Board games based on video games were once an interesting art form. People would take classic games like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda and try to adapt them to a board game format. Most of the time they really had to stretch what kind of game they could make out of the source material. Most of the video game board games were designed much like old games based on TV shows, movies, or even personalities like Dr. Ruth and Lucille Ball. Alas, that’s all disappeared in the modern age in exchange for reskins of Monopoly, Risk and Yahtzee with Pokemon or Metal Gear Solid slapped onto it. I blame USAopoly for homogenizing the licensed board games market.
Let’s go back to the past, and talk about a little pellet chomper named Pac-Man. Back when Buckner and Garcia were exclaiming they had Pac-Man Fever, and this beloved character was not being slapped into crappy cartoons written by ex-Tiny Toon Adventures writers, Pac-Man was super-popular in the United States. This was mostly in part because of Midway’s (Pac-Man‘s distributor at the time) very aggressive marketing. There were t-shirts, toys, electronic handheld games, and of course, board games.
I could cover the Pac-Man board game by Milton Bradley in 1980, but it’s been done to death. It played much like the arcade game, where multiple Pac-Men could gobble dots for points while being avoided by the ghosts. It’s like Hungry Hungry Hippos, but with a board and actual strategy attached to it. They also made a board game for Ms. Pac-Man, but replaced the power pellets with a die roll, and had only one player take control of Ms. Pac-Man, swapping control to another player when an enemy ghost captured her. Also, the easily losable marbles were replaced with much more sensible chips.
There’s not a whole lot to say about the Pac-Man board games, they’re simple conversions of the arcade game. But the Pac-Man game train didn’t stop there. Enter Pac-Man: The Card Game, and Pac-Man: TWO CHALLENGING PUZZLES!
Released around 1980-82, both of these were released to further capitalize on the Pac-Man gravy train. I snagged both of these many many years ago, back when I was using eBay like a madman and buying things left and right. I kinda miss those days, that’s where a fair share of my games collection came from, as well as other obscure stuff I own, like a Wheel of Fortune play-along TV handheld from the late ’80s.
The Card game is a little convoluted at first. Each player gets a game board and three cards drawn from a deck of 47 cards. You place a “number card” or a “picture card” on any player’s board to form a mathematic equation. The numbers are separated into 0, 1, 5, and 10; and the picture cards either had Pac-Man (which adds the two numbers), a green ghost (subtracts the two numbers), or Pac-Man eating Clyde (multiplies the two numbers). Once you made a set of three, you were scored based on the mathematic equation you or another player had made. First to 100 points wins the game.
There is a catch, though: Your equation can’t equal a negative number, so if you did 1 – 10, you’d get no points. At least, that’s how the game is normally played. If you wanted a challenge (or you just wanna be a dick), you could make it so negative points are allowed. But since this might make the game tougher and take considerably longer, you only need to get to 50 points with these special set of rules.
Pac-Man: The Card Game would’ve fit fine in a third grade classroom as an entertaining side activity, with helping kids learn math, but it’s not an amazing game by any stretch. This game and its relation to Pac-Man is minimal at most, this could’ve featured generic symbols and numbers and would have the same impact. I wonder if this was just an existing Milton Bradley game slapped with a Pac-Man license on it. Guess we’ll never know.
Now, onto the TWO CHALLENGING PUZZLES!
This one doesn’t need much explanation: Inside the box are a bunch of various shapes. Your goal is first to make four Pac-Men with their mouths open using the pieces inside. Once done, you can then challenge yourself by converting those four Pac-Men into three Pac-Men with their mouths closed in a complete circle. That’s it. You can challenge these puzzles with friends, or see how fast you can complete both challenging puzzles.
The only challenge is where the pieces may be arranged. You must have at least one piece with an open “eye” on each Pac-Man, and it’s entirely possible to get one or two Pac-Men completed, but have other pieces that can’t be placed in a way to complete the puzzle. I had to completely reset so I could complete the harder puzzle a few times because of this.
One last thing: This puzzle is aged 8 to adult, but it shouldn’t be difficult for most ages to figure out. Though, Milton Bradley thought that some people might not have sick puzzle skills, so you could at one time mail Milton Bradley a letter and have them mail you the solution to the puzzles.
Out of all the video game board game adaptions, these are probably the most interesting of the lot. Both of them took the simplicity of Pac-Man and tried to put it into something in addition to the “converting the arcade game to a board game” concept, but I wouldn’t say these are underrated gems no one played. These are certainly better than the 500 video game board games that look all the same today, that’s for sure. If you really like Pac-Man, these are an interesting thing to add to your Pac-Collection, otherwise you can safely live without these games.
Come to think of it, I wonder what Namco thought of these games, or if they even know they even exist. Maybe that’s why Midway lost the rights to Pac-Man in the mid-’80s: because they were whoring Pac-Man out like this, and didn’t approve. It’s a complete mystery.