Friday, September 22, 2006

Screenshot Comparisons - Ms. Pac-Man

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Ms. Pac-Man is my all-time favorite videogame, so since I'm so focused on portable games, let's compare how this game fared on Nintendo's Gameboy Color and Atari's Lynx.

The Gameboy Color version is just terrific. The graphics are brought into a close-up view, and you scroll around the maze ala Jr. Pac-Man. This isn't a perfect rendition of the arcade, but the sounds are very close, and, most importantly, it plays wonderfully. If I had the means to do so, I'd probably still slug this cart around (which also comes with Super Pac-Man, btw). My only real gripe (and this will be leveled at any home version that doesn't comply) is that the speed button isn't an option. Sue me, I'm spoiled rotten. Whatever.

The Lynx version was programmed by the same person responsible for Shanghai. Shanghai is one of the very best Lynx games, but Ms. Pac-Man feels more like a learning experience than anything else.

I've never quite figured out just why this version slogs at such a slow pace. At the start of a maze, you can almost see the game take a slight pause as Ms. Pac eats dots. Are you telling me the frame rate can't handle this?! You've got to be freakin' kidding me.

The GBC version takes the ideal route by presenting a close-up view. Handheld screens are just too small to cram an entire arcade game onto; at least, that's the case with one such as this. Even on Gameboy Advance, Pac-Man looked and played far better zoomed in than the full-screen view.

Why this was never decided upon for the Lynx version forever remains a mystery to me. I suppose I should track down the programmer (whose name I'm forgetting right now, sorry) and ask him. The graphics are so zoomed out that it all looks, well, it looks like an Atari 2600 game. It doesn't look at all like something you'd expect from Lynx. It sure as heck doesn't look anything like the illustration on the box.

To its credit, Lynx Ms. Pac-Man features a large number of new mazes in a widescreen format, but the speed problem is still an issue. The game just barely moves along, only really picking up steam after half the dots have been eaten. And it never gets any faster on the later levels.

I know this version of Ms. Pac-Man has always had its fans, and I did buy the game back when it came out. But I was never happy with it. It remained a disappointment, below the standards of the early Epyx titles.

One final word on this subject. There was one segment to the Lynx version that I thought was superb. It's the third intermission, where the stork delivers Jr. Pac-Man. This scene is drawn with a large Pac and Ms. Pac, and a wonderfully colorful stork that drops the baby in a wonderfully fluid animation.

It's a terrific little sequence that someone should have shown to the suits. "Hey! This is how it should be made! This would be worthy of the Lynx!" I don't know if anyone ever got that chance, or if the game was even a high enough priority. It probably wasn't; still, when Atari was clearly struggling against Nintendo, every shot counts. Every game has to be dazzling from the start, or it's no dice.

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