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Pinball / Baby Pac-Man

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Pac-Man's forgotten progeny.

Baby Pac-Man is a Pac-Man arcade game designed by Claude Fernandez and released by Bally in 1982. It is best known for being one of two Pinball/Video Game hybrids developed by Bally (Granny and the Gators was the other). Instead of a regular pinball machine, the game shipped in an arcade cabinet, with a video screen on top with a smaller-sized table beneath.

Like other Pac-Man titles, the game starts off with Baby Pac-Man in a maze with four ghosts; unlike other titles, there are no power pellets available. When the player moves Baby Pac-Man into one of two chutes at the bottom of the maze, the gameplay switches over to the pinball table. Doing well at pinball rewards the player with power pellets, higher-scoring fruit, faster movement through the warp tunnel, and extra lives. The gameplay would return to the screen if the player shot the ball into a saucer or drained it, but draining would close the vertical chutes to lock Baby Pac-Man out of the pinball table. There were three mazes available, but most players found it hard to finish even the first one. That did not deter arcade operators, and Baby Pac-Man ended up as the second-bestselling pinball game of the year.note 

By most accounts, Baby Pac-Man is the hardest Pac-Man game ever made. Not only does the player start off with no offensive capabilities, but power pellets must be earned either by hitting a single target seven times or hitting two inner targets hard enough to move a secondary ball across a ramp. Skillful pinball playing helped ease things along, but the small size of the pinball table made it fairly easily to drain the ball. Yet by far the most frustrating aspect of the game is the disregard for the rules of ghost movement established in earlier Pac-Man titles — the ghosts are more aggressive than in the other Pac-games, with the red one moving significantly faster than the player does, and all of them can reverse direction at any time.

Because of the very unorthodox setup of the game, on top of Namco terminating their licenses with Bally/Midway, Baby Pac-Man never received a home console port that aimed to replicate the dual video-pinball gameplay of the original game. It wouldn't be until 36 years later when Bob DeCrescenzo, aka PacManPlus, an icon in the Pac-Man homebrew scene for Atari's systems announced that a full port of Baby Pac-Man had begun development on the Atari 7800, releasing in 2019.

Baby Pac-Man demonstrated the following tropes:

  • Adults Are Useless: While Baby Pac-Man is helplessly pursued by the ghosts, his parents are idly lounging around the bottom of the pinball table.
  • A.I. Breaker:
    • Ghosts are programed not to be able to enter the escape tunnels at the bottom of the board- making them the only truly safe spot where Baby cannot be attacked, provided he hasn't visited the pinball section yet. This becomes harder to do in Mazes 2 and 3 because of their shorter tunnels.
    • In the first maze, if Baby stays just above the bottom right exit tunnel, the Ghosts will stay above Baby, being completely unable to get past the large wall. This trick doesn't work with the left tunnel as the cyan ghost will eventually sneak past the long horizontal wall to the left and catch Baby. This is easier to do if the exit tunnel is open, as the player can just face Baby up.
  • Attract Mode: Due to it's pinball half, Baby is the only classic maze-based Pac-Man game to not feature a maze in it's attract sequence.
  • Big Eater: Baby Pac-Man, of course.
  • Blue with Shock: The ghosts, whenever you eat a power pellet.
  • Bonus Feature Failure: The Pacscalator function activated by shooting the pinball into the saucer after a power pellet was earned on that side. While it's great for being able to return to the pinball to sweep up some pellets, because you start closer to the bottom, the ghosts have more time to reach the bottom where the Pacscalator deposits you and kill you as a result, unless you only sweep a small number of pellets or happened to activate one of the lower pellets and chomp on one, eat some ghosts, and escape back into the pinball section.
  • Canon Immigrant: As with Ms., Jr., and Professor, Baby later joined the series' official canon starting with Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures and Pac-Man World. The game itself, on the other hand, did not.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard:
    • Unlike every other game in the Pac-Man franchise, the ghosts in this game don't have a "Scatter" mode and can reverse direction at will, making them significantly harder to evade. Expect to be ambushed and cornered lots.
    • Think the side tunnels will help you escape the ghosts' pursuit? Watch as another ghost runs over to the other end and blocks you in, leaving you with no escape.
  • Early Game Hell: You start the game with no Power Pellets in the maze and have to win them through the pinball section. Additionally, the first maze is fairly difficult with many opportunities for two ghosts to enclose Baby and trap him.
  • Every 10,000 Points: Averted, strangely for a Pac-Man game. To win lives, the player must hit the center blue drop target enough times without draining the ball. An extra life can also be obtained by completing three to five stages or beating the high score depending on the machine's settings. Since the game is a pinball machine, winning a life through the blue drop targets is represented by the flashing "Play Again" light on the field, thus the player can only earn one extra life at a time in this manner and it works identically to the "Shoot Again" feature in other pinballs.
  • Fan Remake: Game Mods of other Pac-Man games exist that replace their map(s) with those from Baby Pac-Man, completely omitting the pinball portion and becoming significantly easier due to the less brutal Ghost AI and starting off with a full stock of power Pellets.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: Power pellets, of course. You have to earn them in the pinball portion this time around though. It's not easy.
  • I Shall Taunt You: On the top of the pinball portion, Baby is shown doing this to a red ghost.
  • Luck-Based Mission: As the ghosts' movements are pseudo-random and do not follow any sort of pattern, your ability to evade them will come down to some luck along with skill.
  • Maze Game: The video portion of the game, which plays like a traditional Pac-Man game
  • No Fair Cheating: As with many pinball machines, tilting the machine causes the flippers to go dead.
  • No Name Given: Unlike other Pac-Man games, the ghosts completely lack names.
  • Non-Indicative Difficulty: The mazes actually are reversed from the expected difficulty order, with the third maze arguably being the easiest and the first being the hardest. The first maze in particular has a lot of long corners that make it very difficult to traverse the total length of without the ghosts butting in and sandwiching you. The third by contrast is the simplest maze and has a lot of straight paths that make it (relatively) easy to shake ghosts off you.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Slamming the machine causes the game to go dead for a few seconds, followed by the "Game Over" light turning on.
  • Nostalgia Level: The third and final maze is very reminiscent of the maze from the original Pac-Man.
  • Nintendo Hard: This is known by fans as the hardest Pac-Man game ever, and with good reason. The ghosts just hunt Baby Pac-Man down instead of following a fixed pattern (with the red ghost moving faster and the magenta one moving slower, and the two other ghosts moving at Baby's speed). The table itself is smaller than an average pinball table, making it very easy to drain the ball. Added to the fact that the only way to earn power pellets is to play the pinball portion (and the drop targets for the lower two quadrant pellets must be hit seven times just to spawn one of them and can easily drop the ball into the drain due to their position; the upper quadrants have it a bit easier since you can spawn either or by hitting their drop target hard enough to get the ball occupying them to go to the other side, but since the pinball exits are at the bottom of the maze it's an uphill climb to get up there without getting hit), along with the ghosts' AI behaviors being undocumented due to the obscurity of the title. Your only saving grace is the pellets in the maze will not slow Baby, unlike the official games.
  • Pinball Scoring: All scoring in Baby Pac-Man are 10x those in the other games, in such eating Pac-Dots award 100 instead of 10, and the Ghosts' values for being eaten are 2,000, 4,000, 8,000, and 16,000.
  • Pinball Spin-Off: One of two such spinoffs in the series.
  • Protagonist Title: In keeping with the spirit of other Pac-Man games.
  • Spelling Bonus: Earning a power pellet requires spelling PAC-MAN for each one. The left loop spells FRUITS to raise the bonus fruit available (as it normally does not advance when a maze is cleared), and the right loop spells TUNNEL to make Baby Pac-Man move faster through the warp tunnel.
  • Spin-Offspring: The player character, Baby, is Pac-Man's second child.