Mr. Dark
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Cart, instructions (Sears version)


The arcade original of Pac-Man involved players, who controlled Pac-Man, maneuvering their way through a maze in an attempt to clear it of dots. Several monsters would chase after Pac-Man, which, if Pac-Man were to make contact with one, would cost players a life and the game would end if there were no remaining lives. However, Pac-Man could eat an energizer that could turn the tables on the monsters for several seconds and safely eat them.

There were also bonus prizes that would appear up to two times during a level (located beneath the monster pen), along with an escape tunnel that Pac-Man could enter and the monsters would slow down if they followed him in there.

Even though the aging (at the time) Atari 2600 home console wasn’t well-known for having very accurate arcade game translations for the most part, many consider this version of Pac-Man to be a huge mistake, due to many changes made with the game, as it beared very little resemblance to the arcade original at all. It was developed and published by Atari (along with a version published by Sears) and was released in 1981.

Differences between versionsEdit

Pac-Man’s mouth is always moving in this version, unlike how his mouth would not move unless he was moving on the [[Pac-Man|arcade original. He also has eyes (unlike with the original, which he either didn’t have any or they could not be seen) and has no animation for when moving up and down, as he always faces right and left, even when moving vertically.

The ghosts always immediately poured out of their square chamber at the center of the screen, even on the early levels (which they did not all come out at once on the arcade original on the early levels). Due to being drawn one at a time, they also flickered, not appearing whole, and their eyes were always moving, not facing in Pac-Man’s direction as they were chasing him. They also did not have four distinct personalities like with the arcade original (as Speedy was the smartest and fastest monster, another would follow other monsters, etc.).

Scoring and sounds were also changed, as well as the maze. The Escape Route (tunnel) ran from the top and bottom of the screen, rather than the sides, and Pac-Man is invincible while he is in there if he does not (visibly) touch a ghost. The dots Pac-Man ate were changed to dashes and renamed as to being “video wafers”, there were no bonus prizes that changed and increased in point value, as the only bonus that Pac-Man could eat became “vitamins”, and energizers to eat the ghosts with were renamed as “Power Pills”.

Also, 16 games were included on the cartridge, and players earned an extra Pac-Man with the clearing of each maze, and not at only 10,000 points like on the original.

Game variancesEdit

A slow or a fast-moving Pac-Man could be chosen. Variations with ghost speeds could also be chosen as well, due to their ratings of having “crawl”, “walking”, “jogging” or “running” speeds, along with expert and childrens’ versions. Up to two players can play as well, and putting the Difficulty Switch in the A position cuts down the time the ghosts could stay blue (edible), and vitamins also didn’t appear onscreen for as long as when the Difficulty Switch was in the B position.


  • Bug: if Pac-Man dies at the top of the Escape Route while moving down, he could end up moving straight through the center of the maze – even through walls – while still dying.
  • Pac-Man and E. T. (another universally disliked Atari 2600 game) became the scapegoats blamed for the downfall of Atari, which both came out the same year, then the video game crash of 1983-1984 hit not long afterwards.
  • More Atari Pac-Man cartridges were produced than Atari had sold of the 2600 game unit. Atari had been hoping people would buy the system just to play their Pac-Man game.
  • Millions of E. T. and Pac-Man cartridges were reportedly buried in a landfill in Almo Gordo, New Mexico. Tons of cement were poured over it to prevent scavenging.
  • Programmer Tod Frye reportedly made a much improved 8K version (as this one was only 4K in size), although supposedly Atari would not grant him a bigger budget for its release. As of late 2013, his prototype has yet to turn up, even though other Atari prototypes have been showing up here and there over the years.
  • Pac-Man’s enemies were originally known as monsters. They came out of the Monster Pen in the center of the screen on the original arcade version. Due to explaining the flickering of the enemy graphics, Atari called the monsters "ghosts", which they have been known as ghosts pretty much ever since.
  • Pac-Man became the pack-in game for the Atari 2600 during some of its last years of production.
  • Pac-Man was followed by the much better versions of Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man, although those games are for one player only.
  • Due to hack-o-matic and the like programs, gamers with the Pac-Man ROM can disassemble it and make changes to it as they like. Most hacks were just graphical hacks, although others (like the Invisible Pac-Man hack) are hacks that actually affect gameplay in some manner. Some of these hacks include E.T. vs. HSW (programmer Howard Scott Warsaw, disguised as Indiana Jones, runs after E. T., rather than Pac-Man), Lumberman (Pac-Man became a tree and was chased by lumberjacks), and TP-Bug (Pac-Man became a toilet paper-eating bug while the ghosts became rolls of toilet paper).


Atari Age Pac-Man page for links to (mostly negative) reviews, along with screenshots, instructions and links to hacks