Programmer: Philip Oliver of Cornsoft
Release Year: 1981
The TRS 80 is one of the three 1977 'Trinity' of computers along with the Commodore PET and the Apple II. Unlike those, the TRS-80 is based on the Z-80, the same chip as in the Sega Master System a decade later (although running at about half the speed). The name is from Tandy Radio Shack and the Z-80. The system was often a first computer, being in schools and sold in malls. In 1980, a Model III was released, and the original was backnamed Model 1. I don't own a TRS-80 now, so I decided to play around with an emulator, so take this review for what its worth on the emulator (TRS32 emulator)
Pac Man is released in North America in the Fall of 1980. Scarfman (named not for wearing a scarf like Dr Who, but for scarfing or eating food) came out only about a year later. This then predates the Atari 2600 version of Pac Man by a few months. Cornsoft, who would later make the official Frogger port, made this bootleg version of Pac Man. Coming in under 3k, its pretty impressive.
Here is a video of the gameplay. .
The TRS 80 has a monochrome video output, and the system was usually sold with a black and white monitor. In later years, green and amber filters were common. SInce I played this on an emulator, it might be understating the amount of flicker the real system would have. The sound in the video might also not have been experienced by many playing the game in 1981 since the system had no real audio hardware (although games had a work around using the cassette player to create simple sounds, which is all this game has)
The video and audio are the first hurdles the game has to overcome. All the monsters are the same color, and always the same color - so whether the monster is vulnerable or not is done by eliminating their eyes (and they slow down and run away). In the picture above, you can see a mix of monsters with and without eyes.
There is also no audible clues to when Scarfman is the cat or the mouse. Put together, you have to be on your toes (does Scarfman have toes) on which monsters are hunters, and which are hunted. It may be a limitation in the gameplay as far as mimicking Pac Man, but the result is a different flavor of gameplay that is still fun.
The next hurdle is just the graphical abilities of the system itself are very limited. The maze is shrunken, but its still recognizably a Pac Man maze. Scarfman is just a letter C or magnet looking thing. Everything is the same color.
The native controls are the cursor keys, although I was able to get a joystick working. Moving Scarfman can be a test of frustration, and missing turns is commonplace using either keys or joystick. However, with more practice, it might just be a matter of finding the timing.
There are five 'monsters', who start at the top (near that $). These identical quintuplets do seem to show some different behaviors - although since all the monsters look alike its hard to tell. There are also 5 Power Pellets (Plus Signs), with the fifth one being in the middle. I did not see any fruit or cut scenes, although there is a crude opening scene. The action is quick, and the game is actually pretty enjoyable. Each new board is harder than the last, with the time the monsters are prey reduced and their speed increased.
Here is a quote from the manual
Our experience with this game is that it is habit forming. It is not unusual to sit at this game for over 2 hours at a time. The Indianapolis (and world) record is 200920 points. A good game is 75000 points. You get a bonus man at 20000 points which makes the game last longer
While not a system seller, most kids who played on a TRS 80 model 1 probably played some Scarfman. Its usually included in lists of favorite games for the system. There is also a version of Scarfman for the Tandy Co-Co