Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
Tecmagik/£29.99/Sega Master System
In days of yore, when Mario, Shinobi and all the other pixellated heroes we've grown to know and love were just a twinkling in a programmer's eye, an unlikely hero ruled the arcades - a small yellow ball called Pacman.
Well, that rotund little fella with a hearty appetite for blobs and running battles with a gang of ghosts never really went away. He's starred in more games than most of us have had hot dinners, and appeared on just about every format going. Now he's back in a stonking conversion of what is arguably one of his finest adventures - Pacmania.
These days PacWorld comes in glorious 3D, but the aim of the game remains the same: to guide our wee yellow hero to victory by scoffing all the pills that litter his path. As ever, the ghosts - joined by two new recruits - are hell-bent on stopping your slap-up gobble-fest. They can be avoided by mastering swift corner-turning or making a well-timed leap to safety over their heads (an all-new skill for Pacman). As usual, scarfing one of the larger power pills dotted around renders them delightfully edible for a limited period. There are four worlds to conquer (Block Town, PacMan's Park, Jungly Steps and Sandbox Land) and for added challenge, there's a hidden bonus level - Coin World - which can only be accessed by ingenious means.
Watch out for the special items that pop up - munch 'em before they disappear and you'll be well on your way to a stratospheric score.
Graphics and sound get top marks, although (as with other classic blasts-from- the-past) gameplay can seem a little unsophisticated compared to some of today's software. But Pacman made his name on the addictiveness of his games, and not a drop of that has diminished with time, as you'll discover after a couple of plays. Admittedly, some nifty programming has brought the playability level much nearer to today's standards, thanks to wonderful touches like more intelligent behaviour from the ghosts, and a great variation in their movement patterns: rather than blethering around aimlessly in your general direction, they travel far more slickly, some can jump in later levels, and each has a different approach - learn each one's habits and they'll be easier to outwit.
This is a supreme arcade conversion which is being heralded as one of the very best ever for the Master System - and we're inclined to agree.