Patterns & Tips
Most classic arcade video games can be categorized two ways; Pattern Games and
Shooting Games. Pattern games includes Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Q-Bert. Shooting games
include Space Invaders, Galaga, and Defender.
The type of game you prefer can say something about your personality. I'm more into
solving problems than I am feeding my body a constant stream of stress hormones.
I get a lot of personal satisfaction by solving a game by with repeatable patterns
and strategies. I feel like I've unraveled the inner secrets of the game programmers.
It can't be a coincidence that at the higher levels of Pac-Man, your bonus "fruit"
is a key. That was the game programmers' way of saying "ah-ha... you've found the
key to our game."
When you reach that skill level, you can really relax and calmly
execute the patterns. You spend less money at that point and others will watch with
some degree of awe of how easy you make playing the game appear. Or, they may
hate you because they don't get their chance to play for a very long time.
A pattern should have at least three qualities that make it worthy
of remembering and using. A pattern must:
1. Be easy to remember
2. Be easy to execute (no timing hesitations)
3. Gather most of the available points on the level
All patterns I post here are my own and work on the authentic Midway Pac-Man
arcade game in its original, unmodified form. I don't care for patterns that miss
the "fruit" and give up those extra points. I try to stay away from reverses and
never use timing hesitations. Most of all, a pattern should be fun to play.
When Patterns Don't Work:
If my patterns or other published ones aren't working for you, there are a number
of possible reasons. First and foremost, both of my current machines have a ROM chipset sometimes
referred to as the "Atlantic City Chip" for the first city in which these chips
were thought to show up. Apparently, it was an effort to keep people from using
existing patterns that were widely published in books.
If you have a Pac-Man with the original Midway chips, you'll find that my patterns
tend to break down. However, many machines in existence have the "Atlantic City
Chip" and as far as I know, those I've published here are one of the few sources
for these patterns.
There are other possible reasons that patterns may not work for you:
1. Wall Bumping - Even the slightest "bump" into a wall by a turn or
slighly bypassing a turn ruins the timing of patterns. You can only follow patterns
by making the joystick movement slightly before you get to the turn. This comes
with practice. Soon, you won't even have to think about joystick motions--they're
as automatic as driving a car.
2. Game Difficulty Mods - Midway added two "lugs" on the PCB (Printed Circuit Board)
that can be joined with solder to increase the difficulty of play. Click
for more information about this mod.
It's no big deal if you're playing a game with the difficulty mod;
all the patterns except for the 1st (Cherry) are still good. You just have to
remember that you're actually starting on the 2nd (Strawberry) level and adjust
to the other level differences. If Mr. Pac is going really fast, it probably has
the "Speed Chip" installed in location 6F on the PCB. Other "hacks" and mods can
change the nature of pattern play.
3. Microswitch Joystick - The original Midway joystick (made by Wico)
for Pac-Man has not been manufactured for about 20 years. Many games still in
service have long since had the original joystick replaced with a "microswitch"
type. I find these are really tough to play because there's a slight lag time between
one switch turning off and another turning on. Although you can overcome that
issue, I find it much more physically demanding.
For this reason, I've been stockpiling original joysticks for for Pac Maniacs
like me. I have several that I'm rebuilding right now--check
out my Buy Parts & Games
link (coming soon!).
4. Emulators - You may not be playing an original Pac-Man with an original Midway
PCB and program chips. You may be playing a multi-game MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator),
a computer-based game, or some other Pac-Man emulation game.
you'll see lots of patterns for Pac-Man games. Don't be frustrated
if you follow them carefully but they seem to break down on a real Pac-Man
arcade machine. That's because most of those patterns are for computer based "Pac-Man emulation"
games. Due to processing speed differences, the emulators play close to,
but not exactly the same, as an original 80's vintage Midway arcade game.
Those who develop patterns for the emulation platforms have a real advantage--they can start
the game on any level they want making it a LOT easier to develop and practice patterns. When
we Pac Masters try to to this and die on say--the 9th Key, we quickly run out of
lives and have to start the game over from the beginning. They can also record
and replay games which would be really convenient. The recorded game looks
very sharp and clear on You Tube® because it's a direct digital output in recognized net
The Pac Master:
Pac Master - (my definition)
A person who can play a Pac-Man machine to the Ninth Key and beyond.
A Pac Master knows most all the subtleties of the game. He/she knows the
safe "hiding places" and can use them to escape death. They know what "fruit" is
associated with which levels and the amount of ghost "blue time". They know the
names and programmed "personalities" of the ghosts. They know how to put some
distance on ghosts by utilizing corners and tunnels.
A Pac Master is adept at "herding" the ghosts into a tight pack and then
luring them to an energizer for easy consumption and extra points. They can
instantly recognize and exploit the three basic ghost behaviors, Chase, Scatter, and Flee:
1. Chase - They're after you
2. Scatter - They head for their respective corners
3. Flee - They turn blue and run for their lives
Pac Masters don't rock the machine with violent joystick movements. They
play in a relaxed manner and can play with or without patterns. They know when
the joystick leaf switches need adjustment and have a deep hatred for microswitch
For a Pac Master, any score less than 400,000 points
means they weren't really trying. You are probably a Pac Master already
or a least on your way to becoming one because you're here reading this.
Pattern Navigation (for "Atlantic City Chip" version):