Pac-man gains an extra dimension
Costa Pac-ket: £8.95 cass
Author: Shaun Hollingworth, Peter Harrap, James Tripp, Jason Wilson
The ultimate consumer is back! And just as greedy as ever. Levels are completed in the age-old tradition of gobbling down all the dots and pills available. Naturally the more conservation-minded ghosts - Slinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde - are still haunting the mazes trying to catch the hero. On later levels they're joined by two new recruits: Sue and Jumpy.
At the start, the player can choose to start on Round One, Block Town; Round Two, Pac- Man's Park or Round Four, Sandbox Lane. These are all different maze layouts with their own unique graphics. Round Five, like Three, is a different coloured 'bonus' version of the previous maze. Round Six is the wonderful Jungly Steps, after which all the remaining 16 are re-coloured versions of the four basic mazes - just like in the arcade original. Due to their increasing difficulty, a lot more bonus points are awarded according to the round you're on.
Helping you on your way to a huge points total are the familiar power pills, turning the ghostly hunters into prey for a (very) short time. Also of use is Pac-Man's newly-found ability to jump over his old foes - but not his new ones, so look out for Sue and Jumpy when they arrive. While wondering whether it's Clyde or Jumpy on your tail you might also cast your eyes over the bottom of the screen. At various times an object icon will appear here. If you then rush to the centre of the playing area Pac-Man will be able to grab it. Look out for cherries, apples, sweets, mugs of coffee, and bananas, all with varying bonus point values. Even more useful are special green and red power pills: green gives turbo speed, while red makes ghosts edible for big bonus points.
This is the biz! The ghosts and backgrounds are monochrome, but nicely drawn and very cute. Pac-Man himself is yellow, clashing a touch with the backgrounds, but that's only a slight flaw. As for sound, 128K owners are treated to some acceptable tunes, whilst 48K owners have good chomping effects. Nevertheless underneath all the special FX it's just another Pac-Man game, albeit a very good one.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: well-drawn sprites in fairly smooth-scrolling isometric mazes
Sound: superb, catchy in-game Pac-Music
Options: music on/off. Choice between three starting levels
Hey, look who it is, it's my old mate the over-inflated banana, perhaps better known as Pac-Man. This time he's in glorious 3-D and full of bouncy jumps. Graphics are good and the sound is really cheerful - helping simulate exactly the same fun as in the arcade. Pac-Mania is an excellent conversion of the arcade machine [but still just a Pac-Man game. Great presentation admittedly, but I don't know if it's original enough to keep you playing for all that long.
Oh, me of little faith; I thought there was no way this great Namco coin-op could be adequately converted. But in fact some wonderful programming has proved me wrong. The scrolling's pretty darn smooth, the sprites are well-defined and not too slow either. Furthermore, the programmers haven't stuck strictly to monochrome and have managed to have a yellow Pac-Man chomping through a different coloured maze. Even more amazing are the absolutely brilliant in-game 128K tunes - some of the catchiest I've heard on the Spectrum. Of course, technical excellence can't solely make a great game, but Pac-Mania is such a great coin-op and all of its intricacies are here. This is one of the most playable games I've seen - even if it is only a souped-up version of Pat-Man. Highly addictive, a pleasure to watch and listen to - what more do you want?? (A free coin-op from Grandslam, Phil? - Ed.)
Pick a Pacman! Calling a temporary truce to test out two variations on the arcade classic are the one-time YS lovebirds, Gwyn 'Ghost Gobbler' Hughes and Rachael 'Power Pills' Smith. Its amaze-ing how they'll make the peace for a few pounds.
Reviewer: Rachael Smith, Gwyn Hughes
Rachael: History time! First there was Pong, then came Space Invaders and Defender...
Gwyn: ...And then came Pacman!
Rachael: But games grew more elaborate. There was Elite and Lords Of Midnight and Driller and then...
Gwyn: ...And then came Pacman again!
Rachael: Yes, even though programming has reached the pinnacle of sophistication, there are still thrills to be found in the old faves. Witness the great Breakout revival which has arcaders busting their blocks in a zillion different ways (Remember YS's very own Batty?) Pacman was first of the maze games complete with all the collecting and dodging you could hope for and not an alien in sight. Pacman was different...
Gwyn: Yes Pacman was boring. I can remember typing in a version of the game on my ZX81 and regretting the time I'd wasted!
Rachael: Wha'! I You don't like little round hereos?
Gwyn: No, I think they're a load of balls.
Rachael: And what about mazes. You must like Hampton Court?
Gwyn: I don't know - I've never got my hampton caught!
Rachael: Gak, I can see this is going to be a bundle of fun. Load the first game, Maestro, and away we go...
Rachael: Yes, Pac-Mania is taking the country by storm as the big P goes crazy. Grandslam's official licence of the arcade machine is a classic conversion, complete with power pills which let you munch on ghosts, fruits to collect and weap around tunnels which take you and those pesky ectoplasms from one side of the maze to the other. But where Pac-Mania really differs is in its scenery. Instead of the old over the top 2D view you get a 3D view into the landscape, which scrolls smoothly around.
Pac-Mania starts in Block Town, an easy level to get your appetite going. Pacman's Park, which follows, is tougher. A tunnel means you're in more danger from ghosts popping up where you least expect them. By level three, Sandbox Land, things really are getting tough. The troublesome spooks can jump across the blocks to cut you off, and the tunnel is a dual carriageway affair. But the Jungly steps is the most spectacular landscape, a steep climb with lots of angry ghosts who will catch you unless you're very lucky and reach a power pill.
Though the game runs on 48K there's a bonus for 128K owners - the tape automatically discovers how much memory you've got and crams in a musical soundtrack if there's room...
Gwyn: It doesn't take machine code to tap my memory. I can remember a million games more interesting than this one. What the gormless tottie has failed to tell you is none of the levels is awesomely large. In fact they're pretty puny. Even the programmers seemed aware of this so once you've completed Pac Park for the first time, you have to do it all again before you move on. The same with successive levels. The whole thing is too easy and desperately dull.
Rachael: Not fair. You can go to any of the first three levels automatically, so you don't have to play the less challenging ones, and there's a nice 'credit' feature which sometimes gives you 10 seconds to return to the level you just lost, if you want.
Gwyn: Big deal - a free chance to prolong the tedium. You can send this one packaging, as far as I'm concerned!
Rachael: Crazy Irishmen - Mad Micks - Geddit! (Yes, and so will you if you crack any more like that! Ciaran) Mad Mix is not a Pacman game. Of course it features mazes, spheres to eat ghosts and the like, but that's not Pacman chasing - it's Pepsiman!
Pepsiland's landscapes are much more varied than Pacland's. There are one way systems which, when you get into them, drag you round until you've destroyed all their tiles, and trap doors to block off passageways. And somebody must have spiked Pepsi's soft drink with something psychadelic because Pepsiman keeps changing into other forms. 'Cos as well as the ghost-eating Angry Pepsiman there's the Pepsipotomus, a Pepsidigger and even a Pepsispaceship and Pepsitank which add a shoot 'em up element when you tread on the right squares.
And you'll need all the help you can get because there are several foes. As well as Ghosts there are Ladybothers, who create new spheres spheres where you've eaten them, and Repugnants, who can 'clamp'spheres and make them inedible, just like the repugnant traffic warden who clamped my motor last Saturday.
Gwyn: Of course he's not repugnant as this game. Sure there's more to do but the playability isn't as hot as it could be. The first round is so open-plan that you can't plan a proper course - the secret of success in all maze games. Things do look up in round two 'though, and round three is quite pretty!
Rachael: I'd tend to agree on the play balance, but once you get into it, Mad Mix probably has more lasting value.
Gwyn: If you mean it's sticky, like the soft drink it's been licensed from, you could be right. But I reckon too much of it would rot your teeth!
TO P OR NOT TO P?
Gwyn: What can I say? Neither of these games is exactly a major contribution to computer science. In fact they're such a step back I'd like to lose both of them in a maze. Dull and repetitive, but if I had to choose, I'd say Pac-Mania has it on playability even though it may bore you to death with deja vu.
Rachael: Now that old misery guts has gone I can honestly say that it's good to see Pac back. Okay, so there are better games, but this is just the sort of simple entertainment that appeals to us simple souls. Hardened gamers probably will work their way through Pac-Mania more quickly so Mad Mix is probably their mega mix. However if you're a Pac purist you'd do well to go for the Grandslam game.
Reviewer: Tony Dillon
He's mean. He's tough. He's a cold-eyed, laconic killer. If you're a bad guy you'd better stay out of his way, or he'll bite your eyes out. He's the coolest. He's the greediest. He's PAC-MAN.
Yes, the rotund hero of many happy hours of maze-chasing is back, and it must be said that unlike Pacland, which was as satisfying as a Twix in a refugee camp, this one is a real goer.
Now, there aren't many surprises here if you remember the original Pacman. All this is, basically, is a 3D version of what was, in its time, the most popular arcade game of all.
Mind you, it's done staggeringly well by Teque, authors of Grandslam's earlier hit Terramex. The scrolling is creditably smooth, the animation is very well handled, and the game sticks as closely as possible to the arcade original.
The playing area is the 2/3 of the screen on the left. Limiting the scrolling area in this way makes it easier to handle scrolling smoothly, and in this case it doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the game at all.
On the right are the displays which show you your score, hi-score, remaining "credits", number of lives, and special features activated and so on.
You can start on any of the first three levels - Block Town, Pacman's Park or Sandbox Land. The fourth level, Jungly Steps, can only be accessed once you have completed the first three. Not that there's much difference between each level; though the design of the backgrounds change, the aim is exactly the same; keep moving around the maze, gobbling up the pills, avoiding the Ghosts, and looking out for the fruit and other tokens which give you extra points and bonus features.
The graphics are cleverly done to minimise attribute clash, even though Pac is yellow and the backgrounds, er, sometimes aren't. The only time you notice anything amiss is when Pac leaps into the air. Yes! This little Paccie can jump over the heads of the pursuing ghosts, so with a bit of good timing and a sense of direction you can escape from positions which would have spelled your doom in Pacman.
When you find a Power Pill, the ghosts change colour, and for a few seconds you can chase and devour them. With an appropriate expression of despair they disappear into the void, their eyes scuttling off home. If you hit a ghost, though, you spin around and vanish, and reappear at a random position on the level. As with the original game, if you lose all your lives, you can restart from the last level you reached by pressing the fire button within seven seconds.
Although the first couple of levels are pretty easy, things get more complex later on as there are more, faster ghosts and more complex mazes. This is where the extra features come in useful; some of the tokens scattered around the maze allow you to move faster, become temporarily invisible, and so on.
In between each level is an amusing little bit of playacting from the Pacman Theatre, and although there are only four different types of background, there are endless levels featuring faster, more intelligent, and sometimes invulnerable and jumping ghosts. So, if you like the basic idea of Pacmon, the fun will go on as long as you can possibly stand it.
OK, no big surprises, but an excellent conversion, and a jolly good update of a much-loved original.
MACHINES: Spectrum, Amstrad, C64, Atari ST, Amiga, MSX
PRICES: Spec/Ams/MSX £8.95 cass, C64 £9.95 cass, C64/Ams £14.99 disk, ST/Amiga £19.95
SUPPLIER: Grand Slam
VERSION TESTED: Atari ST, Spectrum
The PacMan story started in 1982 when Bally Midway released an arcade game in which the player has to guide a little yellow blob, featureless save for a large mouth, around a maze and eat as many dots as possible while avoiding the attentions of four marauding ghosts. Public response was phenomenal - there has been nothing like it before or since - and within months you could buy PacMan watches, cuddly toys, clockwork toys, T-shirts, underwear, beach towels, mugs... You could even watch PacMan cartoons on TV and eat PacMan sweets! As PacMan fever swept across the globe, it seemed that the public had an appetite for PacMan products as insatiable as the little yellow fellow had for dots!!
Eager to follow up their success, Ms PacMan was released. Basically more of the same, it was designed with the female gamesplayer in mind - although it's true to say the original PacMan's non-violent game concept hod already attracted many female players into the arcades, as well as those to whom shoot 'em ups never appealed.
Next came Jnr PacMan - another dot gobbler, this time with a scrolling screen - Baby PacMan, a mini pinball-type game, and a full-sized Mr and Mrs PacMan pinball machine. Since then there has also been Professor PacMan, PacMan Plus, Super PacMan, Pacland (a horizontally scrolling arcade adventure type game) and, bringing us bang up to date, Pacmania.
Grand Slam recently bought the conversion rights to the latest installment of the PacMan series, and is set to release the game on all formats.
Pacmania is very similar to the original PacMan in the respect that the player guides Pac around a maze to collect all the dots, avoiding, contact with ghosts. However, instead of a 2D static viewpoint, the game is seen in forced perspective 3D, with the maze scrolling as PacMan moves. He's also has the ability to jump - useful, since there are far more ghosts rampaging around the maze.
At the start of a game the player selects one of three levels: Block Town, PacMan's Park or Sandbox, and the game begins. If either of the latter levels are chosen, a courage bonus is awarded when the first screen is completed: 50,00 and 100,000 points respectively.
The objective is simple - eat all the dots to move onto the next maze. Deadly ghosts wander around the maze and attempt to corner the yellow hero, and he can either attempt to avoid them entirely, jump over them, or head for the nearest power pill and be granted temporary invincibility. During this period, the ghosts turn blue and are destroyed if PacMan touches them. The supernatural horrors re-appear shortly after and continue the chase with renewed vigour.
Occasionally a bonus fruit target appears in the middle of the maze and is picked up for bonus points. Sometimes this target takes the form of a special pill, which gives PacMan extra speed.
This is particularly useful if you can grab a power pill, as it allows you to track down and destroy large numbers of ghosts and boost your score!
There are four different maze designs in all: the three previously mentioned and the Jungly Steps, the largest of them all. As the player progresses, the going gets increasingly more difficult, with faster and more intelligent ghosts, some of whom are capable of jumping, thus neutralising PacMan's one advantage. Power pills also become less effective. When all four levels hove been conquered, play starts again on the first, but the going is even harder and so until all five lives are lost.
Although the Pacmann theme is a very old and simplistic idea, Pacmania is enjoyable and highly addictive. It has a timeless appeal lacking in a lot of of today's software, and is the sort of game that gets loaded months after it was first bought, just for a couple of quick goes.
The graphics and sound are very similar to the arcade machine, and the screen scrolls smoothly in all four directions - no mean feat for the ST!
So, if you're looking for a neat and appealing arcade conversion, give Pacmania a go; I doubt whether you'll be able to resist its charms.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Atari ST £19.95
IN A PAC'D PROGRAM
The return of the yellow, munching beach ball was greeted warmly by TGM when the Amiga conversion of the Pac-Mania coin-op bounced into our office last month. Pac-Man, now in 3-D, explores four worlds which differ graphically as well as in layout. He leaps through the air to evade marauding ghosts, and can eat them when energised by a power pill.
The ST version would be more impressive if we had not seen PacMania on the Amiga beforehand, nevertheless it is still a very good conversion. A little over half the screen width is used for the play area, the remainder for a status panel spread with colourful ghost stills. In-game graphics use few colours by comparision: 4 for the maze and 5 for characters, but all are nicely detailed.
The Spectrum's play area (two thirds of the screen width) is monochromatic, other than Pac himself, and scrolls smoothly but faster horizontally than vertically - this is disorientating and takes getting used to.
The C64 mazes look similar to the Spectrum when hi-res night graphics are chosen, otherwise day features are colourfully jolly (if blocky) as are the sprites.
The music is an adequate rendition of the coin-op sound track and is similar on ST and C64 although thin Atari sound effects contrast to the arcade-like qualities of the C64. Sound on the Spectrum is crude, even by its own standards, consisting of brief clicks and jingles.
All conversions have been programmed to take advantage of the host computers' capabilities and provide addictive and accurate arcade thrills.
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