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Platform:  Neo Geo
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Namco
Publisher:  SNK
Features:  Includes Cross Ring
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
Pac-Man remains the most popular video game ever, having managed to appeal to young and old, male and female, all around the world. Its popularity in the arcade spawned many sequels and its port to the Atari 2600 was more anticipated in its day than the arrival of any game could be today. Pac-Man has appeared, in one way, shape or form, on more video game consoles than any other game.

The first home version was made by Atari for the 2600, and versions for the Atari 5200, 7800, Intellivision, Colecovision, (back when companies made games for consoles other than their own), SMS (outside the US), NES, Turbografx, SNES, Genesis and the Playstation followed, as well as handheld versions for the Gameboy, Lynx and GameGear as well as numerous ports for computers for the Atari 8 bit lines, Spectrum, C64, the PC and many others. Simply put, there are more versions of Pac-Man available than any other game - so who needs another one - right? WRONG.

Simply put, this is the best portable version of the game ever released. Period. It is a near-perfect translation from the arcade game - all your friends, Inky, Binky, Pinky and Clyde are here, and so are all the intermissions which helped the game gain its popularity. While I canıt say this is a pixel perfect port of the arcade game, it is only because I have not done a pixel by pixel analysis of the game.

The colors are nice and bright, and, on the scrolling version, the characters move as fluidly as a Pac-Man and his pursuers have ever been able to move. The sounds are arcade perfect. They are so good that we took the sound output and hooked them up to the surround sound subwoofer system here in the office and the sound KICKED big time. We only wished there was a hack to permit us to display the screen on our monitors for a full-sized gaming experience!

You have a choice of playing the game full screen or with a scrolling screen that shows larger detail but a smaller portion of the maze. The scrolling is done quite well, and the portion of the screen which is shown is quite significant -half of the vertical screen is viewable and a bit more than 2/3 of the horizontal screen is shown at any point in time. A nice feature is that by hitting the pause button you can pan around the rest of the screen to see the ghostsı locations (or, as I had to do, to find where that one dot I had missed was). In this mode, the designers saved screen space by overlaying the score, lives and screen information (you know, cherry, strawberry, etc.).

The scroll mode is THE way to play this game - you can more easily see the eye movement of the ghosts to see which way they are turning, and the control seems much better. The full size mode, as has always been the problem of replicating the rectangular Pac-Man board on a square screen, just does not cut it. The characters are too small, and the motion seems much clunkier. While still better than a full size version on any other portable machine, I found playing full screen just was not as much fun and harder to play.

While I canıt vouch that the old patterns you remembered will work on this version of the game, I can attest to the fact that an innovative "cross ring", included with the game, will make the game easier to play. The cross-ring sits around the miniature joystick of the NeoGeo Pocket (which Iım now fully convinced is the best portable player around) and prevents you from moving the stick in any direction other than left, right, up or down

Bottom line - if you ever enjoyed playing Pac-man, you should own this version. It is faithful to the original, and, in the scrolling version, a pleasure to play.

-Dave Stein

Ron Kimberly

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