Namco TV Games Joysticks
Reviews of two "Plug N Play" joysticks featuring Namco games

Pac-Man Joystick
Pac-Man Joystick
While browsing through a second hand shop I came across a used TV Games Pac-Man Joystick. That is to my knowledge the most "official" name for the device, but I've also seen it called "TV Games Namco", which is what the front of the unit says. Having been hankering a TV playable version of Pac-Man for a while and having considered other versions of this device at full price, five dollars for Pac-Man and the other games it comes with seemed too good a deal.

The stick looks okay, but is very toy like and not especially attractive. The joystick and button feel solid and are well built, but aren't exact replicas of the controls found on an actual arcade cabinet.

The graphics were corrupted and jumpy at first. I thought my joystick was broken, or had been submerged in water by its previous owner, but it turns out I needed to change the batteries. Most devices just shut off when the batteries are too drained, but this one just struggles on with glitchy graphics and jumpy gameplay until you change them.                                         YOU'VE FOUND THE SECRET MESSAGE!

The system has grips on the bottom for playing on smooth surfaces, and the AV cable should have been at least a foot longer.

The games on this stick, Pac-Man, Bosconian, Rally-X, and Dig Dug, are not direct emulations of the original arcade versions and have different sound effects and enemy behaviors, but for some reason they didn't bother to add a pause feature, even though they went through the trouble of reprogramming the games. The sound quality is not the best, and in Dig-Dug, the notes of the soundtrack melody blend into one long, obnoxious beep.

The worst part is that even thought the games have an on-screen high score feature, they don't actually save your high scores! Turn the system off, and your high scores are lost forever. If I had paid full price for this and found that it dosen't save high scores, I would have been outraged.                                               .

Pac-Man Arcade Joystick

Pac-Man PackagingEven though I was somewhat dissatisfied with the Pac-Man Joystick, for 5 dollars from a thrift store it was a decent buy. The next day however, I saw the new Pac-Man Arcade Joystick at Target, and after calling the company on my cell phone to ask if this version saves your high scores (it does thankfully), I purchased the system.

This one comes with 12 games, Pac-Man, Pac-Man Plus, Super Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Bosconian, Dig-Dug, Pole Position, Xevious, New Rally-X, Galaga, Galaxian, and Mappy.

Since Pac-Man is the star of the show here, it's a shame they didn't include Ms. Pac-Man, Ju. Pac-Man, Pac-Land, and Pac-Mania, I would have gladly paid double the twenty dollar asking price if those games were included, and I think it would have actually made this a complete collection of every Pac-Man arcade game ever released barring the rare and impossible to emulate Baby Pac-Man.

The games look, sound and play much better than the versions on the old Pac-Man Joystick, and I can even use my arcade patterns in Pac-Man, which didn't work on the old stick at all. You can also pause the games at any time in the Pac-Man Arcade Joystick. I've seen video reviews of various Plug N Play joysticks on YouTube, but it seems that each joystick includes uniquely programmed versions of each game with different sound effects and AI behavior. It's really strange to me why they would bother reprogramming the games so many times, though I'm confident that the games featured in the Pac-Man Arcade joystick are the most faithful to the original cabinets.

The unit itself is handsome and of solid construction, the joystick and buttons are exactly like the controls of a real arcade cabinet, and the pause/menu button is a coin return button the glows when the unit is turned on.

             Pac-Man Joystick Image    

While the packaging for the Arcade Joystick is attractive and well designed, it's seriously overdone on the inside. The joystick is strapped for dear life into the cardboard backing and it took too long to free the thing from the box.

Look at this:

They designed numerous eye-holes in the base of the system for the sole purpose of twist-tieing the unit to the packaging. Seems like overkill to me, but why would they design the system with eye-holes for twist ties that the owner will never use again, but not add grips to the base so that it can be comfortably played on a smooth surface? The original Pac-Man Joystick had grips on its base, so why not the new and improved version? I actually had to buy my own grips from the hardware store and stick them on myself.

The setbacks don't end with the grips. The AV cable is 30 inches shorter than the one on the old Pac-Man Joystick, and this time you have to sit through nearly 30 seconds of copyright and title screens before the main menu loads. The old system only had a quick three second copyright notice before you could pick your game.

Overall however, the Pac-Man Arcade Joystick is a huge improvement over the old Pac-Man Joystick, the selection of games are better, the games play and sound nearly identical to the arcade originals, and the joystick itself is better designed, even with the short cord and lack of included grips.

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