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Pacmania

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Written by Sarek

November 3, 2005
Comments

Pacman is one of the oldest and most successful computer game formulas. But the basic idea of transversing pathways happened years before computers arrived. The origins of the game goes back to 17th century Prussia. In Konigsberg, tourists traditionally played a walking game whereby they had to walk around the town and cross a network of 7 bridges, ticking each one off as they went. The aim was to tour all of the bridges for scenic purposes, and visitors were naturally uninclined to revisit a bridge they had already crossed, and this became the challenge. Going unsolved the city became famous for the problem, and in 1736 it was proven once and for all that it couldn't be done without repetition.

In the Victorian days, walking games similar to this were hugely popular in England. But with the onset of laziness, these slowly abstracted into drawing puzzles like "trace this pattern without taking your pen off".

It isn't hard to imagine a student back in the 1970s inspired by this history of transverability problems to produce a similar game in computer form. Add in a few ghosts and so Pacman was born! And in 1987, the game came to the ST possibly in its greatest incarnation ever - Pacmania.

Since the 1970s, Pacman has been through hundreds of experimental revisions, but usually these 'modern' variations were less entertaining than the original concept and didn't last. Pacmania is possibly the most recent one to have long term success.

Pacman needs no description - we all know how it goes. But some of the features new to this version are as follows:

1. Rather than using identical looking ghosts, or a separate colour for each one, Pacmania instead features three different kinds of ghosts: Normal (Brown), Fast (Brown Angry), and Jumping (Green).

2. Pacman has the ability to jump to dodge ghosts - particularly useful against the fast/angry ones, but is useless against the green ghosts.

3. Four arenas to play in, each with their own graphics set: Block Town, Pacman's Park, Sandbox Land, and Jungly Steps - which are of increasing size, with an increasing number of ghosts.

NB: The most frequently visited arena in Pacmania is "Pacman's Park", and this arena has the same layout as the original Pacman game. For identification: Block Town is made of large lego bricks. Pacman's Park is made of neon tubes. Sandbox land is made of pyramids. Jungly Steps is made of floating steps.

The game is comprised of 19 levels, which are divided amongst 8 sessions in these four arenas. Level one is Block Town, intended to be a practice/warm-up. After this, there are 2 levels in each of the other three arenas at medium speed (levels 2-7), followed by three levels in each of the four arenas at high speed (levels 8-19). Adjacent levels, despite using the same arena, use different colour shemes to differentiate them. When I was younger it was a great curiosity for me wondering what colour the next level was going to be! Now finally, here they are:

LEVEL NO - WORLD - COLOUR
Level 01 - Block Town - Grey
Level 02 - Pacman's Park - Blue
Level 03 - Pacman's Park - Brown
Level 04 - Sandbox Land - Pale Green
Level 05 - Sandbox Land - Pale Brown
Level 06 - Jungly Steps - Pale Violet
Level 07 - Jungly Steps - Pale Green
Level 08 - Block Town - Grey
Level 09 - Block Town - Green
Level 10 - Block Town - Turqoise
Level 11 - Pacman's Park - Blue
Level 12 - Pacman's Park - Brown
Level 13 - Pacman's Park - Violet
Level 14 - Sandbox Land - Pale Green
Level 15 - Sandbox Land - Pale Brown
Level 16 - Sandbox Land - Pale Blue
Level 17 - Jungly Steps - Pale Violet
Level 18 - Jungly Steps - Pale Green
Level 19 - Jungly Steps - Pale Brown

If you get further than this, you will start again from level 1, and are able to accumulate your score.


Graphics, Sound & Gameplay

One of the dominant features in this version of Pacman is the use of Isometric 3D over flat graphics. This has proven itself time after time to be a successful medium on the 8/16 bit machines, and it works well in Pacmania too. The problem which arrises from this is that only a small part of the arena is visible at any one time, so you don't always know where the ghosts are lurking. The knock-on effect for later levels is that the speed is so quick that there is no time to react once making eye contact with a ghost. So for these levels, there is a lot of luck involved, which is a disappointment.

The graphics are a little more cartoon-like than those we have seen in previous versions of the game. For example, the ghosts have a jelly-like appearance with wibbly-wobbly underneath bits, and lets not forget their zombie-like eyes that humorously look up as you jump.

Vibrant game music and sound effects are provided by Benn Daglish, with each arena having a seperate tune.

Despite the not-so-friendly feel to the menu screen, the in-game controls are good. There is quick response and the scrolling around the arena is smooth, as is the jumping motion.

When I first started with the game at 10 years old, I could progress no further than level 4, and when I drifted away from my ST in 1996, I had not been able to get further than level 12. I would conclude that the game is a little too difficult. But considering that there are only these four arenas, it might become tiring if one could progress more easily only to be faced with more of the same.

Personally, I'd enjoy seeing a time-limited bonus level here and there (small randomly generated arena), and possibly one more main arena to add to the four others just to take away the feelings of sameness that negatively impinges upon ones enjoyment of the later levels. This sameness detracts a little from enjoyment but it doesn't seem to affect the lasting appeal of the game.


Conclusion

In conclusion, these are a few original features adding to this most unoriginal of initial concepts, but they all work well and get a thumbs up from me.





Score
  • Graphics: 8
  • Sound: 8
  • Gameplay: 9
  • Overall: 8

Review Comments

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Son Shu Shi

March 21, 2021 by ST Graveyard

What an accomplishment this game is. Created with such a small team, the result is really amazing. The game oozes creative passion. While the gameplay is really well balanced, it is a tough cookie, very hard from time to time with its moments of sheer frustration. As of level 3, timing becomes key. You will need to practice and learn the levels to complete this game, there are so many bad guys on screen it sometimes gets a bit hard to take.

Blood Money

April 4, 2020 by Morcar

Graphically, it's also nice on the eyes with well-defined graphics and animation. You really get the feeling that the developers put some thought and love into the game. Remember what I said about the large levels? Well these are wonderful and are very different to each other, they also scroll fairly smooth in all four directions.

Cybernoid - The Fighting Machine

March 28, 2020 by Morcar

When you boot up the game you’re presented with a fantastic loading picture of your ship. It's detailed with bold colours and it tells you This is 16-bit, bitch. Then you get the wonderful rendition of the Cybernoid theme that's on all the 8-bit versions. It's not exact but the changes still make it noticeable to anyone who knows it.

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