Sound and gameplay mechanics were altered radically from the first two entries into the Pac-Man series – instead of eating dots, the player is required to eat keys in order to open doors, which open up sections of the maze that contain what in earlier games were known as “fruits” (foods such as apples and bananas, or other prizes such as Galaxian flagships), which are now the basic items that must be cleared. Once all the food is eaten, the player advances to the next level, in which the food is worth more points. In earlier levels, keys unlock nearby doors, while as the player progresses through the levels, it is more common for keys to open faraway doors. Pac-Man can enter the ghost house at any time without a key.
In addition to the original power pellets which allow Pac-Man to eat the ghosts, two “Super” pellets are available and will turn Pac-Man into Super Pac-Man for a short time. In this form, he becomes much larger, can move with increased speed when the “Super Speed” button is held down, and has the ability to eat through doors without unlocking them. He is also invulnerable to the ghosts, who appear thin and flat in order to give the illusion of Super Pac-Man “flying” over them. He still cannot eat them without the help of the original power-up. When Super Pac-Man is about to revert back to regular Pac-Man, he flashes white. The Super power can then be prolonged by eating a regular power pellet.
A point bonus can be scored if Pac-Man eats a star that appears between the two center boxes while assorted symbols flash inside them. The bonus greatly increases if the two symbols match when the star is eaten.
Bonus levels appear at intervals. Here, the player is presented with a maze full of food items and must eat them all in order to collect the points on a countdown timer. Pac-Man appears in Super Mode throughout the stage, and there are no ghosts.