Did I have fun playing Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness on Playstation? Sort of.
I felt the same way about this game as I did about my first random pick, Doritos Crash Course 2. It is a hurdle in a race where I am the only one competing. At least in Crash Course 2, I earned some achievement points.
In Maze Madness, I achieved 100% completion, but just like when it came out in September 2000 the only people to brag to about finishing a game to are your close friends. And just like in September 2000 I can’t name a single friend who cares that I finished a Ms. Pac-Man game.
There was a moment when I started this game that I thought, “Perhaps there’s a halfway amusing story to keep me entertained.” No. Nope. Not at all. There’s some time-traveling, dimension-hopping nonsense going on to explain why I need to visit each part of Pac-Land and find some magical gems. It’s barely as entertaining as that old Pac-Man cartoon from the 80’s that only 13 people remember.
From the first level select screen I turned on auto-pilot and played until I ran out of gas. Sad fact: I spent somewhere upwards of 40 hours playing this game. Not consecutively. That’s because each level has a time trial on top of collecting every whosit and whatsit the designers packed in. I would estimate that I spent more than 80 percent of my time with this game trying to master each maze in order to beat the record time for those shiny gold clocks. Fake, shiny, gold clocks. Not even real, shiny, gold clocks that I can turn into cash like on the TV.
Do you remember how Pac-Man games typically work? Good. Now remove the need to get points and the competition derived from that type of play. Throw in a lot of obstacles, nameless multiples of ghosts, and a bunch of junk you need to find that’s hidden in really obscure places and you have the entirety of this game. Oh, and some multiplayer. I honestly couldn’t be bothered to try those modes because not even my wife could look at me playing this game without laughing.
And that’s part of the problem with this title. Very few people who enjoy Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man will ever care. It does not try to improve on the Ms. Pac-Man arcade game in a way that even the console versions of the original did. Maze Madness was trying, much like Namco continues to try, to keep the Pac-Man brand relevant because that’s how you earn money in the video game industry.
Mitch Dyer of IGN made my brain hurt today when he wrote about how he’s unsure whether anyone will look back at any specific video games 100 years from now as historically important. He suggests that due to brands being stronger than many of the individual games that make them up, we will not look to the past entries when there will always be new ones.
“The majority of games we enjoy today are best enjoyed today,” Dyer says. This is certainly true for many games. It is definitely true for Maze Madness. And I agree with him that games deserve more than that. Part of the reason I am playing every random pick from my library and writing about it is this precise reason. I want to experience as many games on as many platforms and from as many genres as I can. And while I will play every game with the same obsessive-compulsive bias that I have for years, I hope to gain even a little more perspective on what makes video games such an interesting medium. I do not expect to remember them all.
No one will look at a list of every video game 100 years from now and think that they are all gems. But this is true about any medium. We do not consider every book, film, or album historically important for many of the same reasons. Yet there are museums, libraries, and schools to study them. Not because every piece is relevant, but because the ones that are still relevant provided a unique experience or idea.
Only historians, devout fans, and collectors go back and read the entirety of Batman’s nearly 80-year history, but there are specific stories that any fan will recommend that define the Batman character. This is just like browsing a list of Academy Award-winning films or literature taught in schools. It is how we connect to the media that we remember that makes it last.
I think that because games are an iterative medium we end up with those landmark experiences that define greatness. Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness isn’t a shining example of what makes the Pac-Man series one of the most memorable. But because the Pac-Man brand continues to stick in people’s minds, someone at Namco approved development of Pac-Man Championship Edition and its different versions. History will determine which of these games can outlast the hardware they began life on.