It’s possibly the most famous arcade game. Pac-Man, launched by NAMCO Bandai in 1980, took the world by storm, generating a wide following, a top-10 hit single and an animated television series to boot. It’s also the world’s most recognized video game character, though I’d be surprised if maybe Mario doesn’t come close nowadays.
The attention to detail is remarkable. I admit I’m probably the world’s worst Pac-Man player and playing this will probably cost me another ten years of therapy, now that the old wounds have been reopened.
One reason for its accuracy is that it’s using the Pac-Man dossier, a detailed look at the original arcade game’s mechanisms, graphics, etc. by ex-game programmer Jamey Pittman. Did you know about the split screen bug in level 256, or the bug where Pac-Man moves through a ghost, or how about getting a perfect score of 3,333,360? It’s all there in the dossier, which is a fascinating read. Well, at least for ex-game programmers like me.
The implementation plays well and feels spot on in Chrome and other modern browsers. My home PC runs it at about 55-59 frames per second. And although no frame rate is shown on my iPhone 4, it’s just as smooth.
iPhone Pac-Man Play
Although there’s no joystick on the iPhone, you just swipe in the direction you want Pac-Man to move.
Cornering is slightly harder on an iPhone, but it’s all about timing your swipes. If you don’t know about cornering, read the Pac-Man Dossier. It reveals how to let Pac-Man move faster than Ghosts through corners.
Then and Now
It’s worth inspecting the source code on GitHub, as it’s well written, neatly laid out and easy to read. In addition to Pac-Man, you can also get Ms. Pac-Man and two other games. Each game comes with different maps, including one that’s randomly generated. The only deficiency is the audio, though that should be sorted out in the future.
Older arcade games are easier to implement as browser games, because the hardware they originally ran on was relatively unsophisticated. Pac-Man ran on an 8-bit Z80 processor with 16KB of ROM and 2Kb of RAM, not much different than a Timex Sinclair 1000/ZX81 home computer.
Of course, there have been many other Pac-Man clones before. This one in Flash plays a decent game and doesn’t look bad but I wonder just how really close it is. If you are a fanatic player then the accuracy of the game really matters. If you don’t care about it, try the isometric view version.