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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 09:20 GMT
Pac-Man freebie revives memories
By Neil McGreevey
BBC Northern Ireland

No game has ever come close to dominating pop-culture as much as Pac-Man, which Namco reckons has been played more than 10 billion times since its release over 20 years ago.

Pac-Man on the GameBoy Advance
Try to avoid the ghosts on the GameBoy Advance
The eighties arcade classic was once as big as Star Wars on the cultural map, with its hero emblazoned on every piece of tat imaginable

Even the aural assault of one-time disco hit, Pac-Man Fever, could not keep this gaping splodge of pixels from gracing the cover of Time magazine.

The original arcade machine is now exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, while some of the generation who grew up playing with Pac now, like their rotund hero, spend most of their time munching pills while listening to repetitive music.

One such self-confessed Pacophile is Mario wunderkind, Shigeru Miyamoto, who approached the game's creator to develop an updated version for the GameCube.

Three versus one

Pac-Man was originally called Puck-Man, until a shrewd Namco employee spotted the opportunity for kids to scrape at the logo, creating an altogether ruder-sounding game.

For the return of the Pac, Nintendo has put a unique twist on the classic gameplay, turning the iconic coin-waster into a multi-player extravaganza.

Pac-Man on the GameCube
The ghosts have a limited field of vision
The new version still plays like the original arcade classic.

But this time, three human players control the ghosts (for those who don't remember - Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde) on the TV screen while Pac tries to avoid them on the GameBoy Advance.

Ghosts have only a limited field of vision, while Pac can see the entire maze as he racks up the points munching on dots, fruit and power pills.

The simple appeal of the yellow fella may be lost on today's graphics-hungry gamers, and Pac-Man Vs is hardly a festival of technology.

Apart from the multiplayer, the game still looks as it did 20 years ago.

But there is no arguing the price. Pac-Man Vs is being given away with upcoming Namco games for the GameCube, including R: Racing Evolution, and I-Ninja.

This makes it quite possibly the best games freebie ever, not to mention a merry waltz down memory lane for those who remember Pac from the first time around.

Pac-Man Vs is being bundled with other GameCube titles

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