Before there was Pac, there was Puck.

In 1980 Namco was about to release their most successful game, Pac-Man, at home in Japan and abroad thanks to American distributor Midway. Before they could ship the cabinets, though, Midway had one major concern. Y'know how video arcades could be hotbeds for petty vandalism? Well....take a look at that art and tell me what you'd feel like doing if you were armed with a Sharpie.

Even if the title wasn't altered, the first second I glance at it I don't see "puck." Namco could see it now, and agreed to change the character's name to "Pac."

Fortunately, it was a happy ending for everyone, because "Pac-Man" had a catchier sound to it than "Puck-Man" did. And thus he has been known as Pac ever since.

No one told Apple this because the first Pac-Man game for the 'puter was released under the Puck-Man name. I suppose if you vulgarize a floppy disk label, they don't need to care as long as you're only amusing yourself.

Yes, this is the game's title screen. Didn't I tell you this was early? The program first asks if the monitor you're playing on is horizontal or turned on its side. According to tube-based TV manufacturers, and presumably tube-based computer monitor manufacturers as well, it's not good to flip a TV onto its side because it wasn't built to run that way, and the act could result in a permanently screwed-up picture. Armed with that knowledge, I have no choice but to push "1." (I'm using a flatscreen, but why take chances?)


Oh well, I might like playing this way after all. I find Pac-Man to be more fun when the rules are changed. The most fun I ever had with this game was when I played a bootleg on Dreamcast at a party, and turned the emulator speed four times as fast. This game is a blast sped up, and I wish they sold it that way. Maybe it'll be equally blasty sideways.

Well, it's not blasty, but that's mostly due to the inferior port this is.

As with most games on the Apple without a joystick, A and Z move you up and down while the left and right arrow keys move you left and right. Pac-Man doesn't go "nwaka-nwaka," he goes "boop-a boop-a" for some reason. All the elements are there, including the cherry, but it feels very stripped down. It was possible to push the Apple further than this, because "Ms. Pac-Man" was pretty darn faithful. SHE said "nwaka-nwaka."

It was difficult to get a screenshot of the Power Pellet in action, because "Puck-Man" has the shortest blue-ghost time of any Pac-Man game, or probably any Puck-Man game. You eat the pellet, and the ghosts get funny faces, and....the screen freezes for a second, then they return to normal. Not kidding. The pellets might as well not be there. That crosses the line that officially brands this game a "ripoff." How can you play this game without pellets?

To all those who've played the infamous Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man....is this version better, or worse? As bad as that was, you didn't have to play it sideways, did you?

Wait, it's not over yet; there are three more programs on the disk! They're undoubtedly knockoffs of the first game, but how good are THEY?

"Gobbler" starts out with this crudely drawn title screen, and....that's it. With an Apple Beep, it freezes there. Olaf, you're a disgrace to your fellow Norsemen.

"Super Puckman" is significantly better. Now THIS is a title screen; it has animation and it tells you everything you need to know. "Super Pac-Man" did not come out until after the Pac-Man moniker had been established, so you know what that means: This is an unauthorized adaption. Yet it's the best Pac-Game on the disk. People were given no choice but to break the law.

It also controls correctly and plays right-side up. Amazing! So now what's "Bezman" like?

Ah, it's called "Bezman" because it was made by a guy named "Bez." This isn't the title screen, it's the loading screen. It boasts that the game was "banned by Atari." I don't know if that's true or not, but think about the stuff Atari allowed. Endless shovelware, an ET game developed in five weeks....How bad would Bezman have to be to get banned by Atari? Well, it makes a good case for itself...

That's the maze? That's the maze. And yes, this IS a Pac-Man ripoff. As I started playing I couldn't tell which dot was me. After about a minute I figured out the erratically-moving square with the frowny face was the solitary "ghost."

Feeling Puckish? Try these things out yourself.