Atari Lynx Review: Ms. Pac-Man on Lynx Lounge
By Brian Thomas Barnhart |
Hey what’s up everybody? Welcome back to the Lynx Lounge! I’m your host BTB, and have we got a real icon today that we are going to examine and observe. And that is the glorious Ms. Pac-Man for the Atari Lynx!
Now everybody knows the history and the importance of Pac-Man. Pac-Man gave us fever, but Ms. Pac-Man really stole our hearts. Is that cheesy enough for you? It’s true! So let’s go ahead and take a look at how this version of Ms. Pac-Man stacks up on the Atari Lynx.
Are you looking for an almost perfect arcade conversion for Ms. Pac-Man, to go? Well, it might just possibly be this cartridge right here. Let’s check it out.
But before we do that, I have my Pac-Man tie, my Pac-Man watch, and my Pac-Man telephone, and I am ready to walk down memory lane and play Ms. Pac-Man. Are you ready? Let’s go!
I shouldn’t have to be the one to tell you how important Pac-Man is, as far as the history of video games go. It was a gigantic hit. Pac-Man stuff was everywhere. There was Pac-Man merchandise, there was Pac-Man cereal, there was a cartoon, lunch pail, pretty much Pac-Man everything. I really feel like that was the start of the big video game boom.
Now obviously in the late 1970s Space Invaders really paved the way, but then we had a slew of space games. Everything was space. Space this, space that, you shoot aliens or shoot rocks, and it was all space. Pac-Man was very important because all of a sudden.. now we have a character! We have ghosts that have names! And they’re trying to get Pac-Man and you gotta get out of their way! And then you get your power up, and then you can chase after them. It was really innovative and it was absolutely what we needed in the early ’80s.
So not only was Pac-Man a financial success, in fact it was a video game craze, it was nuts! It was also important in the realm of pushing the narrative forward. So how do you follow up with something like that? Well, you follow up with the sequel: Ms. Pac-Man. Some might say “Hey, it’s just Pac-Man with a bow” but if you really play it, there are a lot of differences and they all make a lot of sense.
“Given the choice to play Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man I am always, always, always, going to play Ms. Pac-Man. There’s something just so iconic about that powder blue and pink cabinet.”
– Brian Thomas Barnhart
How does the Atari Lynx version of Ms. Pac-Man stack up to the competition? Well, it’s got some very, very good things about it, and it’s got a couple of things that annoy me. It might just be a personal preference, but I’ll give you my opinion as we go on.
The graphics look pretty good. They’re very colorful, and all of the mazes from the arcade game are represented correctly as far as the layout goes.
However, let me ask you this question: Why is this version of Ms. Pac-Man vertical? I mean, the screen layout in the traditional arcade cabinet is a vertically oriented screen. Why didn’t they do that here, and take advantage of the Atari Lynx’s unique ability to display vertical games? They did that with some other Lynx games, and this would have been perfect for that. I don’t understand why they didn’t attempt to do Ms. Pac-Man like this.
Even though the screen is not presented vertically, it does get one thing very, very, right: it shows the full maze. I have a full overview of the maze, and where the ghosts are. In every single portable out there at the time, they opted for a zoomed-in view. Which means you only get to see about one quarter to half of the maze. You don’t know where the ghosts are on the top half. That’s lame. I don’t like it. BIG score for the Lynx for a Full-Screen View.
To me, this version of Ms. Pac-Man on the Atari Lynx reminds me of the Atari 5200 version of Pac-Man. The ghosts don’t have eyes. And I don’t know why that bugs me, but just with that little loss of detail your charm and your quality goes down a notch.
The sound is pretty much arcade-perfect. Now, nothing really jumps out at me as far as it being incorrect, or “that sounds out of place”, it all sounds like the arcade.
So how does it control? Well this is my next big “nit-picky thing” I guess you could say. I don’t think it controls that well. So if you take a look at the Atari Lynx’s cross pad, I feel like it’s just a little too big for this game. There’s another game as well that I feel this d-pad really screws things up with: one of them is Ms. Pac- Man, and the other one is Ninja Gaiden III. Two games that call for very precise movement, and this pad is just a little bit too big.
So what happens is, it takes a little bit longer to get from one side of the d-pad to the other. I know, weird right? You wouldn’t even think about that. It’s responsive, but the pad is too big. However, if the pad was smaller it would look weird on the unit. let me give you an example:
Here’s an overview of some game pads. Now, some of them you may have played with, and others you may not have played with. So you can see here that the Atari Lynx d-pad is responsive, but there is a lot of play from the left side to the right side, and from up to down.
The classic Nintendo control pad is very tight and very responsive from one side to the other. The same goes with this Atari 7800 control pad, which a lot of you probably have not played with, because this was a European exclusive controller. It’s unfortunate that the 7800 control pad didn’t come packed with the Atari 7800 system in America, but we will go over that on an upcoming episode of 7800 Avenue.
Now, another one of my all-time favorite controllers is the TurboPad. I love the TurboGrafx-16! I always have. It’s got turbo buttons, the buttons are responsive, and its got a very, very, tight feel in the d-pad. Very comfortable.
Then there’s the Sega Master System pad. This is not a very good pad, whatsoever. It’s actually one of my least favorites, and its terrible! It has nubs on it that dig into your thumb, and it’s very, very, mushy. The buttons are very mushy, and its got a very, very, long throw from one side to the other. The Sega Master System pad feels very, very, similar to whats happening over here with the Lynx pad. Too much play from one side to the other. Same with the Sega Master System. The Nintendo, TurboGrafx-16, and Atari control pads are all very tight and responsive, something that this game absolutely calls for. Tight responsive game play.
So we just did a little pad breakdown there, and I hope you found that informative. I know I did. I learned a lot. The control doesn’t ruin the game for me, but you have to get used to it. Now remember the arcade had that little tiny ball-top joystick, very short throw four-way joystick and that was perfect for playing Ms. Pac-Man. You can beat that game up all day long, and it would still be responsive. It’s like any other video game system where you know you really have to get used to the controls that you were given.
And if you didn’t like those controls, well then you just go out and get a third-party controller, and you try that one out. If you didn’t like that one, you try another one. Unfortunately you don’t really have that luxury on the Atari Lynx because it’s a handheld system, and it is what it is. Like I said there are only two games in the library that I have found where this is a problem. Other than that, this is golden.
So again, if you’re collecting for the Atari Lynx you have to ask yourself “Do I need Ms. Pac-Man?” and the answer is absolutely. You should have Ms. Pac-Man on Atari 7800. You should have Ms. Pac-Man on Atari 2600. You should have Ms. Pac-Man on your Nintendo Entertainment System, and wherever else you can get it.
Okay folks, that is it for me! I’m having some Sunny-D right now and enjoying my weekend. Check out my other shows: The Jag Bar, if you want to take a look at Atari Jaguar stuff, Lynx Lounge for Atari Lynx, or 7800 Avenue if you’re into classic Atari 2600 and Atari 7800 video games. I will see you on the next episode! Have a great one guys, see ya!
Ms. Pac-Man was programmed at Atari by Jerome Strach and Eric Ginner. Licensed through Namco Ltd.
Brian Thomas Barnhart is a classic gaming aficionado, retro pop culture connoisseur, and a Senior Fellow at Atari I/O. He is host of The Jag Bar, Lynx Lounge, 7800 Avenue, and the Atari I/O After Hours Podcast. Brian is a Moderator in the Atari I/O Forums under the name btbfilms76. You can follow him on Instagram and at his YouTube channel.
model # PA 2057