Everygamegoing


Pac-Man

Author: Dave E
Publisher: Trickysoft
Machine: BBC B/B+/Master 128

Pac-Man

Over the past couple of years, the BBC Micro has seen a few new releases from one Richard Broadhurst, aka Trickysoft. I don't even pretend to know what he does, or how he does it, but he manages to "map" some of the very early Eighties arcade circuits directly onto the Beeb's, and then somehow dump out the memory, so you end up with an arcade-perfect port of the original. He worked his magic on Carnival and Astro Blaster back in 2016 and in 2020, Pac-Man got the same treatment.

I'm not a big Pac-Man fan to be honest. Obviously it's an iconic game, to the point of being legendary even, but it's far too repetitive for my liking, and I was never the type of child that kept playing something just to get on the high score table. I prefer games that you can actually "win", if you put the work in.

The BBC Micro isn't short of Pac-Man games already, and Acornsoft's Snapper is already a brilliant Pac-Man clone, but I suppose it could be argued that there's nothing quite like having the "original arcade machine" on the Beeb. So, well, is Trickysoft's arcade port going to have you all clambering over one another to download the BeebEm emulator (Make sure you get version 4.15 as Pac-Man won't work on earlier versions!) to fire it up?

Pac-Man

Well, probably not actually. Well, not if you read this review through to the end anyway. Because, unfortunately, for all of Trickysoft's work, this version of Pac-Man doesn't have many of the components that made the original arcade machine so iconic. What it does have is excellent - it moves very fluidly, Pac-Man reacts instantly to your controls, and there's no fluctuation. There's more waca-waca noise than a Shakira track and it's all rendered at the exact resolution of the original.

However, where's the frantically increasing 'panic stations' tone of the original game? You know, the one that increases an octave or two as you clear the playing area and ramps up the adrenalin? Not there.

And when you eat a ghost, shouldn't its eyes wander back through the maze to its homebase? Again, an effect that's just not there. And, what's more, you don't even get the satisfying little graphic of the bonus score confirming you've just been awarded X additional points for successfully eating it. Instead the ghost just disappears and reappears immediately in the home base.

Pac-Man

So, um, not really the complete arcade port of all BBC-owning Pac-Man lovers' dreams, is it? In fact, with its current shortcomings, it's more likely to disappoint such people than excite them.

Don't get me wrong. This is a competent enough version of Pac-Man if you've somehow never played the thing before. If you're like me, no version of this game is going to have you doing cartwheels. Heck, even if Trickysoft's Pac-Man was 100% identical to the original arcade in every way, I'd probably be moaning that you might as well just play the original via MAME or on one of the multitude of officially-licensed Plug And Play devices that Namco have brought to market.

The thing is, I really don't think I'm just being grumpy about this. The problem is, with the BBC already having so many good Pac-Man clones already, there's no real "point" of producing one more. The only point was for Richard Broadhurst to "see if he could do it". That makes Pac-Man more of an 'experiment' than something people might genuinely want to play. Unlike his earlier conversions, he hasn't produced a new game (i.e. one that you couldn't previously get) on the Beeb. He has produced a pretty cool version of Pac-Man, to go with the existing pretty cool versions of Pac-Man that exist.

So whilst the technical jiggery-pokery behind Pac-Man may well be somewhat miraculous, the game itself ends up feeling a little like an experiment that didn't quite come off. Personally, I was bored within five minutes. Sorry.

Dave E

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