Wednesday, 13 December 2006
Now, it's no secret that the creative people over at Atari were responsible for more than a few bad decisions back in the early '80s, two of which were incontrovertibly linked to, if not necessarily responsible for, the infamous videogame crash of 1983. (In case you haven't read up on the incident, I'd suggest searching the words "videogame crash" over at Wikipedia. Hell, I'll even do it for you.) Long story short, a number of factors converged that year to cripple the videogame industry in a way few analysts could have accurately foreseen, let alone prevented. Despite record profits during the years leading up to the disaster, the advent of affordable home computers, an oversaturated videogame market and the absence of adequate third-party quality control on most systems all contributed to the total collapse of the videogame market beginning in late 1983. The most iconic symbols of that tumultuous bit of videogame history were Atari's very own E.T. and Pac-Man debacles, which brought the industry juggernaut to its knees with a staggering loss of over half a billion dollars that year. Ouch.
Granted, I'll stop short of blaming these two games for the entire year-long crash, but in all honesty, they probably delivered more damage to the videogame industry than any other two cartridges in the entire history of the medium. Not only were the two games horrendous examples of electronic "entertainment," but their awful reputations were made legendary thanks to massive amounts of hype delivered by widespread ad campaigns leading up to their releases. In the words of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, the veritable bible pertaining to useless trivia: "In 1982 Atari released the home version of Pac-Man in what was probably the most anticipated video game release in history. At the time, there were about 10 million VCS (Atari Video Computer System) consoles on the market, but Atari manufactured 12 million Pac-Man cartridges, assuming that new consumers would buy the VCS just to play Pac-Man. Big mistake ?the game didn't live up to its hype. It was a flickering piece of junk that didn't look or sound anything like the arcade version; it wasn't worth the wait. Atari ended up selling only 7 million cartridges, and many of these were returned by outraged customers demanding refunds."
In other words, looking and sounding nothing like its coin-op inspiration and lacking its big brother's inspiringly addictive gameplay, Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 was about as much fun as playing with a half-melted wad of dog shit on a hot summer day.
Overlooking the fact that Pac-Man was repainted a sickly shade of yellow/orange and had magically sprouted an eyeball since we'd last seen him eat his maze full of pellets, there was still enough offensively bad stuff in here to discourage anyone from ever purchasing an Atari product ever again. (Though with examples like Enter the Matrix and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, who needs additional incentive?) Seriously, if I weren't such an upstanding citizen and had I been born when this game was released, I might've borrowed my dad's gas can from the garage and scurried over to New York to burn down Atari's corporate headquarters. Or, y'know, written a nasty letter or something.
Who in their right mind would want to spend time creating a Shockwave version of Atari Pac-Man, I'm not quite sure, but the point is that it indeed does exist and that, lo and behold, it is a relatively faithful port ?just imagine crappier music and a shitload of flickering and you'll begin to appreciate just how awful this game truly was. And since I've just about reached my limit of scatological references in one blog post, I'll call it a night and bid you happy gaming. Hasta la vista, Muchacho.