In our previous “Getting Good” articles, we’ve been focusing on the vast amounts of mechanics in which players need to get familiar with in order to beat this timeless masterpiece. Without the proper know-how, most players will be able to beat a few levels, but will ultimately fall short as they progress while the computer enemies get faster and more unrelenting in their assault. In past articles, we’ve gone over the maze layout, the safe spots, the basic strategies, how the enemy AI is programmed to behave at all times, and how to get by this programming in order to stay alive throughout all the stages of the game.
However, we still have to discuss one very important element to successfully venture deeper into the game and come out alive in the process; the common patterns to be used in each level.
As experience can tell us, time is always of the essence when it comes to Pac-Man: arrive too late at your destination, and a ghost may be waiting for you there. On the contrary, if you learn to move fast enough, the ghosts will never be able to catch up, and you will be free to plunder the treasures of every stage. Moving fast is specially important in the later stages, where obtaining the bonus items can net you the biggest rewards, and will also allow you to outrun Blinky, the fastest out of the 4 ghosts.
The best way to move fast is to learn and follow determined patterns which, when used correctly, will allow you to easily obtain every bonus items in each stage, without the risk of running into a nasty ghost in the process:
The first pattern gets its name due to its usefulness during the first stages where the bonus fruit is a cherry. Start off by going left immediately after the stage begins. The idea is that you clear the whole bottom row before the 2 ghosts are able to get to their corners; if you’re fast enough, this should be possible with a little effort. This pattern is solely dependent on whether you’re able to clear the bottom row or not. If you miss a single dot, then you’ll eventually have to circle back and get it, which defeats the purpose of the pattern. When you get to the ‘B’ in the pattern(pictured below), you will most likely be chased by 3 ghosts. Regardless, you must stay undeterred in your course and keep eating dots. When you get to the ‘C’, feel free to eat a power pellet and get rid of those annoying ghosts; you should be able to eat the three that are chasing you, while the fourth will be running somewhere along the bottom row. Be sure to chase him down and eat him for some extra points.
Once you get to ‘D’ area, you’re almost done. The ghosts will not give up their chase by this point but there are few enough dots in the maze at this point that you can safely gobble them up while avoiding the ghosts. If you’re being chased around too much, feel free to grab the power pellet on the top right and eat the ghosts that are chasing you. If they’re too far, or start to retreat after you got the power pellet, then try to eat as many dots as you can in the top row, while heading towards the power pellet in the top left. Eventually, the ghosts will close in on your location, allowing you to easily eat them by grabbing the power pellet on the last corner.
This pattern is perfect for the next 3 screens. The fruits increase in value while the ghosts are faster and tougher than before. The first screen where you’ll use this pattern will have a strawberry, while the second and third will have peaches. Before getting into the pattern, please remember that the power pellets won’t be as effective as they were previously, so the ghosts won’t remain blue as long. If you ate a power pellet, and are looking to eat the ghosts, don’t overdo it and accidentally get caught when the pellet’s effect wears off.
Like the cherry pattern above, this one also starts by going to the left and clearing the bottom row of dots. Once again, clearing the bottom row entirely is critical to the success of this pattern and, in any case, you should be able to do it before the ghosts reach their home corners, despite them being faster this time around. In order to outrun the ghosts and follow this pattern, you must commit entirely to your movements, and never hesitate when turning corners. As you reach point ‘C’ in this pattern, you must eat the power pellet and catch 3 of the 4 ghosts that are chasing you. The last ghosts will be making a run towards the tunnel; you must chase him and eat him before he’s able to get away. Afterward, go back and continue following the pattern up until you reach point ‘D’. After this, you’re on your own. If the monsters are after you, get the top right power pellet and try to eat them while simultaneously traveling to the left, eating dots on the way. If they’re still hot on your trail, grab the power pellet on the top left and try to eat them. Alternatively, you may use the temporary invincibility to eat the remaining dots on the stage.
This the final pattern we’ll be discussing here. Not because it’s the last one – there are tons of forums and information on the net about pattern variations and theory crafting – but because there are simply too many scenarios to list here in a single article. In reality there are about 22 different patterns that you’ll need to learn in order to obtain the fabled ‘perfect score’: one for each level from 1 to 20, another pattern for levels 21 to 255, and the last pattern for the infamous ‘split-screen’ level 256. You may find an entire list of all the necessary patterns you’ll need to learn by following this link.
The apple pattern is used for stages 5 and 6, where apples are the bonus fruits. Like the first two patterns, you must go to the left at the beginning. The difference is that this time, you’ll only clear half of the bottom row before taking a turn upwards around the middle. When you get to point ‘B’, you will need to stay in the corner for a bit. This is to create a diversion that will make the ghosts miss you and walk right past you. When the coast is clear, resume the pattern and head towards point ‘C’. When you get there, there should be only 2 dots left in that spot. Make a swift grab for these dots, and then continue upwards; if you lagged behind in any part of the pattern, odds are that you won’t have time to get these dots before the ghosts catch up to you. Regardless, continue towards point ‘D’. If a ghost is hot on your trail when you reach this point, stop moving for a bit and let him slide past you through the tunnel. Follow after him while making sure not to get too close. Once you reach point ‘E’, the tunnel should almost clear of all the dots. Those that are left will be conveniently located near the power pellets. At this time, you’ll have to manage on your own. Keep in mind that the ghosts will remain blue for about 1 or 2 seconds after eating a power pellet, so you’ll have time to eat 2, at most. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to clear the whole maze without incident.
These are only a few of the maze patterns that you can use in order to safely traverse all the Pac-Man stages. As you progress through the game, the ghosts will get faster and nastier, forcing you to adapt and follow more complex and intricate patterns each time. Nevertheless, if you manage to get familiar with these patterns, you’ll be much closer to mastering the game, and achieving the perfect score.
Here at PrimeTime Amusements, we’re always at the forefront of all things Arcade. If you’re looking for a Pac-Man machine for your game room, or any other arcade amusement, for that matter, feel free to drop us an inquiry via phone at 1.800.550.0090, or to visit us at 5300 Powerline Rd. Suite 210, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 33309.