Tag Archives: pacman

Grandstand Munchman 80’s handheld review

Anyone who has read my blog before knows I am a big fan of retro handheld games, and Grandstand made some of the best. Many of these games attempted to recreate the big arcade games of the time, which explains the proliferation of space invader clones, including the likes of Galaxy Invader and Astro Wars. The Space Invaders game format translated relatively well to the VFD handheld games, due to the relatively simplistic graphics, and that fact that the invaders and the player character didnt occupy the same space on the game screen.

When it comes to replicating a maze game, and of course we are talking about Pac Man, the graphical challenge is much greater using a VFD screen. As well as having to create a realistic looking maze, you also have a playfield that requires the player character, the enemy ghosts and also the pac pills to be represented in the maze at the same time.Grandstand managed to achieve this with the classic Munchman, delivering a great Pac Man clone that stays true to original despite the limitations of the format.

The game itself is large and round, like a dinner plate, in a bright shiny yellow, a clear reference to it’s Pac Man heritage. Rather than using a joystick, which would have stood out against the smooth surface of the game, 4 directional buttons were used to control your Munchman. The only other switches are the on / off switch, and a difficulty selector that dicates the speed of the chasing ghosts.

Mini Munchman

The gameplay is as you would expect, albeit with a smaller maze and fewer ghosts, with the objective being to clear the maze of pills before being caught by the chasing spooks. Eating a red power pill would make the ghosts flash, and allow you to eat them for bonus points. The one thing that does however stand put about the gameplay is that your Munchman always faces to the left, regardless of which direction he is travelling, and can only eat going left, resulting in some back tracking needed to eat all the pills. Helpfully there is still a short cut, so you can continuously travel right to left and reappear on the other side of the maze. To accompany the gampelay there is a great soundtrack, typically loud as all Grandstand games tended to be, with jaunty intro tunes and in game effects.

Much like the Grandstand Scramble handheld, Munchman also had a smaller LCD based sister, predictably titled Mini Munchman, which aped the yellow case if not the classic round shape.  Both games were very popular, and due to the rock solid build quaility can still be found in working order on ebay.  In fact its difficult to believe these games are 30 years old, and can still be played today.

A “must have” for any retro handheld collector.

Snapper retro game review for the BBC Micro

Acornsoft’s Classic PacMan Clone

Snapper was one of the many quality arcade conversions that Acornsoft created for the BBC Micro, being a very faithful example of Pac Man. Anyone who remembers the early 80’s will have experience of Pac Man clones on every platform, many of them pitifully poor (yes Atari 2600 I’m talking about you).

Snapper on the BBC Micro, or is it Pac Man?

Most consoles or home computers of the time did not have the graphical capability, and just couldn’t to replicate the complex maze structure. So the results were often a compromised mess that whilst playable, did not give you that “arcade at home” feel that gamers at the time craved.
Most consoles or home computers of the time did not have the graphical capability, and just couldn’t to replicate the complex maze structure. So the results were often a compromised mess that whilst playable, did not give you that “arcade at home” feel that gamers at the time craved.

Arcade Clones on the BBC Micro

This is where the BBC Micro shone due to its graphical capability being much closer to dedicated arcade boards of the time. Strange in that the BBC was an experiment in education, to teach IT in schools, and not designed as a games device. And yet the rendition of Pac Man was so faithful in Snapper that Namco took offence, and later versions of the game replaced Pac Man with a sort of grapefruit, and the ghosts with generic monsters.

Revised Snapper for the BBC Micro
Version 2 of Snapper with revised graphics

All other aspects of the arcade game are retained in Snapper, including the power pills and bonus items (with the Acorn bonus item a nod to BBC owners), and even the ghosts eyes escaping back to the central area after being eaten.

Rather than the ghosts in the BBC version having set patterns, they patrol their own corners of the maze, before breaking out to home in on the Pac Man. As the game progresses the ghosts become more aggressive, breaking out of the pattern earlier to chase you.

Playing Snapper on my BBC Model B

Snapper was a great PacMan conversion due to the graphical capability of the Beeb and a world away from the famously rubbish attempt on the Atari 2600.

Snapper gameplay on the BBC Micro