Sinclair User5th January 1989
Published in Sinclair User #85
They're all friends of Pacman in the Pacland. No, they're bloody not! They're all horrible vicious little monsters so far as I can tell, hellbent on the downfall of everyone's favourite gobsplit lemon.
Pacland is a strange place to be sure. It's made up from fluffy looking buildings with fruit that hangs in the air and maniac ghosts that drive cars and fly planes and kill you without hesitation.
Your objective is to explore (make it to the end of left-right flip screens) the Pacland, scoring as many points as possible on the way. Bit simple, don't you think? Well, yes, but the life of a tennis ball with a Chelsea smile is far from easy. The ghosts from the previous games are still as much of a menace these days and with no more than left, right and a jump key at your command you've got to avoid horrible propeller slice death or a nasty bump from a drink-driving lemon.
Graphically things are very basic indeed. This, it has to be said is simply a faithful conversion of the coin-op style, but emphasizes the fact that Pacland is more to do with playability than awesome visual appeal. And it's pretty good too. The ghosts on foot prove no problem on the first level, since you can outrun them and it's only by getting caught on an obstacle slightly off the current screen (sometimes there are posts and blocks at the start of the following screen which prevent your entry) that they catch you. In fact, the ghosts seem to be here as a bit of a token gesture, and they're worth bonus points if you eat the power pills.
The most common form of fatality in Pacland are unfortunate timing incidents when in the process of vaulting an oncoming spookmobile, you pitch yourself into the whirring propellor of a ghoulplane. So quite a bit of timing needs to be used. While you can change the direction of your jump in mid air, there's no way you can duck down once you're up there. Too much jumping usually ends in death.
The Pacland is split into lots and lots of stages - far more than I could really be bothered to complete. There are buildings in the background at first, from which you gradually make your way through the Pacforest, avoiding the menacing treestumps, and onto the hilly bit. This is when life gets really tough. You have to negotiate huge off-screen jumps - leaping off one screen and trusting that you've judged the location of the landing spot correctly.
All along the way, of course, there are bonus power pills and fruit to collect, but they're far from essential, they simply enhance your score. Eating a power pill, as well as making the ghosts edible, takes away the planes and cars for a while, giving you free passage. A point that I thought was slightly naff was that - just like the coin-op - there is no need to collect anything in order to make it to the next level. It there had been the obligatory token to collect, life may have been a bit more interesting.
The only places where Pacland falls down are the same as the coin-op. The graphics are a bit twee in the same way, the planes and cars sandwich you in the same, slightly unjust fashion. It's also got the same inexplicable playability and latent addictiveness. While you never find your blood boiling with frustrated determination to beat the ghosts into the ground, you end up just playing again and again. Very odd!
Certainly this is far from everyone's cup of tea. The Write Stuffs will pour in saying how hopeless or brilliant Pacland is. All I can say is that it's a very faithful conversion of a game you'll either love or hate.
Faithful conv of love or loathe coin-op. A must for Pacfiends.