to make a decision about whether you're going to go left, or right, or straight at the next junction, which is in .03 seconds," Lindsey said. "It gets to be pretty tense, especially when those ghosts start moving really fast and the energizers aren't lasting as long. Pac-Man can be a real heart-thumping game."
After the 255th level, Puckman/Pac-Man presents the player with the infamous 'split-screen' level, where the left-half of the screen is normal, but the right-half of the screen is garbled with a mess of letters, numbers, symbols and other graphics. This level cannot be completed because there are not enough dots on screen to be eaten! This is the result of a bug in the routine drawing the fruits at the bottom of the screen, according to the round number. Indeed, the code works as follows:
1) it increases the last round number by one;
2) it checks if the result is smaller than 8 (in this case, you still would not have enough fruits to fill the line and some blank space must be drawn);
3) it checks if the result is larger than 19 (in this case, it has only to draw keys);
4) finally, it fills the bottom bar with the correct fruits.
In particular, if the round number is smaller than 8, the game draws as many fruits as the previous round number. This produces an undesirable effect right after the 255th level.
Indeed, 256 = 255+1 becomes 00 for the CPU (which expects to use the last 2 hexadecimal digits only, and 256 = 100 in hex)!
Therefore, the game thinks to be in one of the first 7 levels (because 0 is smaller than 7), but it tries to draw 255 fruits (because the last round number was 255). Of course, there is no space for that many fruits to be displayed and the game starts to draw garbage on the main screen.
Fixing the original code (either through a cheat in emulation, or hacking the roms on the PCB) would results in a 256th level identical to the first one (cherries will appear) but harder, since ghosts will behave as they do in levels beyond the 19th.
The alien spaceship "Galaxian
" makes an appearance as the prize in the 9th and 10th boards.
Note : Excluding bootlegs, there are 23 different name/nickname combinations for the ghosts in Puckman/Pac-Man (29 including 'Sue' from "Ms. Pac-Man
", 'Tim' from "Jr. Pac-Man
", 'Common' and 'Grey Common' from the Japanese version of "Pac-Mania
", and 'Funky' and 'Spunky' from the American version of "Pac-Mania
'Galaxian' boards will run in Pac-Man machines, but the sound pinout is different, so the pinout at the connector would have to be modified. To fire, one would have to press UP on the joystick.
Billy Mitchell, Rick Fothergill, Chris Ayra, Tim Balderramos and Donald Hayes all hold the official record for this game on 'Regular (TGTS)' settings with a perfect score of 3,333,360 points on July 3, 1999, July 31, 1999, February 16, 2000, December 4, 2004 and July 21, 2005, respectively.
Chris Ayra holds the official record for the fastest time to get a perfect game on 'Regular' settings with 3:42:05 on April 2, 2002.
Ron Corcoran holds the official record for this game on 'Speedup' settings with 1,321,020 points on May 13, 2001.