In the beginning there was Pac-Man
Pac-Man (and all his kin), were some of the most popular video games in the early arcade games, and they still retain much of that popularity even today. Pac-Man was so popular that the aftermarket began to produce various chips, game enhancements, and general hacks as early as 1981. The most popular "upgrade" was the standard speed-up chip (which is still produced today for both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man). Other hacks changed the mazes, the behavior of the ghosts, or even the graphics themselves. There was even an official hack available (which was known as Pac-Man Plus).
Pac-Man hardware: Real or Malarkey?
The popularity of Pac-Man (combined with the various "enhancements" that were available), caused the Pac-Man platform to be perhaps the most well known arcade boardset ever produced. Several other games also ran on this exact same boardset, such as Eyes and Paint Roller. The Pac-Man architecture is so well known that I am truly surprised that no one has ported NetBSD to it yet. A few different people made kits that would allow you to play both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man on a single boardset, the games run on functionally identical hardware anyway. But even that wasn't enough for die hard Pac-Fans.
More Pac than you can shake a Power Pellet at!
In 1998 Clay Cowgill decided to make the ultimate Pac-Man upgrade. Thus Multi Pac was born. Multi Pac featured 24 different games, which were mostly Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man variants, but he also included a few games that also ran on Pac-Man hardware. The kit came with a Multi Pac mainboard, daughterboards, and a Multi Pac marquee, and also required installing a menu button somewhere on the cabinet.
The kit required either a Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man boardset, and required the removal of many of the components onboard. The upgrade is so great that it would often work on even "dead" boardsets, as it replaces all the roms, and even the Z80 CPU. The installation is not particulary difficult, and no advanced electronics skills are needed.
The only real drawback is that the Multi Pac marquee matches the Ms. Pac-Man color scheme, and does not look right on a Pac-Man cabinet, even though it fits perfectly.
What games do I get to play
Pressing the menu button on a Multi Pac machine will give you the following options (I wrote them exactly as they appear on screen, caps and all).
I want to play!
- PACMAN FAST
- PACMAN PLUS
- PACMAN PLUS FAST
- PACMAN (MOD)
- PACMAN AFTER DARK
- NAMCO (SIL)
- PACMAN 3D
- CRUSH ROLLER
- MS PACMAN
- MS PACMAN FAST
- MS PACMAN PLUS
- MS PACMAN PLUS FAST
- MS PAC ATTACKS
- MS PAC R.I.P.
- MS YAK PAC
- MS INDY PAC
- LIZARD WIZARD
This kit is no longer in production, but there are still a lot of them floating around out there. I got the opportunity to check one out for about a minute at a local collectors house (while he looked around for the Pac-Man monitor glass I had come to purchase from him). The best place to look for one of these kits is on eBay, or in the arcade related newsgroups. These are not constantly available like the speed-up chips are, but they come around often enough that you will be able to purchase one if you are truly interested.
Other similar multi-game kits include the Tempest Multigame, Williams Multigame, Multipede and Double Donkey Kong.