Taxman (Apple II) review
"Pac-Man, in a sense, has lasted beyond just its name. You have the occasional conversion to 3-d bearing the name proper, but you also have a lot of games where the object is to find everything. The fun of avoiding four palette-swapped meanies never really dies, and in fact many people made a different game on the various Pac-Man rip-offs just by speeding up and slowing down monsters, or giving them a different starting pattern. Such games deserved to be, and were, pirated, but at no great gain t..."
Pac-Man, in a sense, has lasted beyond just its name. You have the occasional conversion to 3-d bearing the name proper, but you also have a lot of games where the object is to find everything. The fun of avoiding four palette-swapped meanies never really dies, and in fact many people made a different game on the various Pac-Man rip-offs just by speeding up and slowing down monsters, or giving them a different starting pattern. Such games deserved to be, and were, pirated, but at no great gain to the copiers. However, Taxman is one of the most faithful Apple copies of Pac-Man, but it has more goodies in the center and more cut-scenes. Oh, and the ghosts go faster than you by level 25. So it is really more like the arcade Ms. Pac-Man.
The superficial similarities are there: the four power pills, the same shape maze, the tunnels that scare the four ghosts, and the hideaways just above the pen. The ghosts even have similar patterns, before they reverse unexpectedly. The monster AI's quite good, though you could pass through two of them lumped together. The only real problem is the keyboard. On the old apple, the ;/ for up/down is too close to the left and right arrows.
So what are the main differences? The monsters: Fusor/Gunner(orange,) Redjac/Runner(red,) Gollum/Punner(green,) and Smugpuff/Sheila(white,) as we learn from the initial demo screen. The number of players: up to five. Yes, I played against myself. The skits: at levels 2, 5, 10, 23(a tribute to the game Crossfire,) and finally 25--looping back to 2, all excellent pantomimes. The goodies below the pen are deliciously nonsensical, not as pretty as Pac-Man but there are more of them, worth up to ten thousand points! There's even a funny quirk in the demo, where player #1 gets 300 added to his final score. It's a goofy, endearing bug, and Pac-Man clones needed that in the 80s.
The graphics imitate Pac-Man as well as the Apple can--there are some clear flaws, mainly due to how the Apple renders colors. While they're obvious, they are nonfatal and give the game a rough identity. Taxman himself looks more like a square with rounded edges, and the mouth makes Pac-Man look like a waddling C or U. Frequently the walls(blue) will change color when the red or green ghost runs by, and one of two ghosts side by side may also turn partially another color. The orange one can even change into the green one, and the monsters shake oddly when they're about to turn from the blue state! This is amusing until you get good enough not to want to be distracted by anything so silly. The sound? Tick-tick-tick and bleep for a power pill, with a squawk for each eaten monster and a blip for eating the goodie.
The Apple II gave us many Pac-Man clones like Snack Attack, Gobbler, Jawbreaker(a Gobbler clone,) Pig Pen(where dots appeared,) and Dung Beetles, with random mazes and dancing beetles on the side. The Ms Pac-Man port was well done and "Hungry Boy" was a version rotated ninety degrees and with dumb ghosts. But Taxman is the best for those who conquered Pac-Man and just have a thing for new and different prizes in the center.
Though it gets nearly impossible and sadly a bit tedious when the monsters get faster than you. It's a case of leading them to one side, going through the tunnel, grabbing dots and going to the other side. It was frustrating enough that even with save states, I got to level twenty-one on my first try. The next time, I got to twenty-five and verified the repetition. So the game is taxing, to use a pun. But HAL Labs did us all a service by copying the game inaccurately and providing more of a challenge than the arcade game proper.
Community review by aschultz (April 06, 2009)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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