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Pang

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Released: 1990

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: Amstrad GX4000

Publisher: Ocean Software

Developer: Ocean Software

The GX4000 has come in for a ton of derision over the years, and if we’re being honest it’s a deserving recipient. However, it’s easy to forget that machine’s most major failings were business issues – Amstrad’s decision to run up against the Mega Drive, and GX4000 publishers choosing to sell unaltered cassette games for £25 on cartridge. The machine itself is actually a rather capable 8-bit console, and it’s hard to think of a better demonstration of that than Pang.

Ocean’s version of the classic arcade game captures the essence of its source material amazingly well. Just as in the arcade game, your goal is to clear a screen of bubbles, with each subdividing into two smaller ones when hit. Your character handles just as you’d expect as he runs back and forth across the screen, and your shots fire at the right speed. Bubbles behave correctly too, and power-ups are present and accounted for.

However, the truly astounding thing about the game is its use of the GX4000’s hardware. The arcade game’s presentation is recreated effectively using the machine’s expanded colour palette and art that shows keen attention to detail. Hardware sprites are also shown off extensively, with some very large bubbles smoothly moving around the screen.

It’s all a big reminder that GX4000 could have been far more successful if it had hosted a few more great games like Pang, games which demonstrated the hardware’s capabilities. Oh, and better marketing wouldn’t have gone amiss, either.