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HSC02, Round 3: Muncher / Pac-Man Clone

Astrocade High Score Club Munchers Pac-Man Micro-Pac Nam-Cap Pack-Rat

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#1 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:07 PM

The Main Game: Muncher

Muncher (also sometimes called Munchie) is the main game for round 3 of the second season of the Astrocade High Score Club. Muncher is an excellent Pac-Man clone, as the following screenshot makes quite clear:

Muncher (MAME Screenshot)(Astrocade).gif

This game is one of my favorite games for the Astrocade, and it's a shame that it wasn't released (probably) due to Atari's legal department making threats to sue companies that made copy-cat games. I suppose there is no defense for Muncher-- you can't look at it an not see Pac-Man. K.C. Munchkin for the Odyssey 2, which has only a passing resemblance to Pac-Man, was driven off the market by Atari's lawsuit, therefore Astrocade, Inc. made the right decision, as they couldn't have released this game without a major overhaul. Unlike prototype games for many other systems, like the Atari 2600 or Intellivision, owners of the Astrocade didn't have to wait until the late-1990s or 2000s to get to play rare and unusual games: Muncher got limited distribution in the early 1980s through the Arcadian and at least two other sources.


Bonus Game: Nam-Cap

The BASIC bonus game is New Image's game Nam-Cap, which was released on tape for $10.95 in December of 1982. "Nam-Cap" is the name "Pac-Man" spelled backwards. That's pretty-much how this game plays too: instead of eating dots, you "up-chuck" them onto the screen. Yeah, kind of gross, but pretty amusing. Here's a screenshot of the game with the maze mostly filled in already:

Nam-Cap (Up-Chuck)(Screenshot 3)(Cropped).jpg

To be sure, Nam-Cap is similar to Pac-Man (the game wouldn't exist without the original), but it's not a clone. It's a neat distraction and has quite a few variants that gave players a good deal for their money.

Season 2, Round 3: End of Round Time and Date

Season 2, Round 3 will last about three weeks. This round ends on Sunday, April 9'th at 8pm MST.


Muncher

Here is a preview of the supposedly soon to be upcoming (at the time) Munchie cartridge from the 1981 Astrovision, Inc. catalog called More Games More Fun:

Munchie (Astrocade)(More Games More Fun 1981 Catalog).jpg

Muncher may be the most common third-party game for the Astrocade... but that doesn't make it common. Unless you own an Astrocade multicart, I expect that you'll have to play this game using the Astrocade emulator included with MAME.

The Muncher cartridge ROM image (called "muncher.bin") is part of this archive:

http://www.ballyalle...deROMCollection

Muncher was never actually officially released by Astrovision or Astrocade, Inc. Therefore, there is no manual for this game-- but there is nothing complicated about playing it. If you've ever played Pac-Man (or any other dot-eating maze game in the last thirty-five years!), then you'll take to Muncher quite easily. The only big difference between Pac-Man and Muncher is that in Muncher, you must always press your controller in the direction that you want to move. You'll get used to this quickly.

Muncher is probably found most commonly labeled as Test Programme, which is the cartridge that the Arcadian newsletter released. It looks like this:

Muncher - Test Programme (Arcadian).jpg

Esoterica is probably the company that released the cartridges with the red "Muncher" label. This version of the cartridge looks like this:

Muncher.jpg

Here is a video review of Muncher created by "Nice and Games" and released to YouTube on May 15, 2010:



I do not know who programmed Muncher. If you have any idea, then please let me know.

For those who are interested in tinkering with programming, a disassembly of the Z80 code for Muncher is available here:

http://www.ballyalle...ource/Munch.asm

 

Muncher (Options)

Other than the number of players, Muncher has no options to enter. There are no skill levels to select. The game does start a little too slowly for my taste, but before long everything starts moving really quickly.  In fact, it probably won't be long before you wish that everything would slow down just a little bit.

Muncher (Scoring)

Up to ten points are awarded for playing Muncher.

Muncher Bonus Points

  1. If you play a two-player game of Muncher, then you'll get a bonus point.
  2. If you beat Sharon Adams score of 76,310 that was published in the Scoreboard in the June 30, 1984 issue of Arcadian, then you'll get a bonus point.

 

Nam-Cap

You can download the "AstroBASIC" version of Nam-Cap here:

http://www.ballyalle...[new_image].zip

Be sure to play the version in the zip file called "nam-cap_1_[new_image].wav.


Nam-Cap (Options)

We're playing version 1 of Nam-Cap, which is called Nam-Cap: Up-Chuck. Each variant of the game has a different title screen, so please make sure that the title screen you see matches with the one I've posted here.

Lives in Nam-Cap are called "turns." When you begin your game choose 3 turns.

 

 

Nam-Cap (Playing Notes)

There probably were instructions for Nam-Cap, but they have not been archived. Here are a few things I noticed while playing the game:

  • The Deadly Square - You are chased around the screen by one square. If it touches you, then you lose a turn.
  • Those Pesky "Monsters" - Ghosts, which do not look like a squares (they look like ghosts, of course!), do not move around the maze; they are stationary. You don't see them until you encounter them as you move around the maze, and then they become visible. If you run into a visible ghost, then you lose a turn. I think the lack of ghost movement was done to help speed-up the game, and it actually works better than you might expect.
  • Death on Startup - In one of the variant versions of Nam-Cap, I noticed that a ghost (which appear randomly) can appear on the first space that you occupy. If this happens, then you lose a turn before you even move, which is an extremely cheap death-- and is obviously unfair. I've not seen this happen in the Up-Chuck version of the game (that we're playing), but if you see it, then be aware it seems to just be the way that the game plays.

 

Nam-Cap Images

 

Here is a picture of the tape on which Nam-Cap was distributed:

Nam-Cap (New Image)(Side 1).jpg

Here are some screenshots of Nam-Cap:

This is Nam-Cap's title screen (if you don't see this exact title screen, then you're playing the wrong version of the game):

Nam-Cap (Up-Chuck)(Screenshot 1)(Cropped).jpg

The maze at the start of a game-- before you "up chuck" any dots at all!

Nam-Cap (Up-Chuck)(Screenshot 2)(Cropped).jpg

Here is the maze after you've done a little bit of barfing:

Nam-Cap (Up-Chuck)(Screenshot 3)(Cropped).jpg

When you lose your last "turn," the screen colors flicker though many different colors, I happened to catch the game at a moment that surely does make me want to "up chuck!"

Nam-Cap (Up-Chuck)(Screenshot 4)(Cropped).jpg

Here is a full-page ad for Nam-Cap from the March 14, 1983 issue of the Arcadian:

Nam-Cap Full-Page Ad (Arcadian Vol 5 Page 81).jpg

The ad makes a few comments:

New Image Proudly Presents Tape #1500, Nam-Cap:

Six versions of this crazy game on one tape!
Different mazes on each screen.
1-4 players. Saves Hi-Score of the Day.
Tired of eating dots and ghosts? Now you can spit them back out!
You'll love it!!

 

Nam-Cap (Review)

Nam-Cap was reviewed by Michael Prosise in The Game Player column in Arcadian 5, no. 4 (Feb. 18, 1983): 62. Here is the full review of the game:

 

 

Whacka-whacka-whacka??? Yes! Has the little yellow gobbler finally made it to the Bally Astrocade? Well-l-l-l, a hint is in this game's title, which might be spelled backwards.

Don Gladden of New Image has come up with quite an entertaining version (in reverse) of the popular Midway coin-op Pac-Man. In fact, there are six variations of Nam-Cap on the cassette, each unique in its own way.

So what is a Nam-Cap, you might be wondering. To use Don's words, the little guy finally ate too many dots and ghosts. Now he's spitting them out!  The object of this game is to fill the maze with dots.

What New Image has done is to take the Pac-Man game concept and reverse it. You have a maze, with tunnels on each side, that is devoid of dots. You steer the Nam-Cap guy through the maze, trying to fill it with dots, while simultaneously avoiding the pursuing block-shaped object. During the chase, your guy will, on his own, deposit stationary ghosts in three different places that neither he nor his pursuer may pass through. To attempt this will mean his destruction.

Nam-Cap is for one to four players, is in color, and offers the choice of one to ten turns. The graphics are good; in fact, the ghosts are just like the ones in Pac-Man. There are several different mazes. A new one will appear each time you complete one. In the six versions, the speed of movement is faster than some of the others. In version four, you disappear after 500 points, the maze disappears at 1,000 points, and after 1,500 points, both disappear! It's fun.

Of the Pac-Man-type games that have appeared so far for the Bally Astrocade, Nam-Cap is probably the closest to the coin-op, as far as feel of play and visual aspects are concerned. Although the maze layout is different, it functions just as well. Those who've played it have liked it quite a bit. They've even found it superior to Wavemakers' Pack-Rat. The sound effects are nice also, and another good feature is that the high score of the day, along with the final scores for all players, is displayed at the end of each game.

Nam-Cap is fun to play, much like Pac-Man, and should be available by the time you read this.

Have fun playing Muncher this round; it's a very impressive and fun game on the Astrocade. Nam-Cap, while not nearly as fast-paced as Muncher, isn't a bad facsimile of the game given the limitations of "AstroBASIC."  It is certainly much better than MicroPac (released in 1982) by H.A.R.D., which is excruciatingly slow.  Now, go insert the cartridge (or load up the ROM) and have some traveling through a classic maze game.  If you're not careful, then you might get "Muncher-Man Fever!"

Adam


Edited by ballyalley, Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:40 PM.


#2 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:42 PM

I've drastically updated and extended the first post in this thread.  There is now more information about Muncher and the BASIC bonus game has been named: its New Image's Nam-Cap.

 

Adam



#3 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Mar 25, 2017 5:03 PM

Did you ever say what the points are for playing Nam-cap? Is it one point for playing, and a bonus point for getting the high score?



#4 roadrunner OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:15 PM

24,170

Attached Thumbnails

  • 0020.png


#5 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:26 AM

Did you ever say what the points are for playing Nam-cap? Is it one point for playing, and a bonus point for getting the high score?

 

It looks like I didn't mention it.  Here's the breakdown for Nam-Cap bonus points:

 

1) One point for playing

2) One point for high score

3) One point for anyone that makes a review video of this game.

 

Should there be any other bonus points available for this Nam-Cap?

 

Adam



#6 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 8, 2017 1:09 PM

It's definitely a good Pac-Man clone, though pretty shameless (they even use the music at the start of the stage). I did need to get used to less forgiving collision detection than the arcade game. It seems like you can't even brush against a ghost.

 

My high score is 27,220.

 

0053.png

 

I also played some two player games with billnewsome, who got as high as 9,930.

 

0048.png



#7 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 8, 2017 2:07 PM

Nam-Cap might well be the best Pac-Man clone on tape, but that's not a super high bar. AstroBASIC doesn't seem to be well suited to this style of game. I do think the ghost blockade is a clever idea, but the implementation isn't perfect. Check out this example where the enemy is trapped by the ghost, but it's also impossible for me to complete the stage because I can't get to the last blank spaces.

 

IMG_20170408_152817449_HDR.jpg

 

I also ran into a case where the enemy got stuck against a ghost, keeping me from reaching the final space. A bug that helped me was when the enemy just disappeared once, leaving me to complete the stage at my leisure.

 

Playing BASIC games on the older BIOS is kind of annoying, because of how the text gets garbled. But unfortunately my other systems are currently semi-functional at best. What sort of score would you expect for completing the maze three times? The high score screen says 731. But when I selected the number of players and turns, the numbers it displayed were 1 too low, i.e. I picked 0 if I wanted 1 player, and 2 if I wanted 3 turns. So if that's consistent, I got 842. I suppose at the moment I've got the high score by default, but if someone else posts a score that may be higher, they should get the bonus point.

 

IMG_20170408_154803434.jpg



#8 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 8, 2017 5:57 PM

Playing BASIC games on the older BIOS is kind of annoying, because of how the text gets garbled.


Yeah, it really does seem to be a pain to play the games on your system-- so extra-special thanks for joining us!  Besides text being messed up, what else is displayed wrong?  What about in-game graphics?  If a game is straight BASIC (no machine language routines), then do you still get screwed up text?

 

Adam



#9 nd2003grad OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 8, 2017 7:56 PM

Could have done better. I liked Nam-Pac!IMG_4114.JPG IMG_4116.JPG

#10 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 8, 2017 8:32 PM

Could have done better. I liked Nam-Pac!attachicon.gifIMG_4114.JPGattachicon.gifIMG_4116.JPG

 

I'm trying to make out the score in Muncher.  Is it 26,090 points?

 

Yes, I agree with you; Nam-Cap is pretty good.  I just finished playing a few games of it-- it's actually not as much of a Pac-Man clone as you would expect.  It's almost a game of its own.

 

Adam



#11 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 8, 2017 8:47 PM

I played a few games of Muncher and keep topping-out at about 26,000 points on level 3.  I know I can do better than that-- but I just can't seem to do it today (you know, when it actually counts).  Maybe I'll try it again tomorrow.

 

I also played several games of Nam-Cap.  It's a pretty good game, and there are quite a few little niceties about it that I like.  For instance, you can turn a corner by "skipping" the proper turn (that is, you can sort of go diagonal).  If you do this, then you "jump over" a space and don't leave a dot behind you.  I did run into some of the trouble with the ghosts that Paul described-- although I never got locked between two ghosts; that would be pretty unfair!

 

Here are my current scores:

 

Muncher - 26,880

 

Muncher (Astrocade)(26880)(Cropped).jpg

 

Nam-Cap - 890

 

Nam-Cap (1982)(New Image)(Astrocade)(890)(Cropped).jpg

 

Paul, is there a way to "print" a 2000-baud AstroBASIC BASIC program?  When I say "print," I mean get a text listing, like what can be done using the 300-baud utility tools.  I'd like to see Nam-Cap's BASIC code.  I'm curious how it's showing the characters on the screen.  My guess is that it's using the machine language ROM routine called CHRDIS (Display Character).  Nam-Cap isn't fast, but for what it's doing it has good control and it's more fun than I expected.

 

A BASICart version already exists for this game, but it's for a variation of the game (I think, version 4) that I don't like much.  I'd like to see a BASICart version of Nam-Cap, version 1.

 

Adam


Edited by ballyalley, Sat Apr 8, 2017 8:48 PM.


#12 nd2003grad OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 8, 2017 9:50 PM

Yup correct score!

#13 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 9, 2017 12:36 PM

I asked my non-gaming-playing wife to play one game of Muncher with me this afternoon. She must really love me, because she did!  Yeah!  Thank you, baby!  We just played one game.  She used my Atari joystick with the Atari-to-Astrocade adapter, while I used the Astrocade controller... and got my best score thus far.  Amazing!  Thanks for the inspiration, honey!

 

Muncher (BallyAlley) - 30,460

Muncher (Mrs. BallyAlley) - 7,880

 

Muncher (Astrocade)(30460)(2 Player)(Cropped).jpg

 

I really like Muncher-- it has tight controls, even when using the Astrocade controller (which kind of surprises me).

 

Adam



#14 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Apr 10, 2017 11:18 AM

Round 3 of the HSC ended yesterday (Sunday, April 9, 2017) at 8pm MST. Six people played the main game, and three people played the Bally BASIC bonus game.

Final Tables

Muncher

BallyAlley        30,460   10 pts
ranger_lennier    27,220    9 pts
nd2003grad        26,090    8 pts
roadrunner        24,170    7 pts
billnewsome        9,930    6 pts
Mrs. BallyAlley    7,880    5 pts


Four of the six people each score a bonus point for playing a two-player game of Muncher. That's cool!

Three people each earn an extra point for playing the BASIC bonus game on the Astrocade. Ranger_lennier wasn't sure of his Nam-Cap score (because his console mangles the text of many BASIC games). I went with the higher of the two possibilities for his two posted scores.

Nam-Cap

BallyAlley       890
ranger_lennier   842
nd2003grad       518


Total points awarded this round:

1st  BallyAlley       10 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 0 = 13 pts !#$
2nd  ranger_lennier    9 + 1 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 11 pts !#
3rd  nd2003grad        8 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 =  9 pts #
4th  roadrunner        7 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 =  7 pts
4th  billnewsome       6 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 =  7 pts !
5th  Mrs. BallyAlley   5 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 =  6 pts !


Bonus Points Key:

! - Muncher - Two-Player Game
@ - Muncher - Beating Sharon Adams' score of 76,310 (No point awarded)
# - Nam-Cap - Playing the bonus game
$ - Nam-Cap - Highest Score
% - Nam-Cap - Video Review (No point awarded)


Please, check your scores. ;)

Season 2, Round 3's winner is Bally Alley. It always feels a little weird to win a round and announce it myself.

I really enjoyed playing Muncher this round-- it's a great conversion of Pac-Man. I do miss that you don't automatically move in the last direction that you pushed the controller, but you eventually get used to the game's slightly-alternate control method to constantly move in the direction you want to go. This system works well for the Astrocade controller and Atari joystick, but this was quite hard to use with my converted NES controller.  I also had fun playing Muncher with my wife-- she seldomly plays any games, let alone videogames on classic consoles.

I liked Nam-Cap, despite its relatively slow movement and the limitations imposed on it by BASIC. I think Don Gladden, the game's programmer, did an admirable job working around the limitations of "AstroBASIC." For instance, having the stationary ghosts is a pretty-good idea. If you compare Nam-Cap to the very few other BASIC games in the Pac-Man genre for the Astrocade, then you'll see that Don clearly upped the speed of his game.

 

Next Round Games

 

The main game for Round 4 of the Astrocade HSC is the New Image's cartridge Sneaky Snake. This third-party cartridge is a Centipede clone written by Dave Ibach.

The BASIC bonus game is 1983's Caterpillar, by Thadd*Pro (Kevin O'Neill). This is the classic game of Snake, where you move a caterpillar around the screen, growing ever longer while you pick up items for points. There is a 1986 revised version Caterpillar by Klaus Doerge, but I played both games and I prefer the original type-in program.

I'll post the full rules and links for Round 4 of the Astrocade HSC in the next day or two. In the meantime, you can creep around the outdoors firing or crawling your way toward a high score in these two arthropod and insect-filled games.

Thanks to everyone who played in Round 3 of the Astrocade High Score Club. I really enjoy having a reason to play the Astrocade!

Adam



#15 ballyalley OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 13, 2017 1:47 PM

All of the links for Round 4 of the High Score Club are now available.  As previously stated, the games are Sneaky Snake and Caterpillar.  You can read the details here:

 

http://atariage.com/...ke-caterpillar/

 

Come join the fun!

 

Adam



#16 ranger_lennier OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Apr 15, 2017 6:41 PM

Yeah, it really does seem to be a pain to play the games on your system-- so extra-special thanks for joining us!  Besides text being messed up, what else is displayed wrong?  What about in-game graphics?  If a game is straight BASIC (no machine language routines), then do you still get screwed up text?

 

Adam

 

I haven't done any comprehensive testing, but I haven't seen any problems aside from the text. And it's not a problem with every game, either. The Bally BASIC games I've tried like Haunted House and Space Gauntlet ran fine. So it may well be specific to games with machine language routines.





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