Pac-Land joins the Arcade Archives, but something is seriously amiss…

pac-land arcade archives hamster retro

Or should that be ‘something isn’t a Ms.’?

This week’s Arcade Archives entry features one of video gaming’s most iconic and beloved characters, Pac-Man, as retro publisher Hamster brings Namco’s somewhat odd platforming adventure Pac-Land to PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

Released to arcades in 1984, Pac-Land sees our pill-popping pal leave the sanctity of his maze and — now sporting arms, legs, and a jaunty hat — stride out into the big wide world. The side-scrolling adventure was based upon Hanna Barbera’s abominable Pac-Man animated show, which was busy boring kids on Saturday mornings. Pac-Land also features a strange, Track & Field-inspired control system, utilizing three buttons and no joystick.

Despite its rudimentary nature are oddly sparse visuals, Pac-Land was a huge success and is considered an important forerunner to the side-scrolling platform genre that would dominate throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Check out the action in the video below, courtesy of YouTuber Old Classic Retro Gaming.

One important note, however, is that Hamster’s new re-release of Pac-Land actually has a major alteration. While most of the weekly Arcade Archive entries are borderline ROM dumps, Namco’s Pac-Land has been forced to undergo a bit of visual tweaking, lest the bloodthirsty lawyers come a-callin’.

As spotted by graphic artist “Nick C”, the change concerns Pac-Man’s beloved partner, Ms. Pac-Man, who usually waits to greet our hero at the end of each stage. Ms. Pac-Man’s sprite has been altered in the rerelease, replacing her trademark “red bow, red boots” look to a pink hat and heels, metamorphizing her into a more recently created character in the Pac-Man universe known as “Pac-Mom”.

The reasons behind this change are arduous and annoying.

Manufacturer AtGames (the company behind the “Plug ‘n’ Play” retro consoles), were able to secure a percentage of royalty rights for the character of Ms. Pac-Man from her original creators, General Computer Corporation. Thus, while Bandai Namco still owns the Ms. Pac-Man property and can use her whenever they wish, her depiction triggers a royalty payout to AtGames each and every time she appears, even in something as minor as this Hamster rerelease.

Bandai Namco, smarting from the deal, chooses simply to ignore the character entirely as often as is available — she won’t even be appearing in the upcoming collection Pac-Man Museum Plus (although “Pac-Mom” will). A miserably pointless tale of greed, pettiness, and lawyering up that is keeping one of the most important figures for female representation in video games locked in licensing jail.

I fucking swear, the wrong people have all the money and power, in every field imaginable.

Pac-Land is available to download now on PS4 and Nintendo Switch, priced at around $8.

Chris Moyse
Senior Editor - Chris has been playing video games since the 1980s. Former Saturday Night Slam Master. Graduated from Galaxy High with honors. Twitter: @ChrisxMoyse