Review by Retro
Reviewed: 04/25/01 | Updated: 05/19/03
The bad side of cloning
There are not many video games in the history of the industry that have had more clones to come after it than Pac-Man has. None of them seemed to have the worldwide success that Sir Chomps-A-Lot, I mean Pac-Man had, but tons of clones tried to steal some of the limelight. Lock 'N Chase was one of those games. It's a clone and a half, but it does have a few noticeable differences, believe it or not.
In this game with the basic title of Lock 'N Chase, you're stuck guiding a red creature (supposedly a human) that looks more like a dryer on legs though the screen's never-changing maze. The object is to pick up all the gems that are scattered about on the terrain's floor. Glance up at the top-middle part of the screen and you'll see an open space that has a red barrier lying across it. As soon as every gem is collected, that barrier will disappear, making room for your square ass to fit through that open space. It's the way to the next level.
In everyday life, we're used to sudden changes that can happen either overnight or over time. Lock 'N Chase seems to be immune to any change whatsoever. From start to finish, the maze stays the same, and so does everything else, except that the enemies get just a bit faster after a few levels. Trotting around quickly through the maze are four blue creatures that are supposed to be cops that want to catch you, the thief. No cars, sirens, or even handcuffs are here to be seen, but just one touch from a cop will take a life away from you before you know it.
Instead of having flashing power pellets that allow you to eat the enemies (hell if I'd want to eat a policeman anyway), there are horizontal barriers that you can put up. Unfortunately, you can't kill the enemies, but you can trap them. It's easy to see why part of the game's title is 'chase'. The reason it also has the word 'lock' in it is because, at any of the places where two sections of the maze are only a short space apart, you can set up as many as two (not enough!) of the aforementioned barriers in the form of a sturdy line. But don't go skipping around with joy yet, because these barriers only stay up for about fifteen seconds before they disappear. Neither you nor the cops will be able to pass through it. It's hard as hell to do, but if you have a policeman on your ass so close that it appears he could dive and catch you, and if you're timing is right, it's possible to trap a cop between two barriers, making it where he can't move at all for awhile. That's almost like putting the cop himself behind bars!
From time to time, some 'music' will begin playing, which lets you know that there is a block in the middle of the maze. Sometimes a pink and yellow block shows itself to the world for about seven seconds, and at other times it's a red and yellow block instead. You can collect either one of these to rack up on some extra points and temporarily (about a second or two at the most) make your enemies come to a complete stop.
While Lock 'N Chase offers a couple of changes from its idol (Pac-Man), that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a better game. I prefer being able to eat power pellets and sending the enemies back to their hideout to setting up barriers that can't be penetrated. Also, all the Pac-Mans' difficulties were manageable, but that isn't the case with Lock 'N Chase (and the difficulty switch doesn't work with this game). The Pac-Man family members were usually faster than the ghosts in open areas, and while traveling through portals, but the robber in Lock 'N Chase doesn't have that luxury.
The cops all seem stiff; the only part of the stick figures (that goes for the robber too) that ever move are their feet, which simply go up and down real quickly. But these dudes have cutting corners down to art, making your game short-lived and downright too tough for its own good. I've always been pretty good at the Pac-Man games, but I usually can't clear more than two mazes in a game of Lock 'N Chase. One good thing about Ms. Pac-Man and Jr. Pac-Man for the Atari 2600 is that you can select how many ghosts, one to four, that there will be in each game. You can't do that in Lock 'N Chase, of course, and there are not even any other variations, apart from being able to plug in two joysticks and alternate turns with a friend. But it's likely that neither one of you will like the game that much.
The graphics and sounds are just like the gameplay. No matter what you look at, whether it's the weird-looking robber or police, or the basic maze with its horizontal squares that serve as gems, nothing looks better than average. I have to admit that the music that accompanies a bonus block's appearance is somewhat catchy, but the sounds of collecting gems, losing a life, etc., are mediocre at best.
Overall, that's exactly what Lock 'N Chase is. It's mediocre at best, mostly due to its lack of variations and the overwhelming difficulty that keeps it from being enjoyable more than a few minutes. Really, the more I think about it, that makes it slightly below average in my book. Clones are supposed to at least be as good as the game they're trying to copy, but Lock 'N Chase seems to be a poor man's Pac-Man instead. The world has seen much better Pac-Man clones.
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