PACMAN, the colourful chomping video game from the U.S., has hit the Sinclair scene with a vengeance. Not content with having a book and even a hit record about it no fewer than three companies have developed versions for the 16K ZX-81.
The DJL Software Zuckman is written in 10K of machine code and has all the addictive features of the original within the limitations posed by the ZX-81 character set. You are the gobble-man ("0") being chased by the ghosts - inverse commas - as you make your way round the 29x21 maze, eating the dots in your path.
One of the reasons for the enormous popularity of Pac-man is the way the hunter can be eaten by the game; if you eat one of the four corner "energy posts", the ghosts change their appearance and you can then chase them and win a bonus if you catch them.
You have to be careful, as, after a few seconds, they revert to their old nasty selves.
DJL made an unusual choice of keys for movement - Q and P for left and right, M and X for up and down - but the knack can soon be acquired. Zuckman costs £5.95 from DJL Software, Wiltshire.
In the Babtech Zedman, you are a mouse in a 19x19 maze; the standard cursor controls are used for movement. The four ghosts move from the central area one after another and roam the maze in search of their prey. Eating the dollar signs in the corners makes the ghosts edible for a short time but Babtech warns that they are slippery creatures and may pass you if you rush at them.
You have three lives but if you find it all too easy you have 10 skill levels from which to choose to keep you on your toes.
The 4K machine code Zedman is complete with Spacers, an invaders-type program, giving two arcade games for £5.95. Babtech is at Edinburgh.
The third Pac-man look-alike is the Abersoft Mazeman, which also uses the standard cursor controls, this time on a 30x20 maze. Once the mazeman starts moving he continues until he hits a wall or you change his direction. The ghosts have four possible shapes; A means it is its own normal unpleasant and dangerous self, moving randomly round the maze; B means you have eaten a corner "power capsule" and the ghosts are vulnerable; inverse B means they are about to turn nasty again.
Written in 5K of machine code, the game also provides an extra mazeman if you score 10,000 points. Mazeman costs £4.45 from Abersoft, Dyfed.
IF YOU FANCY yourself as a financial whizz-kid, test your skills with two new business games from CCS. Airline has good animated bar charts and histograms and is full of unexpected hazards.
We were hi-jacked by the PLO but managed to make a profit at the end of the first year. In the next year, however, we overspent on staff and faced the prospect of resigning. There are some pertinent decisions to be made and the game provides a useful introduction to the business world and its terminology. The aim of Airline is to take over British Airways as soon as possible.
In Autochef, it is to buy Trusthouse Forte by the judicious management of a chain of restaurants and fast food outlets. There are three levels of difficulty, although even on the easy level we lost a fair amount of money, and it helps to have a pen and some paper to keep track of cost forecasts, rent, and other vital factors.
The games cost £4.75 each, and are available from CCS, London.
TWO INTERESTING new space games, both in 16K, are from Pixel Productions. In Subspace Striker, you are the captain of the Swordfish, which lurks in hyperspace shooting down enemy vessels with its deadly Antimat torpedoes. A fairly familiar theme is enlivened by some splendid graphics of the various spaceships and excitement is added by the capacity of the Swordfish to surface and dive to avoid enemy fire.
An especially good destruction sequence compensates for the misfortune of suffering a direct hit. The instructions are a little confusing at first but stay with it. It costs £5.50 for the ZX-81 version.
There are outstanding graphics in Trader, too, many of them animated, and the story line is original and entertaining. You are an inter-galactic trader trying to make a profit on your wares while escaping a variety of pitfalls on your journey from moon to moon.
You will need to do some quick thinking and it helps to have pen and paper handy to keep tabs on your stocks. We made a killing on Synthomunch, a yukky kind of staple food popular in the Meridien area, but cannot guarantee it will work for you.
The game is in three parts, so that it is in effect a 48K saga, with plenty to keep you absorbed to the end. The complete thing costs £10.50. Both games are available from Pixel Productions, London SW14.
SYNACROOP Software has produced a cassette of four games, all in 16K. Two are short and simple. There is a two-player gambling game, Up against the wall, and a straightforward shoot-out with alien spacecraft called Revenge of the flying saucers.
Each side also features a more sophisticated adventure, one of which is called Escape from the Pyramid of Mars. There the aim is to collect four keys from the depths of the pyramid without being annihilated by a mysterious flashing defence mechanism. The graphics are lively and because the hazard is a random one, the suspense builds-up, especially when safety is in sight.
Escaping before the oxygen runs out is problematic but not impossible.
The other adventure is Curse of the Aztec tomb, based mainly on graphics, depicting fiendish dangers such as falling boulders and bridges which close as you are about to jump on to them. You will need nimble fingers on the control keys and perhaps a practice game or two to earn a high score. The cassette costs £4.95 and is available from Synacroop Software, West Midlands.