Archive for the ‘DOS’ Category

Battle Chess

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

For a time when I was in middle school I was a member of the Chess Club, and while that didn’t really bring me the fame and adulation that I really wanted, I did have the chance to play a kind of interesting video game version of our chosen pastime.

Battle Chess is actually a pretty humdrum interpretation of the ubiquitous board game. So there’s really nothing to say there. The thing that makes this stand out is the battling. See, in normal mundane Chess you capture a piece and just gets taken off the board. But in Battle Chess the pieces actually fight it out (to the death, even) and the winner captures the square. Not that the battles have any actual bearing on the results or anything. It’s just a silly way to make the game a little more exciting. Well, as exciting as playing Chess on a computer in the early 90s could be, I guess.

I only played Battle Chess one time after school during a Chess Club meeting. And I didn’t even get to finish my match because I had to leave the meeting early. But what I did play I thought to be reasonably entertaining. Mostly because I was never really that good at Chess, but I got to see characters representing my little Chess-guys get brutalized in the name of a fun after-school activity, and that’s a hard thing to accomplish any more.

Tunnels of Armageddon

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

So what would you do if you had access to a series of tunnels beneath the Earth’s surface and a ship that was specially designed to drive around said tunnels? Race through them at breakneck speed? Shoot stuff off the walls?

Yeah, me too.

Tunnels of Armageddon is a game about taking said ship through a series of tunnels and collecting stuff for points. Your only weapons are a gun, a mysterious ability to jump, and the maneuverability to turn left and right (though not at the same time).

Now, there are items on the walls that you can pick up, but you can’t actually pick them up by touching them, that would make entirely too much sense. You instead collect them by shooting them with your gun.

I’m not sure how that works, either.

But part of the problem is that the items you have to collect-shoot are on little protrusions. Not a big deal though, right? You can just kind of drift out of the way of the protrusions. Except! Your ship has a limited amount of fuel. What that means is that you have to fly through the tunnels at super-extreme speeds, and what that means is that you have a seriously reduced amount of time to move into position and shoot the thing, lest you collide with the wall, which will cost you your precious forward momentum, and do a little bit of damage. And then you might not be able to finish the level. Horrors!

The thing that I most remember about playing this game was that I first played it on a NeXT computers laptop that had a red monochrome screen. Which, for some reason, made the game just look that much more intense. Seeing it now in color just kind of takes some of the edge off.

But I never really played this game much. Not because I got motion sickness or headaches or anything like that. I just felt like I saw everything I needed to see in it after playing through the first couple of levels a few times.

Well, that, and I hit a level that I couldn’t pass.


Monday, May 12th, 2008

Given Tetris’s immense popularity, it should come as no surprise that there were tons of spinoffs and clones done by people trying to either cash in on it, or to discover the ‘next big thing. When you combine that with my apparent lust to put a copy of Tetris on everything I own, you’ll discover that I’ve tried lots of these knockoffs in an attempt to sate the urges between releases.

Blockout is, supposedly, the next logical step to Tetris. I won’t bother explaining how Tetris works, I’m pretty sure you already know. But imagine, if you will, that instead of looking at the playfield from the side that you’re instead looking at it from above. And further imagine that you gain the ability to rotate the pieces on both the X and the Y axes. You’d, of course, have to imagine new pieces that would be possible in this strange new space. And then you imagine them slowly falling into the bucket, or pit, or hole, or well, or whatever you want to call it, and your goal is to arrange them so that they complete layers instead of mere ‘lines’. Then you will start to have a grasp on this game.

This game was really hard for me. The different layers are color-coded, so that’s a plus, but I had three big problems with it. One was that my brain just doesn’t seem to work in a way that allows me to see how these 3D pieces need to be manipulated to fit properly in the 3D space. The normal pieces are pretty easy to deal with, but the corkscrew-like pieces just screw with my head, and I invariably panic and put them in the wrong spot. The other problem I had was that I couldn’t keep track of where my gaps were in the puzzle. So if I had a partially-unfinished layer, and had to start another layer on top of it, and then had to put yet another layer on top of that I pretty much forgot where the gaps were in the second layer, and the bottom? That may as well not exist as far as my brain is concerned. The last problem I had was with the perspective. I’m used to playing classic Tetris by lining up the piece where I wanted it and then driving it home, but I just have a real problem doing that with any kind of accuracy in 3D space. So I ended up making lots of bad drops, which makes for a frustrating time.

At least one of those problems could probably be somewhat alleviated by practicing the game more, and there’s a practice mode just for that where there’s no ‘gravity’ and you can play as quickly or as slowly as you like. And I had a degree of success with that. But not being able to reliably keep track of where the gaps were made it difficult for me to really make any kind of headway. But I’ve grown to accept that my brain just doesn’t quite work that way, I can’t even reliably solve one side of a Rubik’s Cube. But I still have fun trying.

ChoRenSha 68K

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Shoot ‘em ups (colloquially referred to as ’shmups’) are a lot the same: you have a vehicle of some kind (usually one that flies) that’s extremely maneuverable yet extremely fragile. You have to take this vehicle up against a ludicrous amount of enemies, and use your extreme maneuverability to pierce their defenses and kill them all. This typically requires you to have pinpoint reflexes, extremely quick reflexes, and a bit of memorization of the enemies’ attacks.

ChoRenSha 68K is a throwback to some of the classic shooters. There’s no story (that I know of), just your ship flying through space shooting and trying to kill lots of enemy ships. And it’s hard. Real hard.

This game was too hard for me, but I’m admittedly a wimp at shooting games like this. The main reason I picked it up was that it was free to download, free to play, and not half bad to boot. An odd combination, really. This game looks almost professional quality, which is quite impressive for a game that takes up less than 2MB of hard drive space. You can download it and give it a try here.

The Dame Was Loaded

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

I don’t really do well at the point-and-click adventure games, but I like them a lot for some reason. I suppose it’s the inner masochist in me, or maybe it’s just that I like puzzles, even ones I can’t solve, as good brain exercise.

This particular game puts you in the shoes of Scott Anger, a detective in some kind of 1940’s-ish setting. A woman in dire straits comes in and pleads for help in finding out who killed her husband and why. So you, as Scott and late with the rent, agree to help.

One thing that is still pretty impressive to me is that this game runs in full screen with fully acted scenes, which doesn’t seem too impressive today, I’ll admit, but this was back in the DOS days, when Full Motion Video was ridiculously rare in games, and usually just in a corner of the screen. The only caveat, the game ran in 256 colors which, as you may know, is far less than the number of colors in the world. This makes the game look a little weird at first, but honestly, I didn’t really notice after a while. I was blown away by the story and trying to figure out whodunit.

The Dame Was Loaded

Regrettably, though, I just caved after a few weeks. I kept running into dead ends and overall just made a lousy detective. I tried to bribe the cop with hair from the barber shop floor, I ate the doughnut, and lost all of my money at poker. But I did find the diamond in the sink and then promptly get killed. So I hit the walkthough and tied up all my loose ends. I saw the ending and was pleased. Until I found out years later that there are multiple endings. Even that wouldn’t be too bad, except that I don’t have a computer that will run the game any more. And so it sits, waiting for me to cobble together a system capable of playing its particular brand of brain-locking puzzles.

One day soon, perhaps.

Prince of Persia

Friday, December 28th, 2007

“The princess must marry the grand vizier or die in one hour” is the nebulous story behind Prince of Persia. See, the grand vizier is evil, but the sultan’s away, so he’s in charge for some reason. He gives the princess her ultimatum, and totally won’t kill or marry her if her boyfriend can reach her in one hour. Problem is, her boyfriend has been tossed into a fairly sadistic jail. Good thing he’s inexplicably acrobatic.

He friggin’ has to be. The prison and the rest of the castle is filled with precipices, spike traps, hidden switches, gigantic razor-sharp jaws, and a guard or two, all placed there to make sure you don’t go more than a couple of feet without having insta-death looming about your head.

The first level is a gimme. You’re going to fool yourself into thinking that you can take the rest of the game with little effort. Do not be fooled. This game hates you with a fiery passion. The only way to progress in the game is to memorize the location of each trap and perform a careful dance, pirouetting around the dangers and emerging unscathed on the other side. And that pesky time limit ensures that you’re going to be starting this game over many, many times.


Thursday, November 8th, 2007

There was a time when computers came with an environment to allow you to learn a rudimentary programming language. They weren’t particularly powerful or intuitive or anything, but they got the job done. One of the demos that came with versions of QBasic, the programming environment that came with some versions of DOS, was a weird little game that involved gorillas.

QBasic Gorillas, colloquially known as Gorilla.bas (which was the name of the program file), is a simplistic little game featuring gorillas standing on buildings and exploding bananas.

In Gorillas you take turns with your opponent tossing bananas back and forth, trying to hit each other. You can input the angle and power behind each toss, and if you manage to hit the other gorilla then you win the point.

Yeah, it’s simple, real simple. But it is free, and was installed on just about every computer in every lab that I used during my high school years, so it almost goes without saying that I put in quite a bit of time with this game. Mostly because it’s more fun than WordPerfect.

Street Rod 2

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

It always amazes me to think what people will play when they’re both very poor and very bored. I was concurrently both of those things growing up, so I played pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Which kind of explains why I ended up playing Street Rod 2.

Street Rod 2 is a game about tricking out and racing muscle cars, two things that I have zero interest in. So you start out with some funds and a newspaper, and you have to use the funds to buy your starter car. Once you get it you tune up the engine, change out parts, and generally get your hands dirty tricking it out. Then, when you have the car done up to your liking, you cruise out to the local burger joint and wait on other folks to arrive. You can then challenge them to races for fun, for money, or for pink slips (pink slip = title to the car).

I futzed around with this game for a long time, but I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t know why one transmission is better than another, I don’t know what the difference between the carburetors is, or why someone would need one muffler over another, so the enjoyment I got out of this game was limited. If you’re a real gear-head, this game might be for you, I suppose.

Jill of the Jungle

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

I had never actually heard of Jill of the Jungle until years after its heyday. Turns out that it was reasonably popular and helped propel the company behind it, Epic, to newer and greater heights.

To be honest, I only played the shareware version of this game, and of that I only played one level. It seemed to be a rather standard affair, Jill runs around the huge levels, collecting things, making her way to the end.

I suppose it should be noted that the protagonist is a female, which was still quite the rarity when this game was released in 1992. But other than that, I found it to be a rather standard game. It was a real middle-of-the-road kind of game. Which really means that I didn’t quite enjoy it enough to purchase it. Though I understand that if I ever decide to, the game is still available.

Pipe Dream

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Pipe Dream (a.k.a. Pipe Mania, or about a thousand different clones), I’m constantly surprised that more people haven’t heard of it.

Pipe Dream is a puzzle game that does away with the standard ’sort things and make them disappear’, and instead has you creating a network of pipes from random pieces to contain the flow of a mystery liquid. What the liquid is changes in each incarnation, but it really doesn’t matter what it is.

The liquid will start flowing shortly after the stage starts, with the length of this initial delay diminishing as the levels progress. Depending on the version and the level, you will have one or two goals to achieve: make the liquid flow through a certain number of pipes, and make the liquid flow through a certain number of pipes while making it to the end pipe.

It sounds easy enough, but you can quickly start to panic as you realize that the liquid is slowly but surely progressing and you aren’t getting the piece you need to connect the two halves of your pipe network.

Not that that’s ever happened to me.