Living Guide to Spectrum Software


Since its introduction Pacman has probably been the most enduring of the arcade games. For Spectrum software companies it has also been the most imitated, with just about every producer having a go. As a result there are numerous versions available with very little to distinguish one from the other. Some of them will be the subject of a CRASH Comparison in the near future. Meanwhile we list them here very briefly, only making points where there is any point (if you see what I mean). For anyone who has never seen a pacman type game (can there be anyone?) you are presented with a simple maze, often connected left to right by a wrap-around tunnel, the passageways of which are littered with regular dots. Your gobbler must wend his way round eating up every dot like a good boy before he can progress to the next level of difficulty. To make life hell there are several ghosts which zoom around trying to gobble your gobbler. Four power pills per level may be eaten which then allow you to gobble ghosts for a short while. It’s all terribly enthralling and a joystick can be useful.

Producer: PSS, 16K £4.95
Good, classic version with three skill levels and clear graphics. A pity, though, that the makers don’t tell you which keys to use either on the inlay or the screen. In fact they are the cursor keys — not the best arrangement for fingers but useful because you can use a Protek or AGF joystick.

Producer: Micromania, 16K £5.95
Unfairly written off by a review in a well known magazine, this program rates as one of the most flexible and playable of its kind. Large, bright graphics with the usual features and a smooth action. Only four ghosts, but at the higher skill levels they are frighteningly intelligent at getting you. 10 skill levels, tunnel, and an unusual feature in the invisible maze mode, which starts off easily enough with all the dots outlining the paths, but becomes difficult as you eat the dots. Good sound too, and all round good value. Overall CRASH rating 72%. 100% M/C.

Producer: Mikrogen, 16K £4.95
Made with Mikrogen’s usual bright colours and clear graphics. Classic copy.

Producer: R & R, 16K £4.95
Author: Jonathan Nixon
The maze in R & Rs version is simpler than many but the reward is exceptionally clear and detailed graphics with very smooth movement. Various fruit appear to be eaten for extra points and this version doesn’t suffer with virtually invisible edible ghosts. Power pills, tunnel and increasingly fast screens. Very positive keyboard action, joystick option: Kempston but most importantly user-defined keys if you don’t like the cursors. One of the best gobblers around.

Producer: CDS, 16K £5.95
All the usual features with machine code smooth graphics. No joystick option.

Producer: Artic, 16K £4.95
Another standard version, pity though that Artic couldn’t have made the ghosts a little slower after eating a power pill since it makes them impossible to catch.

Producer: Campbell Systems, 16K £4.95
This is slightly different in that there’s only one ghost to chase you but the more dots you eat, the faster he gets. Five screens, nine speeds, no pills or tunnels, but pretty addictive.

Producer: Micromega, 16K £6.95
Author: Derek Brewster
Derek Brewster is Neptune Computing, but this 3D pacman is marketed by Micromega. The price probably reflects the fact the 3D in a title or game sells better than mere two dimensions. In effect, though, this is very much the ordinary ghost game with a running figure instead of the usual toothy orange.

Producer: Psion, 16K £5.95
Many critics regard this as the definitive pacman game for the Spectrum, and of course Horace has begat a number of sequels in other categories. Highly attractive graphics and smoothly animated make it a joy to play. There are several mazes of increasing complexity to get through. No power pills — just wits. Highly recommended.

Producer: Hewson, 16K £4.95
Considering the quality of most Hewson programmes, this one is a complete mystery. Put it down to history. It’s probably the simplest one available, with matchstick figures, white ghosts and some fruit as power pills. Four screens, cursor keys so works with AGF or Protek joysticks. Not very good.

Producer: Abersoft, 16K £4.95
Abersoft’s maze is a bit more complex than most and the graphics are clear and bright.

Producer: Ocean, 16K £5.90
Ocean’s graphics are always pleasing, and this version works as well as any other.

Producer: Silversoft, 16K £5.95
A good classic version, but the inlay card is all over the place telling us N is down, when it’s M, and 5 starts a new game when it’s S. In fact the keys used are quite sensible. No joystick option.

Producer: Silversoft, 48K £5.95 (2)
Author: Patrick Richmond
In a sense this is the opposite of a ‘Pac Man’ game in as much as you are laying dots in the maze instead of gobbling them up. The story is that the robots have run amok in the corridors of the Acme Robot Manufacturing Co, and you must guide the robot bomber through the maze, laying mines. The amokful robots materialise in the four corners, becoming more numerous the longer you take to accomplish your mission — they must be avoided at all costs of course. Your power supply drains rapidly, but there are power mites also materialising which replenish your supply if they are run over. The object is to lay mines in every corridor and entice the king robot out of the central control room so you can get in. An additional problem is that some corridors are equipped with sliding doors which keep shutting. The game has attractive graphics and manages to be surprisingly addictive in play. It’s given an old format a new lease of life. Good control keys, joystick: Kempston, above average, overall CRASH rating 70% m/c.