Power Button - Episode 291: Antiques Sideshow
Shareware Memory Lane

Pac-Man's Day Out

Pac-Man 2: The New AdventuresNamco and its partners hit it big with Pac-Man in 1980, but how do you take a maze craze and go larger for a new wave of success after the original experience starts to feel stale?  Hardcore Gaming 101 is chronicling all of Pac-Man's oddball sequels and spinoffs such as puzzler Pac-Attack and the educational Professor Pac-Man, but the game that you absolutely need to notice is 1994's Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures for the Super NES and Sega Genesis.  Dumping all of the maze stuff and focusing more on Pac-Man and his family as characters, Pac-Man 2 requires players to indirectly interact with Pac-Man and influence his behavior without directly controlling him.  It looks like a standard 2D platformer, but it's definitely not!

The actual gameplay would be best described as a point and click adventure, with one very important distinction. You don’t have direct control of Pac-Man himself, as he’ll wander around and interact with the world autonomously. You, the player, have control of a slingshot and a floating hand, which you’ll use to guide Pac-Man around the world. The hand is used to point left or right to get Pac-Man to move in that direction. The slingshot is used to get Pac-Man to notice specific objects, knock them over, or if you’re getting bored, to repeatedly pelt Pac-Man in the face with rocks. He doesn’t like that very much.

Indeed, Pac-Man’s mood and current opinion of you is a major gameplay mechanic, and determines how he’ll interact with the world around him. Various things around Pac-Man can occur to shift his mood, and he’ll often shift between several even without your input. Getting yelled at by the local farmer, for example, will sadden him, while having caterpillars fall on him will make him nervous of everything. There’s a variety of different emotions and degrees of which Pac-Man can feel, from ‘grouchy’, to ‘ear-steamingly, foot-stompingly enraged’, to ‘literally insane’, among many others.

Pac-Man lives in a well-defined world in this game and showcases a number of behaviors and animations far ahead of his time compared to other 2D characters of the era.  Sonic the Hedgehog gets a lot of attention for tapping his foot when he's bored, but Pac-Man spends this game swinging back and forth through a range of emotions from smooth confidence to optimistic joy to slightly miffed to downright pissed to shiveringly terrified.  Pac-Man isn't just a character on screen, he's your pixel pal, and working together the two of you are going to to share a grand adventure.  Treat him right (except when you need to make him mad to proceed) and you're in for a good time.