LGR – PC-Man – PC Booter Game Review

January 24, 2020

[typing] If there is one game genre that
ellicits such an apathetic shrug that all you can manage is
to move your lips a little bit, it’s the maze game. Also known as Pac-Man clones, these games were anything but interesting, except to those whose PC usage was
otherwise restricted to Lotus 1-2-3. Sure, a quick game of Queen of Hearts in 1982 may have been more engaging
than typing into a spreadsheet, but it was all text based, and nothing compared to what you
could get on competing home computers. Enter PC-Man, developed and distributed by
Orion Software in 1982 for IBM PCs. This is a one-man effort by Greg Kuperberg, the same dude responsible
for Orion’s other games Paratrooper, Pits & Stones, and Jaybird. Each of these was inspired by,
or cloned, some existing game, but used CGA graphics instead of just ASCII text, and featured gameplay that payed
homage to their source material with an effort that deserved praise. In the case of PC-Man, it was an unlicensed clone of
Namco’s 1980 arcade game Pac-Man, as you might be able to guess from this artwork. Other than omitting the “A” in the title and calling the ghosts “micro-monsters” with the name Eenny, Meeny, Miney and Moe, this is friggin’ Pac-Man and
it doesn’t care who knows it. And it’s actually one of the
single oldest IBM PC games I own, which was available for purchase
directly from Orion via mail order, as well as being sold in retail
stores such as Computer Land. It didn’t come in a box, but instead came in a sleeve with a single-page instruction sheet inside. And, yes, this costs $35 in 1982, which accounting for inflation
today is approximately 87 bucks. Sandwiched inside, you got
the game on a floppy disk, and all you had to do was insert it into
your disk drive and turn the computer on, since it’s a PC booter game and doesn’t
require an operating system like DOS. Once it boots, you’re promptly greeted with a logo and a PC speaker rendition
of “Entry of the Gladiators.” [PC speaker music] Mr. Kuperberg lets you know what’s
up with his name front and center, and you’re given the option to play
with either the joystick or the keyboard. Choose the one you prefer to fondle and the game begins right away
with PC-Man already moving. And with that surprisingly abrupt start, you’ll note that although it’s hard
to mistake it for anything else, this isn’t quite the same Pac-Man
you may be familiar with. For one thing, you start moving right away with no “Player One Ready” message, or intro music preparing you for the coming maze. Also, the maze itself has been rotated clockwise because the orientation of the IBM PC screen was landscape instead of the
portrait that the arcade game used. This also sets the game apart
from being a direct clone, which may or may not have
resulted in Orion avoiding a lawsuit. After all, Atarisoft didn’t get around to releasing
an official version of Pac-Man for the IBM PC until the following year. And honestly, that version really
isn’t as good, in my opinion, not only due to PC-Man using
less-obnoxious sound effects, but the maze is all squished here,
and plays differently anyway, Now back to PC-Man, the rest of
the game is more or less the same. You play a cheese pizza with a slice missing that wanders around dark corridors ingesting copious amounts of medication, while outmaneuvering four spectral souls of the dead. Every so often, you’re given the
chance to gobble down a power pellet that grants the ability to
munch the micro-munchers, making them cower away like pansies and banishing them to the
center box where they belong. And if you feel like taking a risk for extra points, items such as candy canes,
watermelon slices and bananas will pop up and tempt you with a
siren song of gluttony and greed. Now in the arcade original, you also got cut scenes
in between certain levels that provided a bit of
whimsy to the experience, but not so in PC-Man. Not so in Atarisoft’s version either, for that matter, which isn’t too surprising, considering the original PC’s CPU,
graphics and storage limitations, and just the fact that having a decent
Pac-Man imitation on the freakin’ thing was good enough for most people anyway. But bonus animations or not, PC-Man is an impressively competent
Pac-Man game for 1982 on the PC. As far as I know, it was the first one to include actual color graphics
instead of text characters, as well as including things
like music and sound effects, on top of very competent controls and AI that keeps you on your
toes but is also forgiving enough to not make you hate everything about computers. Of course, finding the original
copy is insanely difficult, so don’t hold your breath in that regard, but it’s readily available as a tiny
download all over the Internet nowadays. And thankfully, it’s one of those games
that’s not tied to CPU speed to play correctly, so you can enjoy it on DOSBox
with no special configuration required and on pretty much any
PC that runs DOS period. Yes, PC-Man. It’s for PCs, man, and it’s awesome. ♪♪ And if you though this review was awesome, then you might enjoy some of my others. I have covered Orion Software’s Paratrooper, as well as a ton of other PC
classics and not so classics. And I make more videos every single week, so subscribing is a thing
that would prove beneficial, if it proves beneficial to you. It also strokes my numbers complex. And if you like to be social, we can do social. You can follow and interact on Twitter and Facebook, as well as Patreon if you would like
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