TOO LATE... TOO PRICEY!
Like a guest late for his own party Pac-Man finally arrives on the Spectrum scene.
Yes, folks, the genuine, fully authorised, accept-no-fakes, original Ghost Gobbler is here. Purists who have been holding out against the hordes of Pac-Clones, this is it!
The best compliment that can be paid to Atarisoft's Spectrum edition of Pac-Man is that it is an extremely faithful reproduction of the original arcade barnstormer. All the ingredients that made the game a classic (ghosts, power pills, fruit, etc.) are rendered in easily recognisable graphics form.
In fact about the only thing that shows up the Spectrum's limitations is some rough animation. Sound, however, is very good and manages to retain the characteristic 'wacka wacka' sound of the game.
A high score table, attract mode, keyboard/joystick options and a cute 'interlude' after each two screens round off a generally high quality presentation - which is to be expected of an Atari product.
The big problem of course is that Pac-Man has already been done to death. Atari I have attempted to close the proverbial stable door with the horse cold in its grave.
Even those who haven't already got some form of the ghost chomping game in their collections will be hard put to cough up nearly us for this cassette-based edition. Atari seem to be blind to the realities of the software marketplace in this country. Someone had better perform some laser surgery on their corporate optic nerve before lack of foresight condemns this particular game to some dusty shelf in a Hall of Fame somewhere.
I must admit that my first impression on seeing this game was 'why did they bother?' After all, the Spectrum has been around for a couple of years now and, despite the efforts of Atari's litigation-hungry legal department, a number of companies have produced Pac-Man-derived games.
Indeed, Bug-Byte's excellent Spectres was a novel implementation that sold very well and proved extremely addictive to play.
But it must be said that the official, Atari-approved Pac-Man has a number of things going for it.
The aim, of course, is to tear round a maze, gobbling dots and avoiding monsters. I found that keyboard control was adequate, but a joystick is a necessity for those really high scores.
Atarisoft has chosen to ignore the Sinclair Interface 2 and instead has opted for Kempston compatibility, which could cut the sales potential a bit, although it must be said that probably the majority of Spectrum owners have plumped for this particular stick.
Although the four ghosts don't have the 'personalities' of their arcade counterparts, once the first couple of mazes have been cleared the action gets fast and furious enough for anyone.
The graphics are faithful to the original, given the Spectrum's limitations, and all in all this is a fair copy of the arcade favourite. But have they left it too late? And look at the price! Atarisoft is pushing its luck a bit. I can't see too many Spectrum owners being willing to shell out more than a fiver.
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