Saturday, February 6, 2021

Matter of Import 018: Pacar (SG-1000, 1983)

Pacar is a game in which you drive around a maze collecting dots, avoiding enemy cars, and occasionally collecting power pellets that enable you to turn the tables and chase the enemy cars instead. With a name like "Pacar" it's understandable to think that this is just another in the legacy of Pac Man clones... but you might actually be wrong.

See, in 1979 – a year before Namco released Pac-Man - Sega released Head-On, an arcade game in which you drove around a set of concentric tracks, collecting dots, and trying to avoid opponent cars. It was of course much simpler than either Pac-Man or Pacar – very basic graphics, fewer enemy cars, no power pellets – but it's easy to track the development to Pacar, especially considering the inspirations that might have come from Namco's smash hit.

In the end, though, it plays less like Pac-Man or even Head-On than another Namco game – Rally X – in which you navigate a maze collecting flags. Not so much in level layout... Pacar is a fixed screen game... but in the way your car handles. While you can reverse direction it's much slower than driving ahead, so you feel much more like a car than anything else.

And of course, this is a console game, not an arcade port. It's also this series's first SG-1000 game, so within this cosm all we have to compare it to are the Atari 2600 games we've been looking at so far... and I have to say it's quite the improvement. The graphics are like nothing else we've seen so far, the sound, while simple, is far superior to what the VCS can offer.

On the downside the selection of maps is lacking. After two tracks the stages repeat, adding extra additional cars to increase the difficulty. More variety would have been welcome, particularly given the inevitable comparisons to Pac-Man – or the superior and more contemporary Ms Pac-Man.

Taking all this into account, I'm compelled to give Pacar a C ranking. Good for a quick playthrough, but lacking in the variety needed to maintain your interest.

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