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Ghost Monster Autopsy – A History Pac-Man and his Undead Enemies


The yellow circular hero with an over-eating disorder, Pac-Man, is constantly hogging the spotlight as one of the world's most popular video game characters, but it's about time for the other stars to get their due, namely the Ghost Monsters. Part undead spirits, part obsessive compulsives, the Ghost Monsters have only one goal, putting the hurt on the chomping champ. Not only are these second-bananas some of the most identifiable gaming enemies, but they have actually been featured in more games than Pac-Man himself. This is the history of video gamedoms most famous ghosts and monster, the Ghost Monsters!

Pac Man – Coin-Op Arcade – 1980

The Ghost Monster and their arch enemy's debut was an instant hit. Here the GMs are simply referred to as Monsters, but their shapes quickly gave them the unofficial title of Ghosts, which evolved into simply Ghost Monsters. The GMs were given names which matched their behavior as well as a nickname that became far more popular:
  • Shadow aka Blinky – Red
  • Speedy aka Pinky – Pink
  • Bashful aka Inky – Cyan
  • Pokey aka Clyde – Orange
The GM's only weakness are Power Pellets, that when eaten by Pac-Man temporarily transform the GMs into identical blue critters. Now that the tables are turned when Pac-Man eats the blue GMs their disembodied eyes float around the screen making a b-line for their Ghost House, where the GMS respawn as they were before.

Ms. Pac-Man – Coin-Op Arcade – 1981

Although Pac-Man was created and owned by Namco, they didn't originally release the game in North America, instead licensing the rights to Midway, who started making unauthorized sequels; The most famous being Ms. Pac-Man. By simply taking the original game and making a few tweaks, such as putting a bow in Pac-Man's hair - presto - they now have a game that eventually became more popular than the original. Ms. Pac-Man was so popular that Namco eventually agreed to make the game legit, after suing the pants off Midway, and added Ms. Pac-Man to the Pac-Family. Here the Ghost Monsters are identical to the original Pac-Man with one slight exception. "Clyde", the oddball Orange Ghost Monster has undergone a sex-change and renamed as "Sue".

Super Pac-Man – Coin-Op Arcade – 1982

In the least popular Pac-Man arcade sequel, dots have been replaced with fruit, now locked behind walls that require keys to access. The Ghost Monsters are once again the same as the original, with the gender confused Clyde/Sue, turning back into the all-male Clyde. They continue their pursuits, turning blue and venerable to chomping when Pac-Man eats a power pellet, and their floating eyes race to the Ghost House to respawn once again and continue the process. In addition to Power Pellets, there are also "Super Pellets", which don't allow Pac-Man to eat the Ghost Monsters, but instead make him invulnerable to them. When in this "Super Pac-Man" mode, the Ghosts squish and stretch as they race around the maze.

Pac-Man Plus – Coin-Op Arcade – 1982

Pac-Man Plus is nearly identical to the original, with the exception of the Ghost Monsters and the bonus fruit. The GMs look and behave the same as the original, but the effects the Power Pellets are much different, with radom effects each time they are gobbled up. Sometimes they make all of the GMs blue and venerable, other times it only does this to a few of them. The bonus fruit also makes the GMs vunerable, but also turns them invisible to boot. Chomping on invisible Ghost Monster gives the player double the points.

Baby Pac-Man – Coin-Op Arcade – 1982

The first hybrid of coin-op arcade video game and pinball machine features a Pac-Man game identical to the original, except with no power pellets to weaken the aggressive Ghost Monster menace. In order to gain power pellets, Baby Pac-Man has to run down an escape hatch and into the actual pinball machine below the screen. The GMs are the same as the original only faster and random in their pursuits.

Pac-Man – The Animated Series - 1982 to 1984

From 1982 to 1984, the Hanna-Barbara Pac-Man cartoon was a Saturday morning hit, reinventing the characters in their own parallel universe called Pac-Land. Like the Pac-Man family, the Ghost Monsters went under a major makeover. Clyde and his female personality Sue, were split into two different Ghost Monsters, with Clyde changing from the goofy one and into the head of the GM gang. Sue became the Purple female ghost and main nemesis of Ms. Pac-Man, now referred to a "Pepper". The ghost monsters worked for the evil overload Mezmeron who sought to control all of the Power Pellets in Pac-Land for no apparent reason. Each Ghost Monster featured unique personalities and powers. The show stands as the very best cartoon based on a video game.

Jr. Pac-Man – Coin-Op Arcade – 1983

The most dramatic narrative ever unleashed in a Pac-Man game, focusing on a forbidden Romeo & Juliette-style relationship between Pac-Man's son and the daughter of the Blinky, named Yum-Yum. While Pac-Man Jr. is smaller than his Pop, the maze is so large it can't fit on the screen, which pans with Jr. as he moves from one side of the maze to the other. Power pellets still give him the power to put the chomp on the Ghost Monsters, including the father of his great love. The relationship between Jr. Pac-Man and Yum-Yum unfolds between each level, so to get the full story you must finish the game. Clyde aka Sue, continues his identity crisis, now developing yet another one of his multiple personalities, this time being called "Tim".

Pac & Pal – Coin-Op Arcade – 1983

While Ms. Pac-Man was gobbling up popularity and fighting for women's lib, her guy pal was in Japan making time with another lady, one of the Ghost Monster persuasion by the name of Miru. The green colored Miru put the Pal in Pac & Pal as she brins special bonus items onto the screen to help him clear the level, but Miru is temperamental and sometimes takes the bonus item to the Ghost House where it is lost forever. Bonus items give Pac-Man the power to shoot the Ghost Monsters instead of just chomping them. A variation of the game was released in North America as Pac-Man and Chomp Chomp, replacing Miru with Pac-Man's dog from the cartoon.

Pac-Land – Coin-Op Arcade – 1984

Inspired by the cartoon, Pac-Man and his Ghost Monster enemies broke free from their maze-like playing field and transitioned into a side-scrolling platform adventure. Although released a year before Super Mario Bros. the two games share surprising similarities in both design and feel. In the game the Ghost Monsters are after an innocent fairy that has lost her way in Pac-Land. Pac-Man must hide her under his hat and get her home safely, but to do so he must avoid the numerous Ghost Monster threats. The Ghost Monsters float, try to run him over with cars and drop mini-GMs from airplanes. The US release featured designs based on the cartoon, while in internationally the game sported more generic looking characters.

Pac-Mania – Coin-Op Arcade – 1987

Pac-Man and the Ghost Monsters make their first foray into the world of 3D gaming. The original Pac-Man gameplay has been reimagined in an isometric perspective with the camera close in on Pac-Man as it scrolls around the maze always keeping him in the center. The four original Ghost Monsters are present, as well as Sue (retaining her purple color), plus two new arrivals to the clan: Funky (green) and Spunky (grey). Unlike the other GMs, Funky and Spunky can jump, which is a good thing for them because Pac-Man can also jump over objects, including Ghost Monsters. As Funky and Spunky jump the same time Pac-Man does, he can't use this new ability to leap over them.

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