Pac-Man has turned 40! And he doesn’t look a day over 25. Actually, we can’t tell, because he’s a featureless yellow dot with a mouth. Still, he’s somehow still a famous face in gaming, which is more than can be said for his contemporaries — eh, Dig Dug?
Mostly, that’s down to the original Pac-Man still being a-maze-ing to play and a tough challenge for your digits. But also, it was a solid foundation on which to build — as proven by those sequels and tributes that took the basic maze-running idea and, well, ran with it.
Here, then, are six of the best Android and iPhone maze runners to keep you gulping pills into the wee small hours…
This is the original classic on your phone, complete with iffy AI that lets you hide in one specific corner like a coward. It works nicely on the touchscreen, having you swipe to set up the next turn and stay ahead of the ghosts. And that’s not all – you get missions, other mazes to unlock, and tournaments. Oh, and IAP, but ignore that (and nuke the ads during the regular 99p sales).
Due to a programming cock-up, the original Pac-Man goes squiffy on level 256 – half the screen turns into an unnavigable glitch. In Pac-Man 256, said glitch relentlessly pursues you in a kind of Pac-purgatory comprising an endless maze packed full of ghosts. On the plus side, Pac-Man can grab power-ups to burn the ghosts’ faces off with laser breath. Bet they weren’t expecting that.
Slap a bow and lipstick on Pac-Man and you’ve an early female videogame protagonist, because 1982. Still, let’s hand it to Ms. Pac-Man — her game’s better than the old man’s. There are more mazes and the revamped AI makes for a tougher challenge. Also, the food bonuses march around, so you have to burn those calories before munching them down. This one’s properly premium too, omitting Pac-Man’s freemium guff.
Pac-Man Party Royale
Four Pac-Men enter, one Pac-Man leaves! OK, with its bright colours and bouncy demeanour, this isn’t quite in Mad Max territory; but you still need to be a bit ruthless as you munch dots to gather speed, nab a super pellet, and eat all your friends. And if you’ve no friends and need to play solo, computer opponents become adorable Pac-Bots, wearing little metal hats with springy aerials.
£4.99 per month (Apple Arcade sub) / iOS
There’s plenty of dot-munching in EVAC, but you also have to battle a self-proclaimed evil genius, who’s packed the mazes with traps. So along with darting around and being all stealthy, hiding in gaps until meanies have passed, you’ll sometimes shove blocks around Sokoban-style, and zoom through corridors full of chomping spiked ‘teeth’. Pac-Man never had to deal with that, the lucky swine.
If you wish you could obliterate Pac-Man’s maze, that can be granted in Forget-Me-Not. Its ‘Neon Dunjun’ is no place for the faint-hearted, as beasties roam, ripping chunks out of the scenery – and each other. (Some will also go for you, but most are perfectly happy blowing up whatever’s nearby.) This original title feels like a lost 1980s arcade classic.