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It Walked like a Duck and Quacked like a Duck, So They Made It a Duck

The Apple II release of Pac-Man has a bit of history behind it. Back before porting arcade games to computers became common, companies often released programs that looked a little like well-known arcade games, and played a little like well-known arcade games. One company, amusingly named H.A.L. Labs, went one step further when they published a game called Taxman. Taxman didn't simply look like Pac-Man and play like Pac-Man, Taxman was Pac-Man, with only a name change and some half-baked allusion to the I.R.S. separating it.

Not long after, Atari obtained permission to translate several arcade games for home computers, including the Apple II. With licenses in hand, Atari then sued just about every company that had released a Pac-Man clone, including H.A.L. Labs. The case was no contest, and H.A.L. Labs wisely settled. Part of Atari's winnings was the code to Taxman.

Two years after Taxman first appeared, Atari released Pac-Man. Lo and behold, Taxman was again available, only this time as an official port of Pac-Man. Atari, needless to say, saved a fortune in development costs.

Whether the game is Taxman or Pac-Man, all of the essential elements of the arcade game have been captured. The maze is the most accurate of any version released commercially during the 8-bit era, the ghosts have their unique personalities, and the bonus fruits and intermissions are all included. The only complaints are minor quibbles: The ghosts don't move their eyes, and they seem to be a little more aggressive here than in the arcade game. H.A.L. Labs did an impressive job, and Atari scored a major bargain.