Product: Munchman
Publisher: Kansas City Systems
Compatibility: Acorn Electron
Reviewed by: Dave E
Originally published in EUG #66

Words rarely fail us, but we do not believe an expletive exists that sufficiently encompasses the absolute disappointment of Kansas City System's Munchman. This game actually cost almost four quid in its day - four quid, and consider the claims made on its behalf in the Kansas City catalogue (Electron User Volume 5 Number 3, pg. 24):

"Reduced from £8.50, Munchman is just like the original "Packman" arcade game, with ghosties chasing you around as you devour, with all the facilities of the energisers which give limited time to stop the ghosties."

That meandering blurb might sound impressive, but do not be fooled. Should you want to play this game (and you must not, ever), let us quickly summarise what awaits you. An opening screen that writes 'KANSAS MUNCHMAN' and displays instructions which should, and we repeat should, be illustrated with the graphics from this grossly inferior Snapper clone. As the game is written entirely in BASIC, you were only ever going to see 8x8 CHR$ for each of these, but the programmer has made the mistake of only defining them after the instructions have been displayed - meaning, on booting up the game, you get rubbish in their place. A very professional lead-in for a commerical game...not.

The same lacklustre presentation introduces the maze which appears extremely slowly, accompanied by a sliding scale of notes. It's in Mode 5, which is usually pretty good for speed and collision detection - even if a programmer has coded an arcade game in a high level language. But in Munchman, your featureless purple snapper - who also stands motionless whenever no key is being held down - takes a century to respond to your input. When he does finally move, it's at a speed comparable to the village snail race - and incredibly he moves quicker than the ghosts, who simply mill about. These enemies have possibly the lowest artificial intelligence quotient in the history of videogames.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it appears the programmer has forgotten to finish his code and a level cannot actually be won! Whoopdeedoo.The maze, also done in 8x8 CHR$ blocks, is far too big for these small sprites and when combined with the directionless plodding of the ghosts leaves them all so far away from you that clearing the level of dots - oh sorry, 'susties' (What?) - can be done without any possibility of losing a life. The 8x8 ghosts are red, unless you eat an 'energiser' (big dot), upon which the palette for them is redefined and they instead flash black and white, signifying that for all of three seconds, you can eat them. Don't expect to get a bonus for doing so though; eat a ghost and it simply disappears and reappears at random somewhere else in the maze.

Manoeuvering your snapper the whole way around the maze may actually drive you insane from boredom, and this is just the kind of game where you know your reward for eating that last 'sustie' is going to be the pleasure of doing it all again with no increase in difficulty. Ahem, well, we presume that because the game spared us that final horror by refusing to acknowledge that we had in fact eaten all the dots! Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it appears the programmer has forgotten to finish his code and a level cannot actually be won! Whoopdeedoo.

Not since Adventure Games For The Electron have we seen such tat on our machine. Anyone unlucky enough to have purchased it at the time must surely have thought it was a really bad wind up; on one hand and, for the same price, you could have had hand-crafted machine code rareties Battlezone Six, Caveman or Moon Buggy. Here you get nothing more than an incomplete demo knocked up by a kid with the Acorn Electron User Guide and some graph paper on a rainy afternoon. On top of that, evidently no-one at Kansas even game-tested it before shipping it.

As we said, words rarely fail us. Munchman is the worst kind of piss-taking, hand-shaking, stomach-churning, desperation-inducing, mind-numbing, epoch-making, awful, pathetic, nauseous drivel. It has no redeeming features. It is lousy. It is the very worst Acorn Electron game ever commercially released. And it is not even worth checking out for this reason. Avoid it like the plague.