Written by Paul Monopoli

Pang

System: Amstrad CPC+ / GX4000

Released: 1990

By Ocean


When Amstrad decided to release upgraded versions of their CPC computer line & the GX4000 console not too many companies offered their immediate support for the product. The thing to keep in mind is that we have an English company taking the battle to Nintendo & Sega… It was never going to work at this point in time & the fact that a lot of Retrospekt readers have probably never heard of these later Amstrad machines is a testament to that. The CPC+ & GX4000 systems were never released outside of Europe inspite of the fact that the original Amstrad CPC range was quite successful in Australia.

Not many games were released that took advantage of the extra hardware in the CPC+ / GX4000 range, though these machines were compatible with a majority of the old CPC games… at least the CPC+ machines were. The GX4000 also had the same hardware but only had a cartridge port (which was absent on the earlier CPC machines) & no expansion options. This meant the GX4000 could only play new games. With this in mind most companies just continued making standard CPC games & ignored the GX4000. One company who did offer their support for the new hardware was Ocean Software, who had been big Amstrad supporters for many years.

In the late 80s / early 90s Ocean was the company who had all the big licenses, & the Capcom classic Pang was one of them. It’s a simple concept of travelling around the world, having 1 or 2 characters who would shoot their harpoons at the bubbles that would bounce around the screen. When you hit a bubble it would split in 2 until it was so small it just popped when it was hit next. Power ups could be obtained including:

Double Harpoons
Grappling Hook
Machine Gun
Dynamite

Other options & fruits appeared throughout the game as well, but some of these so called “Power Ups” didn’t help at all depending on the level. The gun for example is not able to break barriers which may be essential to releasing a bubble so you can pop it & complete the level. So too with Dynamite, it bursts all the bubbles on the screen down to their smallest level. This can be a problem if you have a big bubble or a couple of medium sized ones, as you can fill the screen with tiny bubbles which are hard to avoid.

Enough of that, how about the Amstrad version? Well I grew up with an Amstrad CPC & always wanted this game when it came out having seen it in Amstrad Action. It would be 15 years before I had a chance to import a GX4000 with Pang & have a chance of playing it. I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. While it’s not arcade perfect, for an 8-bit system the Amstrad version of Pang is nothing short of brilliant.

Both players are present, which is a feature even the Super Nintendo version didn’t offer (though I think we can put that down to lazy programming). The backgrounds are all represented in that chunky Mode 0 way that only the Amstrad can do & the levels & music appear to be all there. For those who don’t know, Mode 0 is a graphical mode on Amstrad computers that while offering the lowest resolution of the 3 modes available, allows the use of the most colours.

As for the colours, Pang makes use of the extra colour pallette included on the new Amstrad machines & really shows us the reason the CPC+ & GX4000 were released in the first place. It’s a pity that the system didn’t get much of a chance to showcase this with other games. The main characters are animated nicely & everything is drawn as close to the arcade original as possible.

The controls are superb & if you can forget this is an 8-bit system for a few minutes you won’t be able to tell the difference between this & the arcade machine… apart from the Amstrad controllers of course. A lot of people don’t like the CPC+ / GX4000 controllers, but I don’t mind them. If you’re a “hater” you can always plug in a Master System, Megadrive/Genesis or generic controller as the Amstrad range all use standard 9 pin controller ports.

Presentation is superb & the title screen quickly switches to a tutorial which you can skip by pressing a button on the controller. The platforms that can be destroyed are present, as are all the power ups. Even the animals make an appearance, such as the snail, bird & crab. One nice thing to note is that if only one player is in the game then only that player will show up on the victory screen, whether it be player 1 or 2. The attention to detail is brilliant.

The only place this game is let down is the music. The music from the arcade is present & correct, even if it does sound 8-bitty. The problem lies in mixing the music & sound effects. It seems the system can’t seem to handle playing the music & putting in a sound effect. The music falters ever so slightly when a harpoon is fired, but when you have the gun then things really start to get bad. Shooting repeatedly is not a good idea for the audiophiles out there, even if it is a good game tactic. It must be said that this “faltering” is with the music only & does not slow own the gameplay.

Overall inspite of the music problems Pang is a superb game, but it’s restricted to the CPC+ / GX4000 machines due to the extra hardware inside. If you own a standard CPC you might want to look at “Zap ‘t’ Balls” which is a decent Pang clone which LOOKS like a CPC+ game. The author was able to use a few little tricks to achieve that effect & it too looks superb, but we’ll save that for another possible review later on.

Pang is brilliantly presented, makes use of the extra CPC+ / GX4000 hardware & is just a damn fun game to play. I give it 92%

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