Santa Claus was extremely generous in 1987 when he left the Atari 2600 and my first video game, Jr. Pac-Man, under my tree. While my friends were accustomed to playing with Junior’s parents, I enjoyed the prospect of riding around a maze in a tricycle. What I want to know, though, is how come we can’t get any love for the little guy?
Yes, I know Midway created this game without the expressed written consent of the fine folks at Namco. That would bother me a little too. But this is the retro age! Everything old is new again. Oh, and people LOVE PAC-MAN. This would be the perfect time for the little guy to dust off his pinwheel hat and yell, ” Allow me to re-introduce myself.” Now, some of you might not have ever heard of Jr. Pac-Man. It’s OK. Billy Andrews didn’t know either when I ran over to his house on Christmas morning and showed him the box.
This installment of the Pac-Man saga contains four skill levels and seven large mazes. How large do you say? So large that the entire maze scrolls as you move around. This means the little guy has twice as much ground to cover while looking out for ghosts he can’t always see because they can hide off-screen. There are six power pellets instead of four, but there are zero tunnels that wrap around from one side of the screen to the other.
Ghosts are harder to avoid, and the moving fruit is replaced with fun items such as tricycles, balloons, kites, a glass of root beer, a kitty cat, and a train. These items make the dots increase in size upon contact, causing junior to move slower as he eats them, and they also eliminate the power pellets upon contact too. The main storyline in the game is the blooming romance between Jr. Pac-Man and Yum-Yum, a ghost who is the daughter of Blinky.
That’s it. I figured it out. The industry wants you to believe Jr. Pac-Man was put on the shelf because its creation never received prior approval. This was a conspiracy perpetrated by Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and the Ghosts. Senior and his paranormal rivals are just not fans of interracial dating. Ms. Thang, on the other hand, simply didn’t want her son to take the spotlight away from her. His awesome hat and kick-ass ride would easily outdo her pink Prada heels and hair bow on the cute scale. So they 86ed him over a bridge just like the Cobblepot’s did to their son, Oswald.
Bottom line, if the Hatfields and McCoys can reconcile their differences, Namco and Midway can certainly come to some sort of agreement where the little guy can join the 21st century of video games and take his rightful place in the illustrious Pac-Man franchise.