April 11, 2023 at 2:11 PM
In an oversaturated market of computer games, standing out is perhaps the tallest order you could ask from any programmer. More often than not, it doesn't happen; countless games put out by aspiring programmers often have hardly reached the hard disks of players' computers, and those who did play such games probably forgot about them permanently after some time had passed.
Some games, however, had something in them that made them stick, if only in the subconscious mind. One of them absolutely did just that, which brings me to a particular collection of shareware titles on an eGames CD-ROM. The one I'm going through is very likely not the same one I remember regularly using some time around 1999 to 2001, but it shares a number of titles I recall. The specific disc I'm reviewing is Galaxy of WinGames, one of many such discs. This one was issued in early 1999.
Now, programming is a very difficult task. It takes a lot of effort to get something fleshed out and working, and a lot goes on beneath the finished product. Such endeavors are not to be taken lightly. Right? Well, as someone who programmed a game myself, I think I qualify as a highly valid critic and basher of games!
Before I start, however, I should disclose that eGames is kind of a scumbag company; it's known to install adware. Sure, it's NORMAL nowadays, but it's really not appreciated in the slightest. It would be great to separate the actual software from that garbage.
You can tell this is an old game when it insists on me running it in 256 colors... what makes this ball so hyper? I'm not quite sure. Maybe it's the visual aesthetic that was chosen here, a style common among those who have just gotten this sick new graphics software in the mail.
It should be immediately obvious that this is yet another clone of Arkanoid. It's a common theme of shareware CDs to have tons of games trying to recreate much more well known titles that established some kind of gameplay innovation. Even so, Arkanoid itself derives some of its core mechanics from Breakout, so it's not like everything can be totally original.
From what little I've played of it (since like 2000, anyway), HyperBall doesn't really have much of anything gameplay-wise to define itself beyond what it will be seen as, but the visuals are pretty cool nonetheless. The ball squishing as it bounces is a nice detail.
Now, this may look like plain ol' Chess with space stuff in it at first glance. Even then, not all of the pieces at play can move exactly how they would in Chess, from what I recall of the last time I played that. I never enjoyed Chess much.
There's an interesting twist to this, though: when one pieces collides with another, it is not who placed the piece on top of another that determines which pieces gets knocked out. Rather, it's decided in an Asteroids-type dogfight! It's a really cool concept, but fighting against the computer is really difficult because it often feels too accurate. Seeing how its shots are evenly spaced out as depicted in the screenshot above, this feels like a very arbitrary opponent.
Then again, I never really liked Asteroids, either.
This one is just crazy. Here, you drive a really fast tank and shoot down enemy artillery to blaring techno music. It looks like a pretty good game, to say the least, but I've found it difficult to control. It's possible to get out of your tank and into another vehicle and vice versa. There's probably more to it than what I'm describing here, but I didn't spend much time on this game because I didn't make it very far. It's pretty hard.
A puzzle game of some sort... one where a ball bounces around and has to hover over these lights to turn them on while avoiding bombs. You have to also be careful not to turn them back off. The ball is always moving on its own. To control it, you click on different triangles to prop up walls or set them down.
As enjoyable as this looks like it may be for some, it's far too novel to really stick. It's not like I expected much; to create a puzzle game that can resonate with a wider audience, you have to capture lightning in a bottle, and that's something most people are just never going to do. Even Hexic couldn't really accomplish this.
How about a WORD GAMES!!!
Actually, I liked this one for what it was. It has a lot of personality to it! I especially liked the background music which accompanied it; it sounds great even when using OPL synthesis! It's definitely not something I'd play on a regular basis, but it does its job very well. It looks like it even has support for networked play, and a chat functionality at that; or at least it would have netplay, but this version does not, likely due to it being an evaluation version.
Not much to say otherwise.
Game Chest... I guess
This one is really five games. Backgammon? "Yatze"? Three lesser card games? BLEH!! NAH!! This thing was MADE for being pumped into a shovelware compilation to fill a 50 game quota! But hey, like many other card game software, it serves its purpose, just with the bare minimum functionality required.
I only played Queen's Audience, which I can only describe as a corruption of Klondike Solitaire, that game that every user of Windows prior to 2012 should know about. Blame whoever wrote the rules for that game, not the programmer.
Juxto and Renee's Resort
Two more puzzle games where you push stuff, made in Macromedia, no less. They're boring, what else can be said? Juxto has you pushing cubes into specific columns... that ring around the puzzle number was hand drawn and trying to be subtle about it, wasn't it?
Renee's Resort has you pushing beach balls into a river to clear a path to grab an innertube (THIS IS NOT A LIFE SAVING DEVICE) and taking it to the beach. There's definitely much better Sokoban-type games you could play instead. I wonder, there has to be one that I could immediately point to...
EWW, "Games for Girls"??? Are you trying to enforce gender roles here? Yeah, I guess this game was designated to the female gender. If you are a boy, you're not allowed to play it, absolutely!!
And that line "For Premium Edition, please insert CD-ROM in hard drive" was clearly written by someone who's never opened a computer before. It reminds me of a line from a VHS tape I ripped called Basic Computer Skills Especially for Seniors, where the narrator mentions noise coming from the CPU, confusing it with the hard disk seeking. If you wanted to be accurate, the closest thing to noise coming from the CPU would be the fan facing the heatsink attached to it.
MahJongg Master 2.0
It's Mahjong...? Well, not really; like many before it, it simply repurposes the 144 tiles to create a completely different game involving matching pairs. It's not remarkable, but I suppose no shareware CD-ROM is complete without Mahjong Solitaire. It comes with a few oriental MIDIs to complement the theme.
Perhaps one thing about this program that is noteworthy is the window having a gradient title bar. Yeah... and note that I was running this on Windows 95. The only other suite of programs I know that does this as well is Microsoft Office 95; the function was not natively supported until Windows 98, unless you spliced some early Memphis system files into Windows 95.
I played some others like Dominoes and Dominion, the latter which makes no sense... I think it's time to skip a bit.
This sounds more like the Galaxy Man I would've hoped for. Alternately titled Intergalactic Exterminator, this game is much of a clone of Centipede, but with some extra stuff going for it. Sometimes, when you destroy mushrooms, you can pick up these items that give you special missions to carry out, like destroying a number of specific enemies or not firing for a certain amount of time. These missions are important for powering up your character.
At the end of each world, too, there is a bonus stage that takes you into a ship shooting down more aliens in space. In the demo version provided on this CD, that's where the game ends. For what it's worth, it's one of the much better Centipede clones, certainly far more fruitful than the couple of DOS games I tried.
That could've easily been where it would end for me and my relatives who witnessed this game in action, just another one of those bargain arcade titles to pick up for a few minutes... but there's something about it that makes it a lot more important than it should be. How is that? Well, there happens to be a neighboring game on this disc created by the same person which may very well have altered my destiny.
The Adventures of Bouapha: Spooky Castle
OH HELL YEAH, now we're talking! Of all the games that were on any such eGames CD-ROMs, this one trumped the rest by a mile and a half. For something developed independently in 1998, it's very technically advanced, complete with prerendered 3D sprites that look great, dynamic lighting, and great optimization for handling potentially hundreds of different enemies.
A lot of people might compare this to Gauntlet, what with its overhead perspective, walking across large, flat terrain, and fighting hordes of enemies, but in many ways, Spooky Castle feels fresh and original. You fight with red hammers, roam a hub to select one of many levels to enter, and collect zombie brains or meet other varying conditions to clear them. The game's also got a number of secrets on hand, including a level hidden away in another level, as well as a special pumpkin level that can be unlocked by collecting four keychains.
Spooky Castle is a game which punctuates on the "dumb" philosophy, contrasting the trend towards violence in video games by opting for strange humor and just good, clean fun instead. It worked overwhelmingly well here, and at the time I played this, I thought this was the height of action adventure games. Little did I know that it was more of a tech demo, and there was more... MUCH more awaiting me.
Spooky Castle is just the first in a lineup of many ambitious games created by none other than Mike Hommel of Hamumu. If the name doesn't ring a bell, maybe if you've played Growtopia or a Robot Wants Something, those are also his work. Titles like Dr. Lunatic and its highly polished incarnation Supreme With Cheese, as well as Kid Mystic and Loonyland would pop up from here, all expanding on the engine which powered this. You'd be shocked at just how much depth these games have to them!
Doing these games any justice would require creating another article. I look forward to writing one in the future, as Dr. Lunatic Supreme With Cheese is seriously one of the best games of all time. Is that really something that can be said when so few people know about it? That's why for now, I ask that you go try Dr. Lunatic along with the countless other games Mike's created. They're now available for free on Itch, so you simply can't go wrong!
This eGames stuff's one of my childhood memories, it's legitimately fun.
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