Fictional Characters

Puzzle Inspired Story

Pac-Man Forever

Anyone who has met computer games aficionados will confirm that their appetite for digital action is insatiable. For that reason perhaps, a Japanese company called Namco released Pac-Man in 1980, a game designed to have no end. In the game, the player moves the “Pac-Man” — a character similar to a pizza pie with a slice cut out — inside a labyrinth with the objective of eating as many “pac-dots” or pellets as possible. While in the feeding frenzy, the Pac-Man needs to avoid the “ghosts” which can kill it and deplete its supply of lives. After Pac-Man has eaten all the pellets at a certain level, the game proceeds to the next, more advanced level where the ghosts are faster and more powerful.

Alas, the game is not neverending! Due to the so-called “split screen” bug, it has only 255 levels; a corruption of half the screen at level 255 prevents the player from eating all the pellets, as half of them are invisible. As a result, a perfect game is possible: a game where Pac-Man has lost no life and eaten all possible pellets at all 255 levels. This feat was achieved for the first time by Billy Mitchell of Hollywood, Florida, who, 19 years after the game’s release, “ate through” all the levels in six hours. A vexing question persists in the Pac-Man community as to whether it is possible to clear past level 255 by skillful play despite the screen corruption. Billy Mitchell offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who could do so before January 1, 2000. The prize expired unclaimed. As of February, 2012, no one has demonstrated that ability.



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