Pac-Man didn’t make it to Atari 8-bit computers until 1982, but that doesn’t mean that people were short of some dot-eating maze-based funtimes until then.
Nope; we had John Harris’ Jawbreaker, an excellent Pac-Man clone that was extremely well-received at the time of its 1981 release — and which was so uncomfortably close to Pac-Man that Atari ended up suing publisher On-Line Systems.
Atari’s suit was ultimately unsuccessful, but Harris chose to play it safe and follow up the original Jawbreaker with a successor that was less obviously based on the Namco classic. But that’s a story for another day!
We’re all pretty accustomed to arcade-perfect conversions these days, but what about back in the ’80s where programmers had to make home versions of arcade games from scratch without any handy emulation?
The results varied enormously — at least partly because in some cases the programmers in question didn’t have any original source material to work with — but there were a few very solid examples over the years.
One pretty great arcade conversion for Atari 8-bit was the Atari-published version of Namco’s Pac-Man. It’s certainly better than the notorious 2600 version!
I love it when game developers get creative. This is not an altogether unusual sight these days, of course, but back in the early to mid ’80s, it was always a real treat to see someone step outside of genre “norms”.
Such was the case with Time Bandit by Bill Dunlevy and Harry Lafnear, a top-down action adventure with elements of text adventures, role-playing games, Pac-Man and all manner of other goodness. While superficially resembling Gauntlet — which actually came out after Time Bandit was fully developed — there’s a hell of a lot of depth here, and some fiendish puzzles to unravel.
If you want a game that pretty much sums up what the Atari ST gaming experience is all about, you can do far worse than give Time Bandit the, uh, time of day.