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Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K

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Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

"Think of all the animals you've ever heard about, like rhinosorousntigercatsnmink..." remember that one? Well, sincethe Pink Panther cartoons have been on TV since the year yonk, and the Peter Sellers films seem to be on every holiday, you jolly well ought to remember the Pink Panther theme. Whether Gremlin's game will remain in the memory for that long remains to be seen.

Written by a German company called Magic Bytes, and suffering from a very poorly translated manual, Pink Panther is an arcade adventure with all the zany humour and graphic style of the cartoons. The Panther character himself is nicely done, and Inspector Clouseau pops up too. The supporting cast have the bulbous noses and rudimentary bodies we've come to know and love. Unfortunately, there's a good deal of colour clash when characters move in front of backgrounds - one case where it wouldn't have made sense to try using monochrome graphics (the blue panther?)

If you can make any sense of the instructions - ("Pink Panther is on the run! You are right, I am back indeed... even the inflatable hole has unhappy consequences for the inspector!") you'll figure out that the aim is to plunder five houses, and get away with enough loot to afford a holiday on a tropical isle.

Your first move, then, is to go to the supermarket. For each "job" you need an object which convinces your potential employer that you are suitable for the post of butler. For the first, it's a top hat, for which you have to hand over a certain sum of money. For subsequent jobs, you need a watch, a reference and a car, most of which you can only afford once you have completed the previous job.

From the supermarket you move to the employment agency where you choose your next job, then to the office where your employer interviews you. Come up with the right token, and you get the job.

The idea is that once you get into the house, you have to loot it without allowing your sleepwalking employer to wake up. This involves guiding him around the obstacles while you rush around picking up objects and avoiding the wily Clouseau.

The problem is that the control method is so involved and baffling, and the instructions so self-contradictory, that it's practically impossible to play the game.

Each room has a certain number of exits and entrances. It's easy to steer the Panther around, but your somnambulistic boss will bump into furniture and doorframes unless you guide him. You can do this in two ways; stand in front of him and raise your arms, in which case he'll turn around or ring a bell (which is the first object you pick up) upon which he'll follow you. It's harder than that, though; in some cases, to avoid obstacles you have to use other objects. To get over the bearskin rug, for instance, you have to get the springboard, put it in front of your slumbering boss, and let him leap over it.

Despite the instructions and corrections to the instructions, things still don't always work according to plan; for instance, in some cases the sleeper, rather than turning away from you and walking backwards, simply turns and runs into the wall, losing you the round. It's more than a little annoying.

Now, I liked the films and I loved the cartoons, but the game just doesn't cut it. the basic idea's good, but the gameplay's a turkey and if you can't play it, there's not much point in buying it just to look at the box, is there? A disappointment.

Label: Gremlin
Author: Magic Bytes
Price: £8.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Disappointing game of the hip cartoon series.