Pac-Man and His Clones - Part Two

Jake Spencer
26 April 2012


CD-MAN

Moving on from mods and ROM hacks, our tour of Pac-Man clones brings us to cheap imitations. 1989's CD-MAN, from ironically named developer Creative Dimensions, is not significant for any reason except that I had a copy back in the shareware days. This was my second Pac-Man-like game, the first being the DOS version of Ms. Pac-Man on 5 1/4", which is clearly the better game in retrospect, but CD-MAN had some graphics, man. Bland, uninspired graphics.

It also has grating sound, illogical level layouts, and... racism?

Yes, while Ms. Pac-Man explored a few abstract mazes, CD-MAN traversed the world, or at least a handful of generic settings. In addition to the spider-
infested scene pictured above, there's also a stage set in outer space and an ocean zone where sharks bloodily tear CD-MAN to pieces if he's caught. It's a gruesome stuff, but at least it's not as distasteful as the islanders populating one of the islands.



Amidar

Looking for all the world like a brilliant cross between Pac-Man and Qix, Konami's 1981 arcade game Amidar is... just Pac-Man. Yes, you need to fill the board à la Qix, but this task is mechanically indistinguishable from eating dots and avoiding ghosts.

There aren't any ghosts, though, and that's what makes Amidar special. Instead, we have pigs trying to kill a paint roller. On some levels, you're a gorilla who must avoid policemen with spears. I think. It's really weird.

Sometimes you can avoid close calls by hitting the 'Jump' button, but rather than making your paint roller/gorilla jump, it makes all the enemies jump. It has some seriously knocked-out ideas for an arrant clone.



Mowin' Maniac

Amidar is good because it doesn't make any sense. Mowin' Maniac is good because it does.

A minigame from Sierra's 1998 After Dark Games collection, Mowin' Maniac replaces dots and abstraction with overgrown grass. It's hard to believe it took close to two decades before someone thought to make such a natural, sensible swap.

The game still can't touch the original Pac-Man, of course, but the music is upbeat and catchy, and the variety isn't bad. In one level you're chased by bulldogs through the backyards of suburbia; in another, zombies try to keep you from mowing a graveyard. From gardens to golf courses, the "mow this, avoid that" rules are intuitive and satisfying.

I've played Pac-Man. I'll be happy to keep playing classic Pac-Man for the rest of my life, but if developers are going to insist on copying designs from more than thirty years ago, this is the right way to do it.
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