Okay, forget you’ve ever seen or played the original arcade version of Pac-Man.

Once you get that out of way, you can play — and enjoy — Atari’s VCS version of the game, without getting hung up on obvious comparisons.

Yeah, we know it doesn’t look and play exactly like the original. All the Ghosts are the same color and don’t change much once Pac-Man eats an energized dot. You must rely primarily on your ears — not your eyes — to time your Ghost attacks.

Another problem with the home game is the joystick. With so many intricate moves through the maze, it becomes downright frustrating when the joystick doesn’t respond accurately to your movements.

And then there’s the maze itself. It’s horizontal, rather than vertical as in the arcade Pac-Man.

Enough of that, though. In the end, we have a lot of fun with this game. And the reason for that concerns the actual game play. Once you begin to master all of the grid’s turns and paths, you’ll find Atari’s game to be challenging and rewarding.

All in all, Atari’s Pac-Man is a very good home-video game. It might even make you forget you ever saw or played the original.

Atari, Inc.
for Atari VCS
1 or 2 players
Rating: PG
Graphics: 6
Game Play: 7
Longevity: 7


To eat as many Video Wafers, Power Pills, and Vitamins for points as possible without being destroyed by the Ghosts.


Pac-Man is played using the Atari joystick controller. Controller response is not as good as we’d like it to be, especially when maneuvering Pac-Man around corners. Learn the joystick’s limitations well, and you’ll be ahead of the game. Pac-Man can move in one of four different directions — up, down, left, or right. Pushing the joystick in one of these directions will move him in the direction you select. There are no horizontal movements in the game.

You needn’t keep your hand on the joystick to keep Pac-Man moving in a particular direction. Once you’ve set him on a path, he will automatically continue on the route you select until he either hits a wall, is stopped by a Ghost, or you change his direction.

The action button is not used in Pac-Man, except to reset a new game.


Pac-Man: This is you, and you certainly need no introduction.

You begin each game near the bottom center of the maze. You have total freedom of movement throughout the maze.

You must gobble up Video Wavers, Power Pills, and Vitamins for points while you elude the Ghosts. This gives new meaning to phrase, “eat and run.”

When you eat a Power Pill, the Ghosts will turn a transparent blue color, and you can eat them for extra points. You’ll hear musical notes when the Ghosts are blue. When the notes stop, and the Ghosts turn pink, and then back to yellow, watch out! This means the Ghosts are back to normal and can destroy you.

Figure 1
Screen One: Begin by circling the center chamber clockwise.

You begin each game with four Pac-Men. You’ll earn one bonus life each time you clear the screen of Video Wafers and Power Pills. You lose a life when you are caught by one of the Ghosts.

Ghosts: Gone are Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde, each in a different color, as in the arcade game. Instead, in the home version, you just get four yellow generic Ghosts. They’re not all that easy to see, either. They’re almost transparent at times. Actually, this is because, at any given split-second, there is really only one Ghost on the screen. Watch the game and blink your eyes rapidly — you’ll see what we mean.

The four Ghosts begin each round of play in the chamber at the center of the screen. Once play begins, they will always exit on the right side of this chamber. This, of course, means that when you move your Pac-Man at the start of a screen, you should always move initially to the left.

Try not to let them trap you in the more intricate maze sections on the right- and left-hand sides of the screen. Clear those sides of Video Wafers after you’ve eaten a Power Pill. This way, if a Ghost is lurking in the side of the maze you’re on, you can trap him in a corner, instead of vice-versa.

When energized, the first Ghost you eat is worth 20 points; the second Ghost is worth 40 points; the third is worth 80 points; and the fourth is worth 160 points. After Pac-Man eats a Ghost, the Ghost’s “eyes” return to the center-screen chamber. In a few seconds, the Ghost will be “reincarnated,” and will exit to attack you again. As before, the Ghost will exit from the right side of the chamber.

Figure 2
Screen Two: Be sure to hesitate at point “X,” or a Ghost will catch up with you.

Video Wafers and Power Pills: There are 122 Video Wafers throughout the maze. They are worth one point each when Pac-Man eats one. Since you must fully overlap a Wafer to eat it, be sure of your movements. Sometimes you’ll feel as if you’ve been robbed when a Wafer doesn’t disappear from the screen if you’ve only touched it.

Power Pills are located in each of the four maze corners and are worth five points each. Of course, eating a Power Pill also allows you to go after the Ghosts for added points. Don’t eat a Power Pill unless there are one or more Ghosts near you. When they’re approaching you, eat the Power Pill, then take off after the blue Ghosts.

Vitamins: These orange squares appear directly beneath the Ghosts’ chamber from time to time during the game. They only appear for a few seconds, then disappear, and reappear later in the game. The Vitamins are worth 100 points each when Pac-Man eats them.

Don’t go too far out of your way to get the Vitamins during the game. This is especially true when a “reincarnated” Ghost is about to exit the center chamber. You’ll be one deflated Pac-Man if he exits just as you gobble the Vitamin.


Pac-Man features eight game variations for one or two players and includes a children’s version for younger players.

Basically, these variations determine the speeds of the Ghosts (walking, crawling, running, or jogging) and of Pac-Man (fast or slow-moving). We prefer the game featuring running Ghosts and a fast-moving Pac-Man.

The difficulty switches affect the time in which the Ghosts are vulnerable and when the vitamins appear on the screen. In the “B” position, this time frame is longer than in the “A” position. Advanced players will want to tackle the Ghosts in the “A” position (as do we).


Home Pac-Man can be played in one of two ways: by following an exact pattern around the maze, based on the computer’s predetermined Ghost movements; or you can “bootleg” your own patterns by following your instincts, running from Ghosts, chomping down on Video Wafers, and hitting the Power Pills when the time is right.

Figure 3
Screen Three: Make a wide circle around the maze before eating your first Power Pill.

For the easier games in the cartridge, the latter formula works just fine, if you follow some of the basic strategies we’ve already presented. Namely: Make your joystick movements quick and accurate; remember that the Ghosts always exit to the right of the center chamber; don’t eat a Power Pill until you’ve lured one or more of the Ghosts into a corner; rely on the musical notes to tell you when it’s safe to gobble up a Ghost for points; and so forth.

The patterns presented in this section then, are for Game 6, featuring a fast-moving Pac-Man and Ghosts at running speed. This, we feel, is the most challenging of all Pac-Man games and lends itself more to pattern play then do the easier contests. Though you can apply some of the general hints for this game to other Pac-Man variations, the patterns are strictly for Game 6.

Screen One: Begin the game by immediately moving to the left (the Ghosts exit to the right) and toward the top of the screen. Work your way around the center chamber as shown in Figure 1, wind your way around the maze barriers, and exit through the bottom escape tunnel.

Entering at the top of the screen, head for the Power Pill in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. You will have to hesitate, as shown, to give the Ghosts an additional second to make their way toward you. Hit the Power Pill and the surrounding Ghosts. Next, wind your way through the maze passageways to the left of center, as shown. Regardless of what game you’re playing, this is the best way to clear the corridors immediately to the left and right of center.

Make your way back up toward the top of the screen and take care of the Video Wafers in the corridor at the far left of the screen. Eat the Power Pill and any Ghosts in your path, and head back for the top of the screen. Next, eat the Power Pill at the upper right-hand corner of the maze, and trap Ghosts as you wind your way down the corridor to the right of center.

Double back, eat the lower right-hand Power Pill, and clear the right corridor. Finish the screen by eating the remaining Video Wafers at the top of the screen, near the escape tunnel.


“Try to get as many extra Pac-Men as possible right away. Don’t go for the Ghosts in early screens — try to clear the board quickly. This way, you’ll have a large backup of Pac-Men for later mazes when the game gets harder.

“Then you can follow a pattern, go for the Ghosts, and play for points.”

Todd Rodgers, age 18
Bridgeview, Illinois

Screen Two: Again, begin the game by circling the center chamber in a clockwise direction, as shown in Figure 2. Hesitate at point “X” for a second. This is important — if you do not wait there briefly, you will meet up with a Ghost near the bottom exit tunnel. Work your way around the maze as shown, and eat the Power Pill in the upper right-hand corner. Go for the Ghosts in the directions we’ve indicated.

Next, head for the Power Pill in the lower right-hand corner, and clear out that section. Work your way to the left side of the screen, and clear out that side as indicated. Note that, this time, you’re clearing both corridors on the left side at the same time.

Screen Three: Again circle the center chamber clockwise, then clear out some of the dots on the left side of the maze, as illustrated in Figure 3. Outrun the Ghosts and follow a wide path around the screen, as shown. Eat the Power Pill in the upper left-hand corner and the Ghosts in your path.

Next, clear out the remaining dots on the left side of the screen and head for the lower left-hand Power Pill, as shown. Cut across the screen as shown, and clear out the lower right-hand corner of Wafers and the Power Pill. Chomp-out the remaining Wafers at the bottom of the screen and head out of the lower escape tunnel.

Finally, entering from the top of the maze, eat the remaining Wafers at the top of the screen and head for the upper right-hand corner. Gobble up the Power Pill and Ghosts in your path, and eat the final Wafers on the screen.

Screen Four and Beyond: The patterns we’ve provided for Screen Three will be able to get you through the rest of the game. You may have to improvise somewhat if you hesitate in the wrong spot, however, so be careful.

Source Pages

Continue Reading