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Pac-man strategy 101: The ultimate ghost survival guide
Celebrating its 35-year anniversary this year, Pac-man is a gaming monument. The pellet-gobbling yellow blob remains an icon for computer culture – synonymous with the golden age of arcade, and still inspiring everything from future technologies to questionable Adam Sandler movies.
But while the legacy of Pac-Man is far-reaching, few players are actually any good at it. Just so you know, there are 256 levels in the original game, and we reckon you’ve probably got past five of them at most. That’s if you’re anything like us, anyway.
This simply won’t do, so we’ve consulted the Pac-man dossier (yes, it’s a real thing) in search of some pointers.
Pac-man strategy 101: How to win
1. Know your enemy
As you know, Pac-man is not alone in the maze, joined by his four companions; Blinky (red), Inky (blue), Pinky (pink, duh) and Clyde (orange). The problem? They’re all ghosts who will do everything in their (admittedly limited) powers to eat you for breakfast.
It’s worth getting to know them anyway, because if you’re going to make it to level 256 then you’re going to be spending a lot of time together. Knowing their movements will also help you to stay well away, at least until you swallow a power pellet when you can turn the turn the tables on them. Usefully they operate in a couple of distinct patterns; scatter and chase.
In scatter, the ghosts will each target a point in their own corners of the maze – Pinky targets top left, Blinky top right, Inky heads for bottom right, and Clyde skulks off to the bottom left. Once the target is reached they enter chase, which is generally bad news for Pac-man who becomes the new target. The ghosts then pursue our little guy for a predetermined amount of time, before getting sidetracked and switching back to scatter – and that, in short, is how the game works.
2. Beware of Blinky, the red ghost
So far, so simple – but Pac-man’s creators were clever enough to throw a spanner in the works. You, see no two ghosts are exactly the same, and the movement of this ghostly gang aren’t as predictable as they first seem.
If its color coding wasn’t already a giveaway, then the most dangerous ghost is Blinky. It’s threat becomes obvious towards the end of each level, when you might notice it starts to speed up – once when there are 20 pellets remaining, and again when there are just 10. That’s not all either, the new adrenaline-fuelled Blinky is also stuck in chase mode at this point, cranking up the tension for the level’s final period.
3. Some ghosts are smarter than others
As well as Blinky, you’ll also need to watch out for its partners in rhyme – Inky and Pinky. Whereas Blinky is programmed to hunt, it’s crafty pink and blue cousins are designed to block and trap. When in chase mode, these ghosts target just a few paces ahead of you, blocking off poor Pac-man in a messy blinky-pinky sandwich.
Thankfully, they’re not as bright as they seem. A strategically-placed ‘bug’ in the game means that when Pac-man moves in an up direction, the ghosts switch their target slightly further away (in a north-west direction). Essentially then, when this perilous pair start to close in, it’s worth heading upwards with a few sharp right turns.
And Clyde? Don’t worry too much about Clyde. Clyde is stupid.
4. Have an exit strategy
Obviously, this is a lot to remember in the heat of a chase, but knowing a few simple tricks might just get you out of a tight spot. For starters, learn the exits:
The zones highlighted in pink are part of a tunnel, and a good way to lose a ghost on your tail – so long as the coast is clear on the other side. Although ghosts are able to follow you through the tunnel, they incur a speed penalty giving you some breathing room to dash towards the nearest pellets or power pellet.
The zones in red are less obvious, but a vital getaway if used correctly. Ghosts are unable to turn upwards in these two areas, so lure them in when they start to bother you and lose them at the junction. Beware, though, they can meet you from the other side.
5. Learn the patterns
Learning the patterns of play is all well and good – you might be thinking – but how do you actually win this thing?
We’re sorry to tell you that the answer is more patterns. There are several suggested routes mapped online in fairly tedious fashion, designed to keep you safe and score you maximum points. Thankfully, the three most important of these are neatly summarized in the five minute video below, so pay attention and best of luck!