1 or 2 players, Horizontal game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
Anyone remember Hanna-Barberra's PAC-MAN cartoon from the early '80s? Yes, folks, before Nintendo's CAPTAIN N hit the airwaves, the world's most famous video game star had his own television show. The adventures of Mr., Mrs., and Junior Pac-Man failed with the Neilsons, but not before they inspired Namco's arcade PAC-LAND video game, now available for the Atari Lynx.
Despite the presence of "pac-" in the name, PAC-LAND has nothing to do with mazes and dots. Rather, Pac-Man is on a mission of charity, who must take a lost fairy back to her home. So he puts her under his hat, then proceeds to run and jump across the towns, forests, hills and deserts of Pac-Land. The way is dangerous, with rickety bridges, quicksand, and deep chasms to cross, not to mention the ever-present ghosts. However, if Pac-Man looks hard enough, he can find tools, powers and secret warps to help him complete the job.
Despite the silly storyline and cute graphics, PAC-LAND is not an easy game. There are five "trips" to be completed, spread over 20 levels; you can choose which trip to start at, which lets pros skip the easy parts. Each trip consists of several levels to return the fairy, then a level of guiding Pac-Man home. Along the way, Pac-Man must dodge the ghosts, who chase him in cars, busses, airplanes, and pogo sticks. There are also swimming pools to be jumped, floating ledges to ride, and darkened houses to explore, each with their own tricks and dangers. For extra pressure, each level must be completed within a given time limit.
Pac-Man is not completely helpless, naturally. If Pac-Man walks across certain areas, hidden fruit will appear, which he can eat for points. There are also energizer pellets, which enable our hero to temporarily chase the ghosts. In addition, there are goodies such as helmets, invulnerability, and warps to higher levels hidden in the game, and assorted known and unknown point bonuses to try for (can you get the 7,000-plus-point bonus at the end of each level?).
While PAC-LAND is an engrossing "run and jump" game, it's not as complex as other titles in this genre. The different levels offer a bit of variety, but each level does not take long to complete. The ghosts are fairly easy to avoid with a little careful dodging; to compensate, their appearances are randomized, which prevents patterns from being developed.
The graphics on PAC-LAND are cute and cartoony, appropriately enough. Pac-Man looks friendly and animated, while the ghosts are silly and amusing. Other items are drawn with bright colors and simple designs. Finally, there is some multi-plane scrolling both behind and in front of the action; however, the positions of Pac-Man and the ghosts are always clearly shown. Game sounds are similarly simple but amusing. The background music is taken from the original cartoon show, though some people may find it irritating. Other sounds come from the ghosts on the prowl and various game actions, but are simply average.
PAC-LAND is a simple but challenging action game. The cute atmosphere masks lots of surprises to uncover, and the game requires attention to beat. There are a few shortcomings, but they are there because the card is accurate to the arcade original. Veteran video jumpers may breeze through this title, but for other players, a trip to PAC-LAND is worth considering.
GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 7