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Retro Review : Pac-In-Time



Kalisto/Namco - 1994 - SNES

Overview:
Pac-In-Time is a puzzle platformer developed by Kalisto, and published by Namco for the Snes.  Pac-In-Time acts as a sequel of sorts to Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures (Hello! Pac-Man in Japan). In the game, Pac-Man’s nemesis, the Ghost Witch, has sent you back in time, to when you were a younger Pac Boy. To return home, you must navigate the game’s 51 levels, and defeat the games boss, the Gum Monster.

 

Gameplay:

While it follows the story line of the previous Pac-Man game (bringing back the Ghost Witch, and Gum Monster plot) the gameplay is very different from Pac-Man 2. Instead of controlling Pac via a slingshot, you now get to take full control of his movements. You also get to use 4 different abilities to help you navigate each level. Each of these 4 abilities can be acquired by leaping through one of the 4 colored rings that are scattered throughout each of the levels. The Yellow Rings give you a pellet gun, allowing you to fire Pac-dots at enemies; the Green Rings give you a rope, that can be used to swing on ceilings, the Red Rings give you a hammer attack, that can be used against enemies or to break walls and floors, and the Blue Rings allow Pac-Man to swim underwater, and also allow him to shoot a bubble jet from his mouth that can damage underwater enemies. Some levels begin with 1 or all of these abilities, but you often have to gather them to proceed. These 4 abilities are vital to help you collect the Pac-dots spread throughout the levels. The only way to open the exit door and move on to the next level is to gather all the Pac-dots in each level, indicated by the counter in the lower left of the screen. 
 

When it comes to the actual gameplay, that’s where we run into some problems.
To put it lightly; the game is broken. It starts off with a boring 4 minute cut scene  and then throws you right into the game. The game offers you little explanation of what to do (the occasional arrow points you where to go in the first level) or what each Ability does, (it took me almost 30 levels before I knew Pac-Man could pull items with the Rope Ability) and each level is full of glitchy design problems. If you walk against any wall in the game, you will stick to it, the swinging mechanic feels so odd and makes it extremely difficult to build any momentum, and the game is littered with poor level design and 1 hit kills, via: boulders, acid water and moving platforms (if even one pixel touches the top of you, its instant death) The game also has the normal Pac-Man ghosts, which are often hovering around waiting to attack you. The only way to damage these ghosts is to find a power pellet, and then jump into them. The problem is, once you grab a power pellet, they will often fly away, and out of your reach, returning once the power pellet effect wears off, to attack you again. It doesn’t help that each hit from them takes away 1/4th of your life. The game does have fruit and other foods scattered throughout the level that can restore your health, but are often clustered in one big pile, and put far away from the dangers of the game. 

 

One other big annoyance is that you sometimes have to find secret passages to activate switches or gain abilities needed to proceed. The problem is, once you find one of these secret areas, you have to find your way out completely blind, because the game doesn’t let you see the hidden path once you enter it (most games will make these areas transparent once you walk into them, so you can SEE WHERE THE HELL YOU’RE GOING!). This often leads to 5 minutes of jumping around, hidden behind screen, trying to find you way through, or back out. All of these glitches and poor levels designs don’t only make the game longer then it needs to be, but just make it tedious and no fun to play. 

 

Conclusion:

 As much as I wanted to like Pac In Time, I just couldn’t. Pac in Time is another one of those games that had interesting ideas, and the potential to be a good game, but just completely pissed it down their leg when it came to development. This was another one of those games that I ended up beating out of pure spite, rather than enjoyment. It’s always hard to take a game character and throw them into a new genera, and it can often end very badly. Pac-Man has had an especially hard time making these leaps; with Pac-Man 2 not being a very popular game either, and the Pac-Man World games often falling short. I will always be a big fan of the Pac-Man franchise, but I think when it comes to gaming, Pac should stick close to the maze. It’s a scary world out there for him, and I just don’t think he is tough enough to handle it. 

 

Retro Review : Splatterhouse (iphone/ipad edition)



Namco - 1988 (arcade) 1990 (turbografx) 2011 (ipad/iphone) 

Overview:
So as you may know, I’ve already done a review of Splatterhouse on the Turbografx-16 , but it was recently released on the Ipad and Iphone, and instead of being the console port, it’s a port of the original arcade version, so I figured I’d give it an update. It also has a few added gameplay options, and the usual ranking and achievements, that are so popular with the kids these days, that you can unlock while playing, as well as a Rush Mode.
(since I played it on the Ipad, I’ll mainly be referring to that version)



Gameplay:

Like I said before, the version on the Ipad is a port of the arcade, so it has a few differences from the Turbografx version. First off, Rick is sporting the old hockey style mask, instead of the red terror mask design in the English version on the T-16 (he also wears the hockey mask in the Japanese PC-Engine version). Also, all the censorship from the T-16 port has been left out, so the Evil Cross has returned as a boss, the crucifixes are still seen in the Church, as well as the alter, and the tombstone that Hell Chaos emerges out of is a wooden cross once more. 
 The game itself is still rather similar to the T-16 port, with some enemies being added in different areas. The crows have returned, and the baby faced slug creatures actually attack you again. The arcade port also offers more detailed graphics, and added animations, like when Jennifer transforms into her beast state.
 
The Ipad version also has an added Rush Mode. In Rush Mode, you must survive 120 seconds against a hoard of zombies, dogs, bats, birds, and other Splatterhouse baddies. Every once in a while, the game will drop a rock, or 2x4 to assist you, and once you earn a certain amount of points, a picture of the Terror Mask appears. When you tap it, lightening shoots across the top and bottom screens, wiping out all enemies on screen at the time. You can play on either easy, medium or hard mode, with the types of enemies and weapons changing with each difficulty. The Arcade mode also has 3 difficulties, and you can buy added features like unlimited shotgun ammo and easy slide attack. And, if you think you’re good enough, you can challenge the game as Maskless Rick, a mode where you only have one heart point, which means one hit, and you’re dead.

 

Now, other then the usual stiff moving and fighting, the game can be tricky to play due to the touch controls. The buttons are sometimes unresponsive, and in a game that requires quick reflexes and pattern memory, having a button not function can make it hell to play (like I said, I played the Ipad version, so it may be easier to play on the iphone).

 

 Conclusion:
Now, as you may know, I absolutely love Splatterhouse, and have been a fan of the series forever, so I really enjoyed getting to play the arcade styled version. Like I said in my previous review, it’s a tricky game, takes getting used to, not for everyone, etc. etc. etc., but, if you’re a fan of the series like me, of just a fan of horror games and/or beat-um-ups, I definitely recommend it. If you can get over the touch controls, it’s a big bloody barrel of fun, and it’s available for only $2.99.
Hey, it’s cheaper than dumping a pocket full of quarters into the machine, and you can play it on the toilet. It’s a win win. So, go the the Namco app store, and pick it up today.

The Biggy Man awaits!

 

People you should know: Toru Iwatani




Toru Iwatani was born on January 25 1955 in the Meguro ward of Tokyo Japan. He joined the Namco corporation in 1977 as a game designer, and while tehre Iwatani set out to make an arcade game that would appeal to women, and help bring more of them to the arcades. Iwatani believed that the arcades of Japan were “a playground for boys…dirty and smelly”, and really wanted to bring more women to the world of gaming, believing they would make it feel “clear and brighter”. So, in 1980, he, Shigeo Funaki, a developer at Namco, and sound designer Toshio Kai, finished Pac-Man. 

 

Pac-man was loosely based off a Japanese children s story where a good monster protected children by eating evil monsters. Many people believe that he got the inspiration for Pac-Man while looking at a Pizza with one slice missing, but that is actually one of gamings urban legends. In his own words: 

 
Well, it’s half true. In Japanese the character for mouth (kuchi) is a square shape. It’s not circular like the pizza, but I decided to round it out. There was the temptation to make the Pac-Man shape less simple. While I was designing this game, someone suggested we add eyes. But we eventually discarded that idea because once we added eyes, we would want to add glasses and maybe a moustache. There would just be no end to it. Food is the other part of the basic concept. In my initial design, I had put the player in the midst of food all over the screen. As I thought about it, I realized the player wouldn’t know exactly what to do: the purpose of the game would be obscure. So I created a maze and put the food in it. Then whoever played the game would have some structure by moving through the maze. The Japanese have a slang word—paku paku—they use to describe the motion of the mouth opening and closing while one eats. The name Puck-Man came from that word.”

Since Pac-man revolves around eating, and Iwatani thought that women really enjoyed eating sweets, the dots were referred to as cookies. The 4 ghosts were also designed to be cute, and influenced by cartoons like Tom & Jerry, since Iwatani believed that the enemies looking mean or evil would turn women away. 

Iwatani showing off his original sketches for Pac-Man


  

Other then the aesthetic choices for the games female audiences, Iwatani also decided that the 4 ghosts would also have their own personalities and movements. 

Blinky - chases directly
Pinky - tries to get to the front of you  
Inky - scares easily
Clyde - Moves at random.    

Each time the ghosts are eaten, the speed up slightly, slowing back down once Pac-man dies. And Blinky gets a special speed increase once there are only a few dots remaining.


Iwatani with TV host and comedian Shinya Arino 
             
After its release, Pac-Man became a huge success in Japan, and quickly found it’s way all over the world. Iwatani was eventually promoted and even took over overseeing the administarion of Namco. 

In 2005, Iwatani became a visiting professor in Character Design Studies at the Osaka University of Arts, while still working at Namco. And in 2007, Iwatani officially left Namco and became a full time lecturer at Tokyo Polytechnic University.                    

Toru Iwatani is truly one of gaming’s great heroes, and has given us one of the most influential games of all time. Iwatani’s creativity and enthusiasm for his passions is incredibly inspiring. With his lighthearted childlike spirit and his love for his fans and for his creation, it’s easy to see why Iwatani is such a beloved man to this day. We all really owe him a great deal of thanks for giving us all such wonderful memories. 

 


 

Mini-Review: Dig Dug



Namco - 1982 - Arcade 

Overview:
Dig Dug is a maze styled arcade game, and on of Namco’s flagship series. In it, you must venture deep underground and defeat the beasts that lurk below. Armed with your trusty, and unnecessarily violent, air pump, you must inflate and pop all the creatures to proceed. 

 

Gameplay:

The gameplay is rather straight forward. Tazio Hori (your main man) can dig into the ground and create tunnels with the joystick. Once a path is cleared, Taizo can walk through them, but so can the enemy characters. The games enemies are the tomato like Pookas, and the Dragon like Fygars. While both will chase you, the Fygars will also occasionally use a blast of fire from their mouth to attack. It only takes one hit to make Tazio crumble, so be careful.The enemies usually travel in tunnels, but will occasionally turn into faces and travel through solid ground. They can still attack you while doing this, but you can attack back if they come near a tunnels edge. Also, when only one enemy remains, or when the music changes, the remaining enemy will make a break for the surface. You can try to track them down, but letting them escape has no negative consequences; beside a few less points. You can either attack by inflating the enemies till they burst, or by using one of the boulders that appear in the level. You don’t have to kill the enemies once you attack though, and can use the pump for more strategic purposes. It usually takes 3 pumps to kill each enemy, and with each pump it takes a little bit longer for the enemies to return to normal. Using this, you can either stall enemies while on the run, or try and catch them in an area before dropping the boulder on them. After 2 boulders are dropped, a bonus food item will appear where Taizo starts from. The bonus points of the item increase with each level. 




Conclusion:

Dig Dug is a retro classic, and another great example of simple yet challenging game play. The game is easy to get into, and difficult to master. The games difficultly increases sharply, making concentration and thinking ahead a must. The colorful cute graphic and fun core game play draw you in quickly. It’s easy to see why this remains one of Namco’s most popular titles. Lucky for you, Dig Dug has been on almost, if not, every console to date, so its easy to pick up a copy. This is a definite must play for retro nerds.

 

Mini-Review: Mappy



Namco - 1983 - Arcade 

Overview:

 Mappy is one of Namco’s better know plateformers, made popular by its tough gameplay and cute characters. In it you play as Mappy; a police mouse, that has entered the Mansion of the Mewkies; a group of literal cat burglars and their leader Goro. Mappys job is to retrieve the stolen treasures for the Mewkie Mansion, all while avoiding being caught by the roaming burglars. The games main goal is to collect as many points as possible before you lose all your mice. 



Gameplay:

Mappy’s main goal it to navigate the floors of the Mewkie mansion collecting the stolen goods. The level scrolls with you from left to right, which can be trouble when the Mewkies are off screen. They will often take the best path to cut you off, so be cautious when proceeding. Unlike many plateformers, Mappy doesn’t have the ability to jump on his own. Never fear though because, for some odd reason, the Mewkies have placed trampolines all over their mansion. Using these trampolines, Mappy can maneuver to the floors above, or in some cases even get into the attic of the mansion. These tramplines will weaken and change color with each consecutive jump though, and once they turn red they will snap, sending Mappy to his death. The Mewkies will also use these trampolines while chasing you, but lucky for Mappy, they can’t hurt you while you are on the trampoline with them. Other then the trampolines, the mansion is also full of doors that can be used to your advantage. There are 2 types of doors, regular and colored. If Mappy opens the regular doors while running from the Mewkies, the door will throw him back at them, knocking them down. However, the Mewkies can also open the door on Mappy, which will have the same effect on him. When Mappy opens the colored doors, the will fire a beam out that will catch all the Mewkies in its path and send them back to their starting point. You will also recieve a bonus for the number of Mewkies captured. 


 
Collecting the stolen items of course is the main point of the game, and you can only progress to the next level after they have all been retrieved. There are 2 of each item in each room. When collecting items, you can either grab all the ones in your path, or you can try and collect each pair of items for a growing point bonus. You can also receive a bonus by collecting an item when the Mewkie leader, Goro, hides behind it. Goro’s behavior is different from the other Mewkies. While the Mewkies are constantly chasing you and attempting to box you in, Goro just does what he pleases. His behavior is reminiscent of Clydes from Pac-Man; seeming to just wonder and move without thought. Every few levels, you get to play a bonus game where you guide Mappy through a trampoline covered series of halls. The goal is to collect all the red balloons (stingers) and try to pop the blue balloon a the end (featuring Goros face) within the time limit. Getting all the balloons will require speed and strategy, mainly in knowing how and when to break the trampolines below you. 



Conclusion:

With its unique play mechanics, and challenging game play, Mappy is definitely a must play for platforming fans. The game play is simple, yet challenging. Keeping track of the Mewkies movement and avoiding them, all while trying to get the best score will force the player to stay on their toes. Deciding whether its best to risk going for the big points now, or try and make a run for it adds to the fun of the game. Fast paced, fun and adorable, I’d definitely recommend giving Mappy a go.

 

Mini-Review: Ms. Pac-Man



Bally/Midway - 1981 - Arcade

Overview:

Ms. Pac-Man is an unauthorized sequel to the original Pac-Man produced by the Midway corporation. While similar to Pac-Man, it featured several new gameplay mechanics and  quickly became one of the most popular Arcade games of all time.

Gameplay:

While similar, Ms. Pac-Man introduced several new features that expanded upon the original. First off, Ms. Pac-Man featured a variety of maps to play on unlike Pac-Man, which only had the single maze repeated. There are 4 separate mazes in Ms. Pac-Man, each with a different difficulty. Maze 1 is light pink and is your average difficulty. Maze 2 is light blue and as multiple spots where you can easily be trapped. Maze 3 is red, is slightly less difficult, and only has one escape tunnel, and Maze 4 is dark blue and is almost as easy as the first. Other then the mazes, the fruit and ghosts behaviors have also changed significantly. In the original Pac-Man, the fruit would stay in a stationary location under the ghost nest, but in Ms. Pac the fruit will appear though one of the tunnel entrances and travel around the maze. The fruit is programmed to take the route that is most difficult for you to get too it, so you must be careful to not get trapped by ghosts while chasing it. The Ghosts have also changed in some major ways. The first is that Clyde, the orange ghost, has been replaced with Sue, his female doppelganger. The biggest change though is that they no longer strictly follow their patterns from the original Pac-Man. All the ghosts now have random movement cues as well as their specific characteristics, that make them far less predictable, and far more deadly. Outside of these changes, the gameplay is fairly similar. The game speed still increases with each stage and the object of the game remains the same,  use power pills wisely and score as many points as you can. 

 

Conclusion:

There is a reason Ms. Pac-Man is one of the most popular Arcade games of all time, and one of my all time favorites. Ms. Pac-Man perfectly improved upon Pac-man’s already popular gameplay, adding where needed and keeping what made it so fun in the first place. The fast paced game play, and the equally fast thinking the game requires hooks you fast and hard. The cute, iconic graphics and sounds, and the simple and addicting game play appeal to players of all ages and skill levels. Simple, creative and addictive, this will always be one of my favorite games. If you somehow have never enjoyed this retro gem, do so now. And to those that haven’t played in a while, go to your local arcade, pull up a stool, and enjoy.
 

 

Mini-Review: Galaxian



Namco - 1979 - Arcade 

Overview:

Galaxian is the first game in the popular Namco shooter franchise, which includes the widely loved sequel Galaga. Galaxian was created to compete with Tatio’s popular Space Invaders, and shares very similar game play with it. 

 

Gameplay:

Like Space Invaders, Galaxian is a fixed shooter, meaning that you move your ship left and right at the bottom of the screen. You can fire one missile at a time from your ship, and can fire once again once contact is made. The enemies also behave similar to Space Invaders; appearing in a large cluster on top of the screen. Unlike Space Invaders, the enemies do not scroll lower on the screen, nor do they fire from their fixed positions. They instead attack by flying at you in patterns, firing at the same time. They will either try to hit you with their lasers, or crash into you in that familiar kamikaze attack style. The enemies have 2 types, standard drones in blue, purple and red, and the iconic Flagship. The Flagship icon has been used in many Namco titles since; even appearing as one of the bonus items in Pac-Man. The Flagship attacks by swooping down towards you, and they often bring up to 2 enemy drones with them; which continuously fire beams at your ship. One of the features this game introduced was that you received varying points based on the location of the enemy on the screen when shot (somewhat similar to the UFO in Space Invaders). You also received a point increase if you defeat the Flagships drones before it. 

 

Conclusion:

While Galaxain feels dated now, especially when compared to its successor Galaga, Galaxian is still a good game in its own rights. The gameplay is simple and  challenging and the the colorful graphics are eye catching and easy to follow. The game was made to compete and expand on Space Invaders, and it did just that. It added new elements that were used and expanded upon by all shooters that followed it. When you talk about Retro Games like Pong, Space Invaders and Galaxian, you must look at them through the proper lens. While now these games seem simple and even boring, when viewed though those rosy pixelated glasses, you can see the creativity and beauty behind these games. These games were the seeds that started it all, and they still deserve our respect and thanks. So please, give Galaxian a look, and enjoy. 

We must always respect our elders. 



 

Mini-Review: Pac & Pal



Namco - 1983 - Arcade 

Overview:

Pac & Pal is the 3rd official Pac-Man game release by Namco. The game play still follows the basic Pac-Man formula, with a style closer to that of Super Pac-Man.  In it, you still collect all the on screen items while avoiding ghosts, but the layout of the map is more similar to Super Pac-Man, with a return to the locked hallways containing the items. The game also introduces several new features, most noticeably the addition of the ghost Miru. Miru isn’t harmful to you (she is the titular Pal it seems) but her actions are suspect; taking relieved items back to the ghost nest never to be seen again. 

 

Gameplay:

Like I mentioned above, the overall game play is more similar to Super Pac-Man then the original. Like Super Pac, the maze is full of food items instead of dots and the food is hidden behind locked walls that you must open by flipping over orange cards (that operate the same as the keys in Super Pac) that open specific doors in the maze. One major difference is that instead of the power pills, Pac & Pal has a variety of items that power you up. The power up items still turn you invulnerable and the ghosts blue, but unlike in the previous games, you can’t eat them. Instead you use the attack button to blast a wave out of your mouth that temporarily stuns the ghosts. The best part of this is that if you are fast enough, you can hit each ghost or even just one twice per item, which offers you huge point bonuses. Like I mentioned before, the games main addition is Miru. Miru is a little green ghost that wanders the maze. She doesn’t hurt you, but once you open a maze door, she will immediately go to that area and try and get the item before you. Once she has it she will try to take it back to the ghost nest. If she takes it in, you loose that item and your chance for the bonus awarded for gathering all the items. Luckily, you can retrieve the item by touching her. She’s a very neutral character, definitely not a Pal. While sometimes annoying, she can be used for your benefit though since you can use her to fetch the item for you and bring it to you by waiting for her near the nest area, since she always does a circle around it. If you can work a strategy around her, she will become a welcome ally. There is also a bonus game every few stages where you flip over cards for points. Find Miru, and get a bonus, find Blinky, and the game is over. 

 

Conclusion:

All in all, Pac & Pal is a fun addition to the Pac-Man series. The cute graphics and fast game play are still there, and the new additions of Miru and the attack items keep the game fresh while still feeling familiar. While tricky at times, it is definitely one of my favorite arcade titles, and may be my favorite entry in the Pac-Man series ( aside from my all time favorite Ms. Pac-Man), and is one I find myself playing over and over. I would definitely recommend this to Namco fans, and retro games of all types.  Just remember to keep you eyes on Miru. 

 

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