Thursday, 23 April 2015

Pac-Land - Arcade (Not quite Pacman)


Welcome to the platformer attempt.


Of a time when Pacman was something of a legend in gaming, back in the early 80s, there was the usual palaver that comes with a trend setting product. The game usually first, then the action figures, cartoon show, lunchbox and next thing you know it's become attack of the merchandisers and the only way to repel the borders is to pump cash at them until parents are screaming for an end to its greedy, monetary food supply and that the fad moves on to something cheaper (usually it doesn't... Turtles anyone?)

Bright, colourful, fairly uneventuful thankfully.

Pac-Land, is a game based on the cartoon that came for the original game. Mr Pacman happens across a fairy that got lost one day and decides to the charitable event of escorting the fairy home, while hiding it under his hat. On his way, the usual ghostly enemies of Dicky, Shitty, Twatty and Arseface (I'm not sure on the names, but those seem to fit well) will do whatever they can to hinder and stop Pacman. These acts range from running him over, dropping bombs from planes and windows, pogo-sticking him to death, crash-landing UFOs at him and all other manners of tricks and traps. If you manage to rescue the fairy, you'll be granted a pair of magic air-jump boots and have to run ALL THE WAY BACK to the start and be greeted by your generic 2.4 Pacman family (complete with "dog" and "cat" for want of better graphics)

Power pills and ghosts running away, some original elements have carried over.

Controls in Pac-Land are very simple, you've got a joystick for moving back and forth (though you'll be slowly stalked by a constant ghost as a timer for the game) and a jump button. That is it. Walk from side to side using the joystick but, and here's the clever bit, you can run by double tapping the joystick. A feat told you at NO POINT during the game, introduction, attract screen or even on the side of the cabinet. What's worse is that to get past one particular set of traps, springboards over water pools, you have to repeatedly double tap the joystick after take-off, FROM RUNNING, in order to float over the water pool and HOPE you have enough speed and height to clear it. Expect most people to not make it past the 3rd level as a result of this.

Those logs spin and will shift you off the platforms.

Aside from the BRUTAL DIFFICULTY CURVE at key points in Pac-Land, it's a fun and cheerful little game with minor frustrations at being caught at key points namely because the player likely didn't slow down and thought they could chance it. Take your time and progress slowly and you'll make it through with little problems... Until the springboards show up again. Once you've gotten back to your family, the next round of levels begin with everything getting harder and more intense. The cars from the first level are back and now with Double Decker Buses, ghosts are throwing things at you from windows and everything has just become a little more intense and difficult, get far enough and you'll find new areas that will host their own challenges too.

You win, your prize is shoes and a run back to the start.

Pac-Land looks very much like the original cartoon, in that it's bright, colourful, clearly defined and uses the main primary and secondary colours and little else. Whether this is because the arcade has used some impressive graphics or the cartoon was just quickly hashed together, is up for debate. (Totally a weak cartoon). The game runs smoothly, the graphics and animations are nice and fluid and the game plays well aside from those key, pixel-perfect moments of timing that require lightning reflexes the likes of which the Gods on Olympus would be proud to have.

Give me something to break! - That's enough Limp Bizkit

As long as you remember the original cartoon, you'll be familiar with the main tune of Pac-Land. It runs on long enough to remain being slightly varied and bridges well into the final few bars at checkpoints and ends of the level and yet doesn't grate too much on the nerves when it begins to repeat itself, though if you're playing well enough it shouldn't repeat by the time you hit a check point or a level end. The return music for the last stage is a slower, staggered rendition of the original and despite the lowered tempo and tone, the gameplay is as every bit as frantic as it has been over the previous rounds.

There's some significant variation in levels to keep things interesting.

Pac-Land is an odd one to be part of the series. Gone are the maxes and dots, but the power pills remain (Stay in school kids, pop pills and eat ghosts) and the ghosts take on a personification/anthropomorphism from the maze to this rendition of their selves in no small thanks to the cartoon. It's a lively little platformer if a little short with some vertical curves in the difficulty if one isn't ready or prepared to quickly experiment for a solution.