Welcome to the Pac-Man Fun Page, a page dedicated to fun facts and information about Namco's iconic video game, as well as the various bootlegs it "inspired". If you're looking for informational articles on hacking the game, please click here.
Let me just get something out of the way. Yes, Pac-Man was originally called Puckman in Japan. Yes, it was changed for the US release (as well as all subsequent games). The original title of Puckman was actually a romanization of the Japanese "pakkuman", which, ironically, is pronounced the same as Pac-Man, making the new title of Pac-Man more along the lines of an alternate spelling than anything else for Japanese speakers.
It's expected that a game as popular as Pac-Man would inspire imitators but the early days of the arcade industry were a Wild West of copyright infringement and Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are amongst the most heavily bootlegged video games of all time. While imitation is considered the sincerest form of flattery the bootlegs below are the general equivalent of drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa and claiming it's your own work, or copying your homework off the kid next to you at school and doing the bare minimum to hide it.
That being said these bootlegs are an often forgotten part of video game history and I think they're worth discussion.
Hanglyman is one of the most popular and well-known bootlegs of Pac-Man, available both on bootleg boardsets purchased by arcade operators or as an "upgrade kit" for original Pac-Man machines (effectively just a simple row 6 ROM swap). Hangly is actually a Japanese bootleg of Puckman (the word "Hangly" itself is an Engrish mangling of "Hungry" due to similar phonetics in Japanese), the Namco original before it was licensed and localized by Midway, and is famous in that it inspired Midway's "counter kit" "Pac-Man Plus"- marketed by Midway as an upgrade for existing Pac-Man machines and sporting one of Hanglyman's defining unique gimmicks- the "disappearing maze" effect which occurs after eating an energizer on some boards.
Hanglyman is one of several bootlegs mentioned by name in "Pac-Mania: Top Strategies for Home & Arcade Pac-Man", a book from 1981 that encompasses the Pac-Man Fever "pandemic" which swept through America in the early 80s. Altho it's loaded with misinformation elsewhere Pac-Mania manages to namedrop several prominent boots- some of which we'll get into later on this page.
Hanglyman's biggest flaw is the alterations it makes the maze- the "columns" near the center aren't spaced evenly and there are gaps around the tunnels that are too wide, giving the player (and the ghosts) too much leeway to move, making that area in particular very difficult to navigate since Pac-Man was designed for strict 4-way movement.
If you like Hanglyman, check out this hack I made that fixes the tunnels and the incorrect tiles used in the maze.
New Puck-X is another Japanese bootleg, this time named after New Rally-X, the "car chase" game by Namco (the same company that created Pac-Man). The maze has been altered once again with additional tunnels and many point values have been changed. The screenshots above are taken from (presumably) an American hack of the Japanese bootleg to change the ghost names to match the official Midway Pac-Man game (altho the hacker neglected to remove the dashes between the ghost names and nicknames- something that appears only in Puckman and not in Pac-Man). Numerous variations of New Puck exist, each with different changes. Some alter the maze further, some incorporate gimmicks from Hanglyman, some change the ghost graphics and one of them even changes the ghost names to the following incomprehensible nonsense below, seemingly inspired by a little bit of The Muppet Show and the commercial break that followed:
Some versions of New Puck (presumably the "original" Japanese versions of the hack) change the "GAME OVER" text to read "MADE BY KAMIYA"- our heroic hacker responsible for this masterpiece. Other versions change the "PUCKMAN" text that appears when a credit is inserted into "SCANDAL" for... whatever indiscernible reason. I'm sure that makes sense in a language other than English.
(Hey, here's something cool- the Japanese ROMset of Newpuc2 includes a "fortune telling" gimmick- during intermissions a flashing fruit appears, and whatever fruit it "lands on" (or whatever combination of fruits you receive) determines your fortune.)
If you like New Puck, check out this hack I made that fixes the tunnels and the incorrect tiles used in the maze.
Pop-Man is an extraordinarily weird bootleg graphics hack for Pac-Man that replaces the titular yellow gobbler with Popeye. Y'know, for the kids! Kids go NUTS for Popeye! Just don't quote me on that. I have no idea why, when, where, nothing- well, I do know "where" to an extent. I've heard stories about "Pop-Man" cabinets with woodgrain sides showing up in supermarkets in the 80s, so it was probably just a "fun spin" (if you wanna call it that) on your average Pac bootleg. As far as I know the only changes are made to the character set and no gameplay mechanics are altered, but from what I've seen most Pop-Man screenshots online (as well as the MAME ROM) use the row 6 ROMs from Hanglyman, so this might've been most commonly available as a pre-hacked form of Hangly.
Although it's easy to find elsewhere online, here's a couple downloads.
Download Pop-Man 5F Graphics ROM or Pre-hacked Hanglyman ROM with Pop-Man Graphics
This is the "full" version of the replacement Popeye character set. It includes the intermission graphics frequently excluded from some Pop-Man ROMsets (like those found in HBMame).
Buccaneer is a strange variation of New Puck with a pirate theme, using a pirate character sprite that's clearly been edited from Pop-Man but with new graphics for the fruits and monsters (who are now floating skulls). A little more care has been put into Buccaneer in that even the life icons at the bottom of the screen have been changed- something that can't be said about Pop-Man, which unfortunately still uses the tiny Pac-Man graphics like the original game does despite changing the main lead into Popeye. Whoops.
Piranha is one of the more interesting bootlegs for a few reasons. For starters, this is one of the first bootlegs to make a more serious effort to mask itself as something more than just another Pac-Man boot. In addition to that Piranha was sold in multiple different dedicated cabinets, each decked out in a matching aquatic theme. The game was sold as both a dedicated unique cab (with an encrypted PCB to thwart piracy, or maybe attempts at proving the game is a hack) as well as a conversion daughtercard for existing Pac boards, much like Ms. Pac-Man.
As an actual game, Piranha kinda plays like garbage. There's no maze at all (but the decoration graphics are completely solid), meaning the player is expected to jerk the joystick around in the same limited four directions as Pac-Man and eat all the pellets that have been sorta haphazardly slung all around the screen. The ghosts (now octopuses) move around in a herky-jerky fashion not too dissimilar from the player which makes them more difficult to both avoid and also eat and the lack of a maze leaves them seemingly confused at moments when they end up "swimming" in circles, unsure of where to go.
Interestingly enough, an earlier version of Piranha exists that was a hack designed for existing Pac boards, with unique alternate graphics and sounds. This version may have been the ROMset found on the conversion daughtercards.
Titan is essentially Piranha with a spaceman theme. The gameplay is identical, the sounds are identical, everything is pretty much the same mechanically altho the color PROM has been changed and the copyright has been hacked out. I actually find this game more appealing than Piranha even though they're basically the same just because the outer space visuals are cool.
Caterpillar is another oddball bootleg that attempts to mask its identity but does a pretty poor job. Although the game introduces new music for the intermissions, all other sounds are the same as regular Pac-Man. It was sold in a dedicated cabinet so apparently the bootleggers thought just changing the graphics and maze was enough. Speaking of the maze, this one is from Hanglyman- making this a bootleg of a bootleg. Of interest (to me, at least) is that the caterpillar character doesn't "blink" when moving like other bootleg character swaps (such as Pop-Man, Piranha, and Buccaneer). The hackers actually managed to alter the code to fix this, alongside changing nearly all instances of Pac-Man's original color code into the new green color (really just the Strawberry palette) used for the caterpillar character.
When it comes to expressing your political opinions there's a world of possibilities to get your point across and make your voice heard, but no means of doing so is as ubiquitous and powerful as hacking video games from the 1980s. Naysayers will kneel as your opinions become fact in the form of phospher dots beaming onto a radioactive screen and fellow geniuses like yourself will shed tears and smile as they congratulate you for performing what is perhaps one of the most potent ways of telling the world that you've absolved any and all trace of an actual human personality in place of an obsession with what people in the government are up to (spoiler alert: nothing good, ever). The Pac-Man series, however, is unique in that it has two separate ROM hacks themed after American politics, nearly 20 years apart.
The first of these is ABSCAM, based on an FBI sting operation from 1980.
ABSCAM throws you into the role of a corrupt senator on the run from the FBI, stuffing your pockets with as much cash as possible. All the fruits have been changed into the same briefcase graphic but the maze itself is an extremely ornate mess of eye-searing visuals, portraying a bizarre "neon DC" washed over with Pac-Man's iconic primary colors amidst giant Abe Lincoln heads. Based on the title screen ABSCAM appears to be another hack of Piranha, and plays similarily enough but contains unique sounds and music.
Desert Storm is a Ms. Pac-Man ROM hack based on the Gulf War from 2000. In this obtuse hack Ms. Pac flies a fighter jet while avoiding SCUD missiles and collecting bonus items like oil canisters, grenades, and a missile brandishing the word "PATRIOT" on the sides. During each intermission the text "GRAPHICS BY MIKE NAYLOR" appear to remind you of the artist behind this work. Nothing quite says "America" like... well... whatever this is.
Despite the fact that Pac-Man received countless bootlegs the vast majority were simply counterfeit copies of the original code with minor edits made to text like the copyright information or the "PAC-MAN" text that appears when a credit is inserted (on that note, the names our round bootleg friends have donned include Cruncher, Snapper, "Muckpan", Munchy-Man, Bite Monster, Cruiser, and many others). Surprisingly, despite the sea of infinite bootlegs that seem to exist, a few more notable ones are currently lost to the sands of time, including Mazeman- an odd variation mentioned in both the Pac-Mania book discussed earlier and Ken Uston's "Mastering Pac-Man". Accounts of Mazeman describe it as starring a cheerfully chubby frog who guzzles down beer steins to fend off "Richard Nixon monsters with gnashing teeth". Although multiple images exist online of the cabinets no actual ROM dump has surfaced as of the writing of this page and those who have played the game in person describe it as "one of the worst bootlegs" with terrible sound and gameplay, but we won't know for certain until the game is dumped (altho these descriptors are definitely strange considering most bootlegs, despite being generally "shoddier" than the "base game", are still Pac-Man overall- Mazeman must really go out of its way to somehow be this bad).
This is one of the most confusing and vaguely maddening topics regarding Pac-Man I can think of- Pac-Man's true origins. Everybody and their grandma and their grandma's kitchen sink has heard that Pac-Man was inspired by "a pizza with a slice taken out", or that Toru Iwatani created Pac-Man "to pick up chicks" or whatever random jibberjabber is considered "fun" and accessible enough to be slapped onto a clickbait trivia video or web article you see on Facebook or Google, but did you know Pac-Man already existed before Toru Iwatani "ate that inspirational pizza"?
Enter... the Tomy Pac-Man Bank ("Pakkuman Chokinbako"). From 1974.
Yes, this jolly little coin-gobbling fellow came in a myriad of colors and was the first in a line of multiple "Pakkuman" products. Banks, water toys, board games, etc.- these popular toys actually later popped up in America a few years later with official Pac-Man branding. So what's the deal? Well, either it was a fantastic case of sheer coincidence or somebody isn't telling the truth. Namco's "Puckman" game coincidentally just so happened to be titled a very similar name and starred a very similar abstract "yellow mouth" character at the same period of time as this popular toy, during the same period of time that everybody in the early Japanese video game industry was ripping each other off or shamelessly plucking characters, concepts, and ideas from other forms of media (usually movies or cartoons). To be fair, that was the point- the idea of taking every last possible popular thing that already existed as something else and then welcoming it to the new and exciting world of video games... while also making massive profits off of excited children who could now play "That Thing You Like: The Video Game!" But for sake of stopping myself before I get too sardonic I'm going to end that train of thought here and let you form your own opinion. Personally I shouldn't get too sour over it either, especially as someone with an interest in bootlegs and piracy, but something about the idea of Pac-Man secretly being a ripoff all along is kinda like being told Santa doesn't exist.
"What about the official Pac-Man branding these toys received later?", I hear you say (I then open a new tab in my web browser and Google "schizophrenia symptoms" before continuing to write this article). Well, that's a great question, my imaginary friend. You see, after Pac-Man's massive success Tomy actually received exclusivity rights to produce Pac-Man toys in both the US and Japan. Well, for ten years, at least. But hey, better than nothing. One of the most iconic rebranded "Pakkuman" toys from Japan was released in America as "Mr. Mouth", a type of tiddlywinks game with the central game piece being a large yellow figure who "eats" the pieces.
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