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The Pac-Man Dossier


February 23, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 9 of 10 Next
 

Believe It Or Not

Some versions of the Pac-Man ROMs have a "rack test" feature, allowing the cabinet owner to skip ahead to the next level of play whenever they want. To date, the only known way to legitimately get past level 256 is by using the rack test switch inside these machines.

The result is that the game loops back around to the first board, but with the score intact and the ghosts still behaving as though it were level 21 or above. Many of the Pac-Man ROMs available for use with the MAME emulator also have this rack test feature, making it relatively easy for those without an arcade version handy to quickly get to the split-screen and beyond.

For decades, Pac-Man enthusiasts worldwide have heard the whispers about a "secret trick" allowing a player to get past level 256 and continue playing without using the aforementioned rack test. Several players have boasted having acquired this holy grail of Pac-Man knowledge over the years, but no one has been able to make good on their claims by actually proving it.

This topic became so hotly debated in the upper echelons of the arcade gaming community that Billy Mitchell-who was convinced it was impossible-offered a $100,000 cash prize to the first player to prove they could legitimately get past level 256, leaving the challenge open for a full year. The prize money went unclaimed.

In spite of the evidence against there being a way to get past level 256, rumors still persist and can occasionally be found in classic gaming forums online, yet no one has been able to back up their words with indisputable proof. It's hard to imagine why anyone who could legitimately get past the level did not collect Mr. Mitchell's prize money to be sure.

Still the occasional whispers can be heard. Perhaps it is simply natural for people to want to believe in the possibility as opposed to not-like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Then again, maybe there is some middle-aged Pac-Man junkie out there who is withholding secrets to a 30 year-old amusement device for his or her own unfathomable reasons. Stranger things have happened. You be the judge.

References and Further Reading

Appendix A: Reference Tables


(click image for full size)

Table A.2 - Difficulty Specifications

There is a small spot on the Pac-Man PCB where you can solder two pads together to set the game to "hard" difficulty. The only difference in hard difficulty is that five of the levels (1, 3, 6, 19, and 20) are eliminated from play. The system does not eliminate any of the bonus symbols, however, causing much confusion as to what level you're really playing.

Level two is the first board in hard difficulty for example, but the cherry symbol is used instead of the strawberry. It's still level two in terms of gameplay, but with cherry symbols in place of the usual strawberries. Also, the bonus point values are changed to match the current symbol being used. You can determine the difficulty setting of a machine by observing which ghost kills Pac-Man during the attract mode demo game.

In normal difficulty, Pac-Man gets captured by Inky in the lower-left area of the maze. If the difficulty jumper has been connected, however, he is captured by Clyde near the same location.

Normal

Normal Bonus

Hard

Hard Bonus

1

Cherries

-

-

2

Strawberry

2

Cherries

3

Peach 1

-

-

4

Peach 2

4

Strawberry

5

Apple 1

5

Peach 1

6

Apple 2

-

-

7

Grapes 1

7

Peach 2

8

Grapes 2

8

Apple 1

9

Galaxian 1

9

Apple 2

10

Galaxian 2

10

Grapes 1

11

Bell 1

11

Grapes 2

12

Bell 2

12

Galaxian 1

13

Key 1

13

Galaxian 2

14

Key 2

14

Bell 1

15

Key 3

15

Bell 2

16

Key 4

16

Key 1

17

Key 5

17

Key 2

18

Key 6

18

Key 3

19

Key 7

-

-

20

Key 8

-

-

21+

Key 9

21+

Key 4+

APPENDIX B: Easter Eggs & Tricks

This section is meant to contain not only the easter egg below, but also tricks-interesting ways players have found to create unexpected behavior in Pac-Man. I have seen a few of these curious abuses of a Pac-Man machine before, but I don't know how to recreate them.

As such, I am asking for any help the readers of this guide can provide towards expanding this section. Please send any Pac-Man tricks you may know me for inclusion in the guide; full credit will be given for your altruism and ingenuity.

NAMCO Easter Egg

There is a secret message hidden in Pac-Man by the developers at Namco. To see it, put the machine into service mode and wait for the settings screen to appear. Now quickly toggle service mode off and on (an alignment grid will appear on the screen).

While holding down the player 1 and player 2 buttons, toggle service mode off and on again very quickly (if done properly, the grid will stay on the screen), and then push the joystick in the following directions: UP x 4, LEFT x 4, RIGHT x 4, DOWN x 4. The message "MADE BY NAMCO" will appear sideways on the screen, spelled out using energizers.

APPENDIX C: Hardware Information

Specifications:

  • Platform - NAMCO 8-bit PCB

  • CPU - Z80A at 3.072 MHz

  • ROM - 16K in four, 4K chips

  • RAM - Almost 2K

  • Display - Raster

  • Orientation - Vertical

  • Resolution - 224x288

  • Colors - 16

  • Attributes - Eight 16x16 hardware sprites

  • Refresh rate - 60.61 Hz

  • Sound - Custom monophonic 3-voice waveform sound generator chip

  • Controls - One 4-way leaf joystick, 1P/2P buttons

  • Models - Upright, Mini, and Cocktail

Midway Operator's Reference Books:

APPENDIX D: Vintage Guides


Article Start Previous Page 9 of 10 Next

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