If Billy Mitchell, champion Pac-Man player, hasn't found a good use for his talents since he played "the perfect game of Pac-Man" on July 3, 1999, then he can rest easy. Ms. Pac-Man for Prizes is a game made for people like Billy, who are Pac-Man savants with persistence and free time. If you like a good, old-fashioned game of Pac-Man and think you're pretty good at it, then Ms. Pac-Man for Prizes might be the most rewarding game you've come across in a long time.
Ms. Pac-Man, also known as Pac-Man with a pink bow, is exactly like her pellet-eating paramour. She's on the quest for pac-dots, power pellets, fruit, and ghost hides. If you're unfamiliar with the difference between the two games, you'll soon learn that there are only a few minor changes to the series and those changes don't affect the overall gameplay much. In Ms. Pac-Man, the fruit appears from the side tunnels and it has to be chased down instead of hanging out precariously near the ghost spawn. The ghost cast of Inky, Blinky, and Pinky are joined by Sue instead of Clyde in Ms. Pac-Man. The most noticeable change is the level variety. The overall design of the board rotates between a few different layouts, all of which have the traditional four power pellets and otherwise symmetrical pac-dots.
In Ms. Pac-Man for Prizes, you play the traditional game of Ms. Pac-Man in a race to get the best score against another human opponent. At the end of the match, marked by the loss of your third life, your score is uploaded, compared against the opponent's score, and your rank is tallied based on the results. If you're playing head-to-head, score results are finalized daily, and prizes are awarded by a text message to your phone. You can go to the Namco site to collect your prize if you've won. The prizes themselves change daily and, depending on their value, are awarded to the top two to five players in the game. Prizes have included gift certificates to Amazon.com, $20 to first place and $10 to second place, or $6 gift certificates to Baskin-Robbins for the top four players. Prize schedules are listed for the upcoming month and include gift certificates to many other popular stores, such as Blockbuster, Subway, and Target. Weekly or "progressive" tournaments are also held, with greater rewards for the winners, but these tournaments measure your overall high score for the week instead of your daily tally against ghost opponents. At any time you can check your head-to-head and progressive scores on the phone or online. Scores update instantly in progressive mode, as soon as both players are finished in head-to-head mode.
The nice thing about Ms. Pac-Man for Prizes is that winning seems very plausible. There are people who play the game quite a bit, but with the right amount of persistence and a little bit of Pac-Man skill, you can be right there in the mix. The game is really no different than versions you've played in any other format. There are only four different boards to try to master here, and it's perhaps a little awkward to play without the aid of a joystick, but the controls can be learned fairly quickly. The sound and graphics are the same as the original, with the exception of the missing sound for the pac-dot collection. This doesn't change the gameplay much, but it seems like it could have been implemented for authenticity's sake.
The one major problem with Ms. Pac-Man for Prizes is that competition is completely random. There's no way to set up matches against famous opponents or your friends. It would have been nice to include this for perhaps the sake of personal tournaments or just for friendly gameplay. Players can still compare scores outside of the game, but it's not quite the same. Overall, Ms. Pac-Man for Prizes is a game for Pac-Man lovers who like the idea of a reward for their efforts. You may not win all the time, unless your name is Billy Mitchell, but sometimes it's worth it for the sake of the competition. While getting a perfect score in Pac-Man may not be in the stars for everyone, getting a gift certificate for a DVD or two isn't a bad substitute.