Beginner Pac-Man Strategy Guide
Updated: May 24
Bandai Namco's Pac-Man has been a staple of the video game industry since its first release in 1980. A game that is just as fun for new players and veterans, Pac-Man makes a great addition to your home game room.
Like any game, Pac-Man is the most enjoyable when you challenge yourself to achieve higher scores. In this guide, we'll go over Pac-Man arcade rules and provide some helpful tips for how you can become an arcade master.
How to Play Pac-Man
In most iterations of the game, you control Pac-Man, the little yellow ball with a sliver for a mouth. You start in the middle of the screen and navigate the character through a maze using the joystick or directional pad. The maze has openings on the left and right sides. Passing through one will transport you to the other.
The maze is full of tiny crackers, called Pac-Dots. You'll move around the maze collecting dots — worth 10 points each — and the round's bonus item, worth 200 points in the first round but reaching 5,000 later in the game. When you clear the field, you start a new maze. The longer you play, the higher you can build your score.
However, you aren't alone. Roaming around with you are four colorful ghosts. These spirits, named Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, are your main adversaries.
When you first start, the playing field contains only one ghost, while the other three wait in a chamber at the center of the map. But as the round progresses, they file out one by one. Bumping into a ghost will cause you to lose one of your three lives and return to the level start.
The ghosts will chase you around until you've eaten all of the crackers or lost a life. However, there is one way to mitigate the threat. Among the Pac-Dots are four larger crackers, or Power Pellets. In addition to a 50-point reward, eating a Power Pellet will cause the ghosts to turn a deep shade of blue and make a frazzled face.
Rather than chase you, the blue ghosts will flee. The fleeing phase is only temporary, but during this time, you can flip the table on the spirits and eat them for points, starting at 200 and incrementally increasing to 1,000 if you eat all four in succession. After eating the ghosts, they'll respawn in the center chamber, eventually rejoining the playing field in their original form.
Pac-Man Strategy Guide
Playing Pac-Man causally is a lot of fun, but if you're eager to top your high score, strategy is key. Like many games, Pac-Man rewards precise planning at higher levels. Here are some Pac-Man tips to keep in mind to help you climb to new levels.
Try a Pattern
Before you start your round, it's a good idea to solidify your intended route through the map. Over the years, players have developed a few movement patterns that bring the most success. To see your scores rise, become familiar with Pac-Man strategies like the apple, cherry or mid-fruit patterns.
Memorize the Ghosts' Movement
As you dive deeper into Pac-Man, you'll pick up on the ghosts' movements. All four enemies alternate between "chasing" and "scattering," depending on your movements and location. In chase mode, ghosts move toward the player, while in scatter mode, they head toward their pre-programmed corners.
Within these two general phases, each ghost moves around the map in a unique way. Understanding how each ghost moves can help you strategically eliminate them from the field or adjust on the fly when you're in a jam.
Blinky: The simplest enemy to understand, the red ghost targets Pac-Man in chase mode unrelentingly until it switches to scatter mode and returns to its corner. But watch out — Blinky's speed and focus increase when you're down to your last 20 and 10 dots.
Inky: The blue ghost moves the most erratically, basing its location on both Pac-Man's and Blinky's movements. Inky opts for a space in front of Pac-Man that is also twice the distance between Pac-Man and Blinky. Essentially, the closer Blinky gets to the player, the closer Inky will approach.
Pinky: The pink ghost is a strategizer, chasing to a position four spaces ahead of Pac-Man. With careful planning, you can exploit Pinky's anticipation. Moving upward causes Pinky to target four spaces ahead but also four spaces to Pac-Man's left. With this in mind, you can manipulate Pinky into heading down a non-threatening path.
Clyde: The orange ghost move based on its proximity to Pac-Man. An apprehensive pursuer, Clyde will chase until it is within eight spaces of Pac-Man. Any closer and it will retreat to the bottom left corner.
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