Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pac-Man's 30th Anniversary

You may have noticed that Google has a pretty awesome playable tribute to Pac-Man in its logo (it even has a two-player option if you push the "insert coin" button). This is because this week marks the 30th anniversary of what is arguably the most recognisable videogame of all time.

I'm not going to try and explain the impact Pac-Man had on gaming, that has probably been done better than I would be able to, and I'm actually too young to have played Pac-Man in the arcades. However, I spent a bit of time playing the game late last year (the XBLA version on the Namco Museum Collection), and it's remarkable how well the game still stands up. As I seem to state in a lot of these posts, I enjoy retro-gaming, but a lot of old games rely on nostalgia and a "so bad they're good" factor now. Pac-Man, on the other hand, remains a challenging, well designed game, where repeated play actually sees you improving as you develop better strategies to go with improved reflexes. For a game released in 1980, that is quite a feat.

Namco have stated that they plan to release a new version of the game this year to mark the 30th anniversary. Having already made all the usual mistakes in updating old classics (trying to add storylines, making it into a 3D platformer) many, many years ago, their last Pac-Man game, 2007's Championship Edition, took the game in new directions without compromising the core of the game, so it will be interesting to see what the new one will be like. Rumours currently suggest a four-player game where Pac-Men have to eat each other as well as ghosts and dots. The new game will most likely be revealed at E3 this year.

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