24 PAC-MAN Clones From The Early 1980s - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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24 PAC-MAN Clones From The Early 1980s

Gobbler? Munch Man?? Snack Attack??? How many of these Pac-Man clones did you play?

Arriving in arcades around the world in October 1980, after its Japanese debut earlier that May, the original title of Namco's Puck Man was changed to Pac-Man for its international release as a preventative measure against defacement of the arcade machines by changing the P to an F. Unfortunately, due to the video game industry still being in its infancy, there wasn't a preventative measure for either developer, Namco, or international publisher, Midway Games, to put in place to stop the many clones of the game that started to appear after Pac-Man set the arcades on fire, figuratively speaking that is.

With 400,000 arcade units of the original cabinet game sold between 1980 and 1982, plus a variety of official spin-offs and variants, Pac-Man was big business. It seemed every other publisher wanted in on the action and multiple Pac-Man clones started to appear. Perhaps you played some of these clones in the arcade? Maybe you had them on a home system? Either way, we've rounded-up 24 Pac-Man clones, of varying quality, that appeared in the years following the original Pac-Man arcade game's release.

How many of these do you remember?...

1. Gobbler
This 1981 clone of Pac-Man for the Apple II features near identical game-play to the original Pac-Man, including consuming a white pellet which makes the four ghosts vulnerable for a short time, during which they can be eaten.

Gobbler was published by On-Line Systems (later to become Sierra Entertainment), and programmed by Olaf Lubeck who also wrote 1982's Cannonball Blitz for the Apple II which was another clone, this time of Donkey Kong.

2. Monster Munch
This Monster Munch is not a popular type of savoury snack but rather a 1983 Commodore 64 game featuring the absolutely not Pac-Man but rather Munchie making his way through a maze. Monster Munch did at least feature a variety of mazes for Pac-Man Munchie, each one increasing in difficulty.

3. Dung Beetles
Dung Beetles was released by Datasoft for the Apple II in 1982. The gameplay is similar to Pac-Man, but a portion of the maze around the player-controlled character is enlarged as if being viewed through a square magnifying lens.

Clearly the name was a bit of an issue as when Dung Beetles was ported to the Atari 8-bit family it was retitled as Tumble Bugs, and the TRS-80 Color Computer port was titled Mega-Bug. The Atari version was re-released in 1983 with another name change, Magneto Bugs, and in Australia the game was re-branded Bug Attack. Whatever the title the game-play renamed the same.

4. Lock 'n' Chase
Arriving in arcades in June 1981, Lock 'n' Chase was Data East's response to Pac-Man. You play a robber making his way through a maze, collecting the coins and the treasure, whilst avoiding the cops.

Home versions for the Intellivision and Atari 2600 were published by Mattel in 1982, and an Apple II version in January 1983. An updated version was published for the Game Boy in 1990, and six years before that this arrived...

5. Money Hungry
Released for the Atari 8-bit family of computers in 1984, Money Hungry is essentially a clone of Lock 'n' Chase, but as that is a clone of Pac-Man it makes the list, right?

Atari had the exclusive rights to release the official Pac-Man home video game (not that it stopped others appearing - something we'll get to shortly), so I suspect their decision to clone some of the clones that existed of their titles was a little bit of financial payback.

6. 3-Demon
At least this 1983 MS-DOS Pac-Man clone tried something different. 3-Demon featured a 3-D wire maze, presented in first-person perspective, with the player traversing its corridors whilst eating pellets and avoiding red ghosts. Basically 3-D Pac-Man. Eating a power pellet turns the ghosts green and gives the player the ability to eat them for extra points. The difficulty increases for each level completed, but unlike Pac-Man the player isn't required to eat all the pellets, just to disperse with all the ghosts.

7. Taxman
Taxman was released in 1981 for the Apple II and published by H.A.L. Labs. Featuring the same maze and yellow Pac-Man character as the arcade game, Taxman very cheekily promoted itself as
"The definitive version of the popular game."
H.A.L. was asked to stop selling Taxman by Atari, Inc. after they acquired the rights to Pac-Man, so H.A.L. Labs changed the mazes and some of the graphics and re-released it the following year as Taxman 2.

8. Jawbreaker
This Pac-Man clone, with controllable teeth rather than a spherical character, arrived for the Atari 8-bit family in 1981, before an official home version of Pac-Man was available, and became a major seller.

Jawbreaker was a hit with critics too (although not Atari themselves, which we will also get to). It was given the award for "Best Computer Action Game" in 1982 at the 3rd annual Arkie Awards, with the judges describing the game as "a must for 'Pac Man' fans lucky enough to own an Atari 400 or 800 computer," and they specifically praised the game's music (a chiptune version of "The Candy Man").

Jawbreaker was later ported to the Atari 2600 (with this version acting as a template for both the later Commodore 64 and Texas Instruments TI-99/4A versions) but because of the console's limitations the game-play is significantly different, meaning that version doesn't resemble Pac-Man in the slightest.

9. Munchman
In 1981 Tomy released the licensed tabletop electronic game of Pac-Man in both the USA and Japan (where it was, naturally, titled Puck-Man). The game came with obvious limitation's, due to the simplicity of electronic game technology of the time and the dependency on a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) screen. It also had a distinctive visual style due to its circular shiny yellow casing.

The same year, Grandstand licensed the technology from Tomy but, crucially, not the name from Namco, and released their version in the UK retitled as Munchman. Clearly, as you can see from the box above, they weren't exactly trying to hide the Pac-Man connection!

There's more 'munching' and 'men' to come...

10. Munch Man
Published as a cartridge for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A home computer in 1982, and retailing at the high-end price of $39.95, Munch Man included several migraine inducing variations that alter the game-play to the standard Pac-Man design. Originally, though, during design Munch Man was almost identical to Pac-Man, gobbling dots and power-pills. However, TI decided to avoid the risk of a lawsuit by replacing the dots with a chain and changing the power pellets out for TI logos.

11. Mini-Munchman
No relation whatsoever to Munch Man, except they're both Pac-Man clones, Mini-Munchman was a handheld electronic game released by Grandstand in 1981. As was common at the time with these LCD handheld games, Mini-Munchman included additional features such as real time clock, alarm and stopwatch. The game later spawned a larger LCD version with greater screen area called Pocket Pac-Man, but began life as this...

=11. Epoch Man
You can have this one for free as it is the exact same game as Mini-Munchman. Also released in 1981, Epoch Man appears to be the original, with Mini-Munchman nothing but a rebranded release in a different coloured case.

As with just about every Pac-Man clone, the object of the game is to move a Pac-Man type character around a maze, eating all the dots and avoiding ghosts. However, in Mini-Munchman/Epoch Man the dots are replaced with fruit items and there is also the addition of two humpback bridges which contain a fruit item both over and underneath the bridge.

12. K.C. Munchkin!
This one is a bit of a groundbreaking Pac-Man clone, although not necessarily for the best reasons.

In 1982 Atari, Inc., which licensed the home rights to Pac-Man, unsuccessfully sought an injunction against the sale of Jawbreaker and Gobbler. Atari also sought an injunction to block the sale of K.C. Munchkin! for the Phillips-Magnavox Odyssey, citing excessive similarities to its Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man, regardless of the fact that K.C. Munchkin! hit store shelves in 1981, a full year before Atari's game was ready.

Though the court initially denied the injunction, Atari won on appeal. The court noted that though K.C. Munchkin offered different features such as moving walls and fewer dots in the maze to eat, "substantial parts were lifted; no plagiarist can excuse the wrong by showing how much of his work he did not pirate" and the alterations made "only tend to emphasize the extent to which it deliberately copied the Plaintiff's work."

After K.C. Munchkin! was forced off the market, Philips released a sequel called K.C.'s Krazy Chase! which implicitly depicts the conflict between Phillips and Atari by pitting the Munchkin character against an insectoid, tree-eating opponent called the Dratapillar, which very strongly resembles the antagonist of Atari's Centipede....

Redesigned to avoid another copyright dispute, K.C.'s Crazy Chase can't really be classed as a Pac-Man clone but it is worth including here for it's aesthetic and origin sake alone. 

In this 1982 game the Munchkin character rolls through Crazy Chase's mazes without the continuous chomping motion characteristic of Pac-Man, and powers up not by eating pills but by devouring the Dratapillar's segmented body.

The original K.C. Munchkin! turned out to be an important release for the video game industry in general, as the court case and subsequent ruling that came from Atari v Philips was one of the first to establish how copyright law would apply to the look and feel of computer software.

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