Super Pac-Mon


Review by Joe Santulli



Graphics: 6

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

This review marks the first time in Digital Press’ illustrious history we’ve reviewed a PC shareware title. To me, shareware normally equals crapware, or you have to send us moneyware or you can’t use thisware. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. I’ve registered for about a dozen shareware packages over the years, out of hundreds I’ve tried in that time. Of those dozen, I probably got more use than dozens of other software titles I PAID for. So the track record sucks, but the winners are real winners. I have an additional motivation to review a shareware title in this case. The game designer of Super Pac-Mon for IBM compatibles is none other then former DP staffer Jess Ragan, creator of our logo!

I’ve seen some of Jess’ programming work before, in a little Space Invaders-style game called The Arnmada over a year ago. He has come a long way since then. Super Pac-Mon is the closest thing I’ve seen to Namco’s arcade sleeper Super Pac-MAN ever on the PC. It still needs work, but if Jess sticks with this, there’s probably a career waiting around the next corner. As it stands, this is a nostalgic trip playable on just about any PC.

Playable in DOS or Windows (I’m running it in Windows 95), SPM opens with an impressive logo and teaser screens, including some of Jess’ familiar artwork of himself and his design staff (yep, it was even playtested! Hear that, Acclaim?), a self-running demo of the game, high scores, point values... wow, it really looks like the arcade game! You have a nice assortment of variations at your fingertips, as Jess allows us to control the number of lives, number of ghosts on the screen, availability or un-availability of the energizers and Super Pac boosters, ability to turn the walls off or (gasp) just making them invisible, and a thankfully present option to SLOW the thing down to realistic levels when playing on a Pentium or 486DX. When I first began without looking at the options everything was moving so fast I was afraid I wouldn’t even have the opportunity to try it out!

The game is a fairly accurate account of the classic. There are no sounds, which would be my next improvement if it were my project. Some of the game’s objects appear a little different than their original incarnations, but you wouldn’t notice unless you were comparing the two side by side or played this game to death when it was popular (that wasn’t very long). In all, the graphics look like they were ripped right from the arcade. Excellent job there. I couldn’t find any major glitches, but the controls require you to use the arrow keys and you have to tap the directional to change course. If you hold it down, the PC accepts that as if you were rapping the same key many times in the same direction. That leads to a problem when you need to make a split second decision, because the PC is still calculating your last ten moves. Only ONE move should be stored in the program buffer, and that should be whatever the player last pressed or is holding at the moment. There is one other oddity: when I escape from the program, my PC’s internal clock reads 12:00AM. Hey, what is this, a power outage? Minor quibble.

I have to mention that the documentation is terrific, leaving nothing to the imagination. It’s also written in Jess’ characteristic style - humorous, sarcastic, and right to the point. Not at all like the generic docs you usually find with shareware titles. He obviously loves the original and worked hard to get his version as close as possible. You know what? He succeeded.

You can get Super Pac-Mon from Jess at 8584 Peoples Road, Edmore MI 48829. If you register, you get more. The registration fee is $15, or if you’re a fanzine editor (grin), a year's subscription delivered to Jess’ house. What you'll get are two updates, "Goodies" (a program filled with outtakes that Jess couldn't fit into the game) and a character editor which will allow you to redesign the characters to your own tastes. If you’re into the retro thing like I am, you gotta check this out! Oh, I almost forgot... Jess is also working on other arcade game translations: Phyrebirds is a homage to Phoenix (due late fall 1996), Pushing Up Daisies will be a Ladybug clone (due winter 1996), and Desperation is some kind of updated Wizard of Wor (a personal favorite of mine, due early winter 1997).


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Last updated: Saturday, December 13, 2003 10:55 PM