Puckman was an old arcade game released by Namco way back in 1979. This title was later released in the United States and in many other countries as Pac-Man. The US only got Pac-Man, and Japan only got Puckman, but some other countries got both titles.
The Puckman story began in 1977 with Namco employee Toru Iwatani. The story has already been told many times, but it seems that he got the idea for his game while eating a pizza. He simply looked down at his pizza after removing a slice, and had the idea for the perfect arcade game hero. He began work on the game soon after, along with programmer Hideyuki Mokajima. There were also three more men on the Puckman team who worked on the graphics and the hardware, but they never ended up getting any credit for the game.
Puckman was first conceived as being a black and white game, but they quickly switched to color once the Galaxian team decided that they were going to use color for their game. The earliest prototype versions of Puckman did not even have a maze. The maze simply was not part of the original concept. Iwatani's original idea was just of a non-violent eating game that could appeal to gamers of both sexes. The maze didn't come into it until later. To get an idea what Puckman would be like without the maze, you should try playing Piranha with either the MAME emulator, or on a real Pac-Man/Puckman machine that has been equipped with the Multi Pac kit. That game was only a hack of the real Puckman, but it can give you an idea of how vital the walls are to the game.
Namco released Puckman in Japan on October 10, 1979 nearly two years after Iwatani first had his concept, and after 17 months of design, programming, and beta testing. The game sold well, but not nearly as well as they had hoped, and it didn't even come close to the success of Space Invaders. They presented the game to several companies for overseas production, Atari turned it down, but Midway decided to give it a shot. Midway changed the name to Pac-Man, redesigned the cabinet and sideart to be cheaper to produce, and finally began selling the game in America in 1980. I don't think I even have to tell you how much of a hit it became here.
The word on the street is that Midway changed the name to avoid having players vandalize the machines, as Puckman can be changed into "Fuckman" quite easily. As long as they were making new artwork, they figured they might as well cut down costs on building the machines as well, so they redesigned all the artwork to be cheaper to produce, and then they cut a few corners on the standard Namco cabinet design as well.
Puckman was later licensed to Kenphone Electronics and Karateco in 1983 and then again to NSM Play in 1985. All of those companies kept the original Puckman name. It was also apparently licensed to Bell Fruit MFG at some point, but no one seems to be able to put a date on exactly when that was. Finally there was a very common bootleg version that used identical cabinets to the original Namco version, but had completely different artwork. I will get into all of these in detail a little bit later.
The game itself is Pac-Man, which I am sure you are probably already familiar with, if not you can read about it here. The only difference between Puckman and Pac-Man is in the names of the ghosts. Pac-Man had Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, while Puckman had Akabei, Pinky, Aosuke, and Guzuta. The title screen displays a 1980 copyright, even though the game first shipped in late 1979.
The original Puckman was available in two different cabinets from Namco, an upright and a cocktail. There were also alternate cabinets produced by Hanly, Kenphone Electronics, Karateco, NSM Play, Bell Fruit MFG, and several bootleg game manufacturers. I will attempt to provide details on all of them.
Where to play
Namco Upright - The original Namco upright version came in a white cabinet that may look familiar to most gamers. This cabinet is the same "swoopy" design used for Pac-Man and Galaxian. The only actual design difference was the coin door. Puckman had a tall coin door with a single coin mech, while Pac-Man had a fat coin door with two coin mechs installed. However, the graphics on the machine were completely different.
The marquee had the "Puckman" logo off to the side at an angle, and showed a scene with half a dozen cartoon Puckmen eating power pellets, with a few ghosts lingering off to the side. The monitor bezel was largely red and was of a circular design and had many Puckmen lounging around the perimeter of the circle. The control panel continued the reddish graphics and had instructions in Japanese, along with a yellow ball-top 4-Way joystick and start buttons for each player. The sideart was a large circular sticker that advertised the game's name, and had many cartoon Puckmen in action around the edges of the circle, with the word Namco displayed prominently at the bottom. The cabinet was finished off with yellow t-molding on the edges.
Namco Cocktail - The Namco Cocktail was a table style unit and had almost no decorations at all, merely an instruction card underneath the glass, and some pictures on the control panel. There seems to be several different versions of the control panel graphics, but most of them show cartoon Puckmen on them. This table is not the same design as the Pac-Man cocktail, in fact it appears to use an almost identical design to Sega's Carnival including the strange coin mechs (it is very possible that they were the same cabinet, as many game makers bought their cocktail cabinets from third parties, and then simply installed the games into them).
Kenphone Electronics Upright - Kenphone actually produced a better looking Puckman than Namco did. They used their own sturdy cabinet design, and featured painted sideart of Puckman singing into a 50s style microphone. The rest of the graphics scheme was predominantly dark blue, and the marquee simply bore a centered Puckman logo. This cabinet was of a better design than Namco's, and these machines tend to be in better condition than real Namco units.
Hanly Cocktail - Hanly made a few cocktail units that were identical to the Namco cocktail in design, but had all their instructions in english, and have the word "Hanly" substitued for "Namco" everywhere on the machine. This may have been a bootleg.
Bell Fruit MFG Upright - The Bell Fruit upright was available only in the United Kingdom. This was Bell Fruit's standard mini arcade cabinet with a simple Puckman marquee that featured a few small ghosts and some images of cherries. The monitor bezel was similar to the circular design on the original Namco version, but all the pictures of the Puckmen were different, and all the instructions were in English. This machine had no sideart and the control panel was unadorned.
NSM Play Upright - The NSM upright was sold in only in Germany. At a glance it looks fairly similar to the Namco upright, but if you look a bit closer you can see that all the decorations on the machine are of low quality, and it comes off looking like a cheap bootleg, even though it was an official Namco licensed version. The instructions on these machines are usually in German. I am not really sure why they decided to make their own artwork for this machine, when the original Namco art looked so much better.
Bootleg Upright - This final version is a complete fake, but there are a lot of them. They seem to use converted Namco cabinets, painted white, and are decorated with very strange looking sideart that shows Puckmen and ghosts that look nothing like the ones on any other Puckman/Pac-Man products (since when has Puckman had green frogs legs?). The marquee has an odd Puckman logo in yellow and orange, along with a picture of the blue ghost and the strange "frog legged" Puckman.
You will probably never encounter a real Puckman machine if you live in America, we simply didn't get them here. The few that do exist in America are in the hands of collectors, and they probably won't let you touch them anyway. If you live in Japan or Europe then your chances of locating a real machine are slightly better.
You can play Puckman on any real Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man machine by installing a Multi Pac kit, or by performing a ROM chip swap. Although it would be rather silly to do so.
That basically leaves emulation as the only real option for playing this title. MAME supports this game nearly perfectly. The only issue is that a real Puckman machine seems to run the program slightly faster, the emulated version falls about one second behind every four minutes or so. That difference is so small that you actually have to set a real machine next to the emulated version and watch them side by side to even notice it.