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Author Topic: Ms. Pac-Man (QVC) Countercade - Definitive Review  (Read 2114 times)

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Ms. Pac-Man (QVC) Countercade - Definitive Review
« on: August 21, 2020, 10:06:42 pm »

ok people, sit back and relax.

here's the review for new ms pac man countercade. (QVC 2 game version)


there are a few reviews on youtube so far, cooltoy and detroit love
have both covered it.


ms pac man is an interesting choice for Arcade 1up. It is part of the
3rd wave of titles, and is one of the initial titles of the revised countercades.

there is a walmart/best buy version of this that has different coloring,
and a total of 4 games, which is also more expensive.

background on countercades
arcade 1up came up with releasing countercades for the bigger titles.
gen 1 pac-man, galaga, and centipede.
gen 2 dig dug, space invaders
gen 3 ms pac man (QVC, HSN), pac-man, pac-man 40th, frogger

gen 1 and 2 started out at $199, but after several months dropped to
$149 and $99 clearance. they had large bezels, and were much wider
and heavier.


gen 3 are targeted for $99 for 2 games, and $149 for 4 games
gen 3 have much smaller bezels, are lighter, and slimmer too.
they also have variable sound switch, which allows for more
control over the volume.


i'm not going to bother going over the pro's and con's or the
basic information about the games, sounds, lists, etc. as they are sometimes
personal opinions, or have already been gone over many times already.

these are my opinions.


the long review follows:


i am going to go into gameplay details,
response times, and control mechanics for the games i know.

background -
i have been playing videogames from the days of pong, breakout and space invaders
i stopped playing them in the late 90's, and 00's when deluxe units were the norm.

i do know most of the atari, williams, namco, and capcom library inside and out.

i am NOT an expert at every game, but have played all of them either extensively
in the arcade when they originally came out, at home in MAME, and in pretty much
every port on PC, console, and remake that has come out.


hardware control experience
i have used arcade controls, buttons, trackballs and spinners since they came out.

i have home versions of those controls, and actually don't use dpads or analog stick
on any console unless i'm forced to.

my preference is always dedicated controls for arcade games

arcade gaming habits
i play arcade games, or ports pretty much every day, through the 80's, i stopped
in the 90's, and then picked up mame, and played it every day for a few years.
stopped again, until the 2nd year of the xbox 360. got gameroom, and pretty much
every arcade game, and port on those systems. i have continued this when ports
started showing up on the xbox one. i have played them on the playstation also,
but only the original and PS2, and now the PSP 2000.


lately, over the last couple of years, i have been playing arcade ports and games
everyday for a least a few hours. i usually place in the top 1-10 place on games
that i'm an expert in, and below that on other games.

as far as ms pac man is concerned, i have yet to master the game, and get to the
killscreen (142 boards). the home versions ports have all been patched to get
to level 256, and then restarts at level 1 but still with no energizers working,
and slow movement.


i have gotten about 340,000 which is several boards into the 'slow' no blink levels.

as far super pac-man goes, i've gotten about the same score with 300,000 plus, but
have not memorized all the patterns for the higher levels.

back when it was originally in the arcades, i used to play ms pac man quite a bit,
but usually got about to 100,000 and the junior levels and died.

maybe 200,000 in super pac-man, and died also after getting a few extra men.

i do remember the turbo version of ms pac man coming out, and since it was
much easier, after a few months, i could get to the killscreen pretty easily,
after a few hours. i didn't know it was a bootleg mod though.



i've recently gotten back into ms pac man over the last few years, and since
all the official versions are the normal speed ms pac man, it seemed much harder.

after learning how to group after a few years, i can finally play a lot better,
and got used to the speed, so it doesn't seem as slow as i remember it being.



now with that out of the way, lets get to the actual countercade


time spent playing
i have spent a few hours playing ms pac man, since i'm more familiar with that
game, and probably an hour or two playing super pacman.


ms pac man - countercade (bartop)
condition - after the numerous complaints about the first series of machines
that came out, arcade 1up has made a few fixes that have trickled down to
these countercades.


these machines are pre-assembled, all you have to do is plug them in.
the control panel does come with a clear acrylic protector over it,
so the artwork won't wear out. its held in with 2 screws, 1 on each side.

the joysticks and buttons (clicky) are again a slight improvement over
the previous generation stock ones. they're not arcade quality, but do the
job for now. they matched the arcade ones with using white for the player
credit buttons, the player starts, the volume and on off switches. they
also added a button for speed up in super pac-man.


durability - the unit is constructed fairly well, it has significant weight
for its size. it doesn't wobble, and doesn't move unless you jostle it with
a lot of strength when playing. if you put it on carpet, or a non-slip
surface on a table, you should be fine. perhaps not on a floor, or just
plain wood though, as it would possibly slide.


the control panel is solid, and supports both hands easily, with no flexing
or bending. the side panels are thick and supportive. the marquee is also
solid. the top panel, and back, are thinner, and allow for easy removal.

the screws holding all the panels fit well, and are tight, so there is no


ergonomics - one of my major complaints about the stand up cabinets is that
the control panel were not placed at an angle, they were flat.

fortunately for these units, they are placed at a slight upward angle, making it much
easier on the wrists when playing. especially for long periods of time.

visuals - the artwork is printed in decent quality, scaled and cropped to
fit, and same with everything else on the control panel.
it looks well done, and mine didn't have any scratches or marks on it.
for this version they applied a pink trim around the edges, whereas
the arcade version was a plain black.


screen - the screen is an 8 inch LCD screen that is of average quality.
not great on the viewing angles, but with the distance that you will be
sitting to play this, it is actually decent in size, and clarity.
the colors are a little oversaturated than expected.


gameplay - ms pac man
ms pac man is a very basic game. you control your player with 1 four directional joystick.


you traverse the maze eating dots and avoiding the ghosts. the fruit is not stationary
like in pac-man, and travels around the maze (two per screen).

there are 4 total mazes to go through, and 3 intermission screens.
the last 2 mazes have 2 color schemes (orange, dark blue, pink, brown), that
repeat until the killscreen.


i played several games and noted the following:
1) namco revision of the game
   - standard version, has all 4 mazes, and sounds right, grouping works just
     like the arcade version.

2) default settings
  - 3 men start, 1 extra at 10k

3) difficulty
 - there are no difficulty settings, just a default, same as the arcade

4) highscores are saved when machine is unplugged
5) new loading font, new arcade 1up menu screens and sounds when selecting game


i played until 212k (the first set of pink chase boards),
and will post a video of gameplay of higher scores.

as far as emulation goes, i did not detect any noticeable lag in the
gameplay. the sound was mostly accurate, and at a decent level.
there is some odd pixel scaling since it is not at 7:9.


Here is the information taken from the pac-man dossier:

Code: [Select]

                    Pac-Man Speed                          Ghost Speed
-----------------------------------------------      -------------------------
1       80%       71%       90%       79%              75%        50%      40%
-----------------------------------------------      --------------------------
2 - 4       90%     79%     95%       83%              85%        55%      45%
-----------------------------------------------      --------------------------
5 - 20    100%     87%    100%       87%              95%        60%      50%
-----------------------------------------------      --------------------------
21+        90%     79%     -          -               95%         -       50%
-----------------------------------------------      --------------------------

Although this data is for pac-man, ms pac-man inherits this information
and so it applies to this game also. Board 17 in ms pac man is like
the 5th key in pac-man, and the first time the ghosts don't blink
when you eat the energizers. Boards 19,20 are like the 6th, and 7th
keys where they don't blink either. Board 21, is like the 9th key
in pac-man, where the pac-man slows down, and the ghosts don't
blink for the rest of the game.

As it turns out, most people just aren't very good at ms pac-man.
If you are able to get screen 5 (apple), you are going at full speed
which is pretty fast, and the ghosts are going at 95% speed.

The problem is most people can't get past the first 2 or 3 boards,
so they think the game is slow. When the turbo version came out,
ms pac man would go at 110-150% or 200% or more depending on what
version you played.


Some versions had a button which sped up everything.

To me, at first, turbo was fun, because you could always outrun the ghosts.
So you would last much longer. After a few months, I could hit the killscreen
on level 142, after about 3-4 hours. Then it became boring and i quit.

About 5 years ago, I started playing the original again for real, and started learning
the strategies for higher scores. All the masters use 'grouping' to keep
the ghosts together and get perfect scores on the energizer boards.

After that come the slow boards on 21 and up. Where you go 90% and the
the ghosts go 95%. So you have to be really patient for those until the


I don't think ms pac man is 'slow', in fact you move too fast, up until board
20. You can always outrace the ghosts on every turn, and then lead them to the
tunnels to slow them down even more.

You can look on youtube or read about the strategies, and your gameplay
will get much better, and you can last longer. You have to be very
patient when playing, since there's no time limit on the levels.

You just have to learn about the spacing, and timing, and you will be
able to get through a lot more boards.


super pacman
controls for the arcade - 1 4 way joystick to move, and 1 button
for speed up on the right. unfortunately that means for right
handed players you will have to cross your hands to play properly
with the turbo button.



most people don't know this game, but it's a very fun game, and
improves on the pac-man basics, with getting keys to unlock doors
to areas.


this time, there are no dots, you are eating fruits and other prizes
on each level. there is also a bonus prize near the middle you can
get also.


from "KLOV":
The maze layout is identical for each board, but the maze walls do change color from board to board. The "side door escape
route" works just like Pac-Man you can lose the ghosts easily. There are energizers that function like Pac-Man energizers,
but there are also two "super" energizers that increase your size and give you a super speed option accessed from the
control panel. While at super size, pressing the super speed button will make you approximately twice as fast. Pac-Man can
safely pass through ghosts when he is big. The ghosts will become longer and thinner when the super energizer is eaten. This
is to give the effect of Super Pac-Man "flying" over the ghosts. If the ghosts are blue before the super energizer is eaten,
they will remain regular size, and Pac-Man can eat them as a normally-energized Pac-Man would.


In the middle of the maze, there is a flashing star between two boxes that display the bonus fruits or prizes: one box
displays the current fruit or prize and the other displays a rotating selection of them. Pac-Man can eat the star to score
points and if he eats the star when they match, there will be a large bonus score.


Occasionally, there will be a bonus stage where Pac-Man will automatically be "Super" and will have to eat everything in the
maze before time runs out. During this stage, there are no ghosts to pursue him. The familiar cartoon sequences also appear
in this game and are perhaps some of the best of the Pac-Man series.

i have played this game many times, but not to the point of mastery.
the game has infinite levels, and no ending (16 levels repeat),

but the score maxes out at 10,000,000.


i can hit about 300k and get through several rounds, but haven't
learned all the strategies yet.


things noted
1 there was an old and new ROM revision for this, i'm not sure which
one this is

2 default is 3 men start extra at 100k, and every 100k after
3 difficulty is r8, which is slightly higher than medium difficulty
4 no continues
5 high score is saved, and you can input 3 letter initials.


super pac-man is a very fun and challenging game, with many patterns
and strategies to learn. the super energizers add an importan element
to the gameplay as does the slowdowns and different ghost AI.

as far as emulation goes, i did not detect any noticeable lag in the
gameplay. the sound was mostly accurate, and at a decent level.


there is some odd pixel scaling since it is not at 7:9.

unfortunately, unlike the arcade, they did NOT put a speed button
on the left side for right hand players, so it's hard to play
unless you cross your hands.

tldr version:
controls are not arcade accurate - but actually,
and surprisingly do the job for average players,
they are subpar for intermediate and expert players

games play near arcade accuracy - framerate, and response is decent,


graphics are blocky and pixelly of course due to an incorrect scaling option used,
instead of 7:9 [most likely the monitor is 3:4]


sound - decent, loud enough but not overdone

screen angles are shallow - but are pretty vibrant enough in most cases
                          - color is ok, but over saturated

Final thoughts
A valiant, and in the end decent experience, if you're going for nostalgia,
and love ms pac man, and are ok with the compromises for that
and super pac-man.


overall, i would give 1up countercade a grade of C for effort.
B for quality and longevity, B for emulation, C for graphics.

So an average of B- overall grading, or 3.5/5 stars for the price.

Take into account the games you like, how much you will play them,
and how rough these things will be handled.


If you don't play often, these things will last and look good.


If you do play often, they WILL wear out, the buttons,
the controls, etc, eventually.

Modding the buttons and joysticks, will do some good perhaps, but in the end,
you will have to decide how much you want to upgrade.
I have this upgrade planned

 - new arcade quality joystick



The price was not a factor to me,  and is at the low end of bartop kit models.

every other prebuilt or configured one is several hundred dollars more, and usually unlicensed.

the official namco multigame bartop goes for $2k, so that's for the rich.


i don't recommend these bartops to anyone looking for accurate gameplay,
arcade quality controls, or bargains. they are mostly for collectors,
and fans of the game. other options will suit your needs much better than these.
but like the stand up units, are excellent bases to begin
making mods on, to make them much more useful and enjoyable.
this smaller form factor will make it harder to put more
components into it though.




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Re: Ms. Pac-Man (QVC) Countercade - Definitive Review
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2020, 10:34:39 am »
Gameplay 215k:



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Re: Ms. Pac-Man (QVC) Countercade - Definitive Review
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2020, 02:36:24 am »

The right hand side of the screen is darker, comes out that way in camera

Played super greedy or the first 6 screens

Yes, I tug on the joystick a lot at first, once the patterns kick in, not so much

Still a very fun game. I hope to get to level 36, because then it repeats every 12 screens.