Head Bangers

Armed with little more than a trusty spade, nimble fingers and wilting joystick, our two arcade playing reviewers, CHRIS PASSEY and MATTHEW UFFINDELL, enter the dusty platforms in search of monsters ...

‘Panic’ games involve climbing ladders to various levels within the screen, digging holes in the floors and letting the monsters fall into them. When you trap a monster in this manner, there is usually a short time in which to reach it, bang it on the head so that it falls through to its death, filling in the hole as it goes. Failure to kill it in time will result in the beast escaping and becoming a super monster. The more super a monster becomes, the more holes it must fall through in one go, which means digging holes in a vertical line. You have an ever-diminishing supply of oxygen, so speed is important. This selection contains some close copies and some slight variations on the theme.

Sheer Panic


This is a reasonable version of ‘Panic’. It contains the features such as the limited oxygen supply and the increasing strength of any monster that is not buried in time when in a hole. The graphics are quite good with character movement being used but working quite well. Colour content is about right but I think the sound is limited. The major drawback to this version is the key layout, the top row being used in a straight line (6 to 9). Digging and filling is done with the up/down keys, which does reduce the number needed to play the game. On the subject of control I found it one of the worst games for moving off ladders on to levels. All in all, a decent and fairly addictive game, especially when played with a Kempston.

This version has four well drawn platforms, connected with varying lengths of ladders. All movement is by blocks — although this doesn’t spoil the playability of the game. The monsters have a low intelligence level so you don’t have to wait around for a monster to fall into a quickly dug hole — good! Your man is nicely animated and moves quickly. Different coloured monsters, as usual have to be knocked down on equivalent number of platforms before they are killed. Sound and colour are put to good use and it’s well worth considering. There is, however, an oddity involved. The game is the same as Microgen’s Panic.



All my comments on Sheer Panic by Visions apply to Mikrogen’s Panic, because unless I’m grossly mistaken this is the self same program. Well, there are a few little differences and one big one. The big difference is that this version offers the player user definable keys. The small ones are a few peripheral frills like text characters. In all other respects it is identical. How come?

One thing became instantly apparent when reviewing this version — it’s an exact copy of Sheer Panic. Or is it the other way round? As far as I am aware this Mikrogen version has been on the market for much longer. Keyboard layout is different, and a few other frills have been left out, but the sound, graphics and content are the same. Who copied who?

Monsters in Hell


Monsters in Hell is a slight variation with you having to destroy demons and vampires using the same digging techniques. A problem I found was that once dug, holes could not be filled in, hence one can become trapped above the flames of hell. The oxygen has been replaced by holy power, and this can be replenished by picking up a cross. Despite these changes it is still a ‘Panic’. It isn’t a very good one either. The graphics are rather small and jerky, and generally everything is second rate. I didn’t find it very playable or addictive. The controls are okay, having a “dig” key.

This game has wandered off the ‘Panic’ theme to some degree. You play the part of a small, jerk-moving man who is equipped with a pick for digging holes. Six platforms give the game quite a height and these are connected by various lengths of thin ladders. Monsters (vampire types) are tiny, but they do home in on you very quickly — good job you’ve got nine lives! There is no monster bashing in this game (boring) the monsters being killed merely by their falling through a hole (or holes) in the platform — although this doesn’t always kill them.... The game is easy to play and gives the impression of being out of date (it is one of the earliest), with its small, jerky character graphics. There is also a lack of sound and not much use of colour. One thing is the keys, which have good positions and good response. Overall, not recommended.

Digger Dan


This is a rather good version, containing large, colourful graphics with reasonable movement. The control is also good, although there is no joystick option. It is easy to get on and off the ladders which is a help. I think this is better than the Visions/Mikrogen version. It features oxygen and four monster types, and separate keys for dig and fill, which are well laid out. Digger Dan is enjoyable and addictive, and one of the best ‘panics’ here.

This version has now been available for quite a while, yet it shows hardly any signs of age. The game takes place on five very solid looking platforms connected by several well-drawn ladders. It starts off as the simplest of the bunch but gets progressively more difficult by adding one monster for every two screens completed — unique. The monsters are well drawn and move smoothly, although they are not at all intelligent. Your man is nicely animated and moves with reasonable speed. The keyboard positions could have been better, but nothing too much to complain about. It is slightly lacking in the sound department, but colour has been well used. Good.

Super Digger


This is the only game here that is written in BASIC. The key layout is poor (cursors). Digging is achieved by using the down key and the up key is used for jumping holes and monsters (as well as climbing ladders). You die if you fall into one of your own holes. Colour and graphics are limited due to the BASIC language used. Hence movement is jerky and the characters are small. Five ‘mazes’ and three speeds are provided, but the game is very unplayable and not addictive at all. I liked the jumping idea which is innovative, and overall I think Abacus may have been able to produce a better game in machine code.

The first thing you notice about this game is the offer of five different mazes and three speeds. Although there is a choice of speeds, the game runs slowly even on the fastest one. Screen layout is almost primitive by today’s standards with uninteresting platforms and no frills. Ladders, monsters and your man are not very detailed, and move by block. Once a hole is dug, you can’t fill it in (like Monsters in Hell), but you can jump over it (unlike Monsters in Hell). The screen is quite a bore because nothing much happens. Not a very good game at all and cursor key layout makes things worse.

Mummy Mummy

MC Lothlorien

This is another of the ‘Panic’ variation games which involves you in trying to return to your disturbed rest in a pyramid. Ghouls and nasties try to stop you doing so. Control is okay and includes ZX and cursor joystick options. The graphics are not bad, large but a bit on the jerky side. The oxygen supply is also included in the game. A problem is that you can’t jump down your own holes and live. Mummy Mummy is an average sort of game — all right, but inferior to some of the more classic ones and not particularly addictive.

I get the feeling that the search for originality in the ‘Panic’ framework has gone too far in Mummy Mummy and obscured with complicated ‘gizmos’ what might have been a very good version. The large graphics are fair in their movement, but the overall implementation is confusing and the monsters often do some very odd things — like jamming up! It is also quite slow. Playability is lowered by the fact that at certain times you can dig a hole and then all the monsters will line up to drop sedately into it, giving you time, after bonking one through, to dig the next ready for another monster. I didn’t like this one at all.



This game gives a wide choice of keys and joystick options. It is a slight variation on the original ‘Panic’ with you having to open doors and get up to the top of a skyscraper. The graphics are excellent, the best of the bunch in fact. But the game lacked playability, and it is certainly the hardest game of the lot. Hardness is not a bad thing, but I really found it difficult to get anywhere. A sort of strategy is required before ‘opening’ a door. The oxygen feature is also included. A reasonable game that would be far better if it were just a little easier.

Pandemonia is quite unlike all other ‘Panic’ games due to all the features which have been added. For instance, the entire game takes place in the CRL skyscraper, object being to get to the top and destroy the alien HQ. Some of the ladders, which connect five platform levels, have doors placed above them. Opening one reveals a hungry looking monster. Several different screens adds variety to the game. Your characteristic man moves and digs very well and he is controlled by a responsive, well laid out keyboard. The monsters are also drawn very nicely with three or more different types on screen at once — luck has it that they are not too intelligent. The ladders are large and easy to move up or down. Colour and sound has been put to good use. Overall the best ‘Panic’ here where forward thinking is essential and this game should take some time to master.

Sam Spade


In my opinion, this was the best game. It was ‘just’ better than Ocean’s. The key layout was all right with one key for dig and fill. The graphics are very good, being large, smooth and reasonably coloured, although there are a few attribute problems as monsters climb the ladders, but this was nothing to complain about. The sound is not very good probably the best on this comparison (all the games are poor and limited on the sound front). Sam Spade is very playable and addictive with three types of monster and a fixed amount of oxygen available. I like this one most of all out of the selection.

Silversoft have produced a fairly standard ‘Panic’ that has five platforms and a ‘set’ laddery layout (no random positioning). You take the place of a well-detailed and drawn man who moves smoothly and quickly. The same applies to the monsters, and the three different types (each stronger and more intelligent than the previous) keep you very active, especially when trying to dig holes for the strongest ones which need to fall through three platforms... Good, fast digging action and colourful noisy, unintelligent monsters with the added bonus of responsive and well laid out keys make this an enjoyable game to play.

Spectral Panic

Hewson Consultants

(We only have one reviewer on this as Chris Passey was unable to see the game at the time.)

Five platforms, skinny ladders and poorly drawn moving characters make this game a bore to look at. But the key positions make it a tangle to play. They are placed in a joystick-like cross with dig and fill way over on the other side of the board — out of reach — just impossible. One screen gives the game poor playability. Knocking a monster through one of the platforms only causes another to appear at the bottom of the screen. Use of colour, sound and graphics is very poor and it is a badly thought out game. Some of Hewson’s recent games have been very sophisticated and playable, so all I can say about this one is that if it helped them get going (it is quite old now) and up to where they are now, then that’s the best thing about it.

Panic games comparison table Use of Computer Graphics Playability Addictive Qualities Value for Money Overall Memory Retail price
SAM SPADE Silversoft 89 86 80 82 86 84 85 82 88 80 85 16 5.95
DIGGER DAN Ocean 80 79 80 76 72 74 80 80 75 75 77 16 5.90
PANDEMONIA CRL 90 90 70 85 55 86 50 89 60 88 71 48 5.95
PANIC Mikrogen 65 59 80 78 70 70 73 75 65 69 70 16 5.95
SHEER PANIC Visions 65 59 50 62 68 70 70 75 62 88 64 16 5.95
MUMMY MUMMY Lothlorien 67 55 61 58 41 30 40 25 50 43 47 48 5.95
MONSTERS IN HELL Softek 40 42 60 55 37 35 32 28 42 36 41 16 5.95
SUPER DIGGER Abacus 30 34 33 39 25 30 20 25 22 26 29 16 5.95
SPECTRAL PANIC Hewson -- 20 -- 15 -- 20 -- 15 -- 10 16 16 5.95

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