Today our grand tour through the four Windows Entertainment Packs continues. Did these early 90s tie-ins really offer that much entertainment beyond the games everyone already knows about? Let’s find out. As before, the games with a + next to the title were featured in the Best Of collection.
Jigsawed – This “game” takes a bitmap file and cuts it into squares for you to reassemble. Pretty goddamn lazy. And as you can see, it completely fucked up the colors in the .bmp file I gave it. I chose this screenshot of Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion because it fits the time period of Windows 95 perfectly, but now it works on two levels, because Asuka looks pissed off about her colors being all screwed up.
I was initially going to use the infamous “wall of Jericho” screenshot, but, well… while it’s not quite not safe for work, it’s not quite safe for work, either. I’m always thinking about my readers, especially the ones who are working shitty office jobs. I know your pain all too well.
See, here’s Asuka in Paint in 256 colors, looking more or less as she should. It’s not the fault of VirtualBox, it’s the fault of Jigsawed. Go home, Jigsawed. You’re drunk. I’ll call an Uber but you’re paying for it, you lousy fuck.
Klotski – A moving block game in which you have to extract the target block from its box. This is a classic puzzle premise, but the execution in Klotski is lousy because it requires you to do a lot of tedious dragging and clicking. If you needed a way to speed up your impending case of carpal tunnel, play Klotski.
LifeGenesis – Interesting in theory, LifeGenesis is a unique take on Go or Reversi in which you have to place pieces on the board and promote the growth of your own territory, which changes automatically after placing your pieces according to a specific set of rules, while limiting the growth of your opponent’s. The trouble is that the computer opponent seems to be broken. You can place pieces for both players, but the computer player does absolutely nothing. I’m not sure whether it’s just a problem with my copy or with the game itself. It’s kind of fun to draw random patterns and watch them mutate across the board according to the game’s rules, but other than that, there doesn’t seem to be much of anything here to experience. It’s possible I’m missing something here – if you find it, feel free to post a comment about how I’m a dumbass.
Maxwell’s Maniac – Probably the closest thing to a hidden gem among the games that didn’t make it into the Best Of collection. If Maxwell’s Maniac looks familiar, it’s because it was created by Dima Pavlovsky, the same guy who made JezzBall. Despite the cosmetic similarities, though, this is a completely different game that requires you to channel the balls into the required chambers – first the red chamber, and later red and blue chambers depending upon their colors. Maxwell’s Maniac is interesting, though I can see why its sibling JezzBall made it into BOWEP while it didn’t – Maxwell’s lacks that “simple to learn, hard to master” feel that real standout puzzle games have. It’s still probably worth playing a few rounds, though. You might end up liking it a lot.
Pegged – Pegged. Yeah, this game is called Pegged. If you’re imagining something weird, though, get it out of your head – this isn’t a game about unusual male-female relations but rather a simulation of a simple peg solitaire game. These were popular as puzzle games back in 19th century Europe according to the game’s help file. Not a bad diversion, though it doesn’t add anything to the traditional peg game that you can find on Amazon or probably in a Brookstone way, way marked up. I don’t understand how specialty gift shops like Brookstone and Sharper Image have hung on, in fact. Even before the days of Amazon, when I was just a kid, I’d go in to look at all the weird products being sold, and I swear I never once saw a soul buy anything there.
Sorry, getting way off track here. Pegged is okay as puzzle games go, I guess. They really should have given it a different name, though. Maybe it didn’t have the same connotation in the 90s.
+ Pipe Dream – Finally, a game you might actually know about. Pipe Dream was featured in the Best Of collection and is one of the more beloved of the pack’s puzzle games. And rightly so. It’s simple to play but involves some tension with a race against the clock to construct pipe before the sewage spills out into the grid, leading to a game over. Constructing too much pipe results in a score reduction per length of unused pipe, so there’s also some strategizing required. Pipe Dream is a good game. And it was even distributed by LucasArts, a company that developed some of the best adventure and space sim games of the 90s.
Rattler Race – A Centipede clone. There’s not much more to say about it. It’s a marginally worse version of Centipede. The controls are okay, but other than that there’s nothing special about it. If you were starving for Centipede in the early 90s and you couldn’t get to an arcade and you didn’t have a console version of it, I guess you’d have to make do with this one. There’s no reason to bother with it today, though.
+ Rodent’s Revenge – my second favorite of all the WEP games after Chip’s Challenge. Rodent’s Revenge was a fun puzzle game with an original bent. You play as the mouse in the center of the mass of movable squares, and your object is to trap the cats that spawn in a space of one square, after which they turn into wedges of cheese that you can eat to gain 100 points provided that the screen is otherwise clear of cats. If any cats remain active, the trapped cat merely takes a nap and waits either to turn into cheese or be inadvertently freed by you while you push blocks around to trap the other cats. The game board will inevitably turn into a mess, and part of the fun of the game is trying to trap the cats in an increasingly chaotic environment. And of course, the cats are constant coming after you, and if one catches you, you lose a life. Later levels include immovable blocks, mousetraps, and other obstacles to complicate your mission.
Rodent’s Revenge is absolutely worth checking out. No game is quite like any of the others, and you have to use creative thinking to beat later levels. I don’t bother with mobile gaming much at all, but I’d be surprised if this didn’t have clones in the Apple or Google Play stores. Probably with a bunch of horrible ads infesting them, though.
+ SkiFree – Probably the most famous of all the WEP games. SkiFree was included on damn near every PC in the early 90s, meaning that almost everyone played it at least once. It’s a very simple game and a very short one, but a skiing game was a real novelty at the time, and the creator threw a few surprises into the mix. I wrote a short retrospective of SkiFree here, so check that out if you’re interested. The only thing I’ll add is that it took me a while to realize the implication that the “free” in the title at the top of the slope is composed of dog piss.
Stones – Once again, this title has nothing to do with private parts or acts involving them, but rather with… mahjong tiles? Are those ever called “stones”? I’ve played mahjong, and I never heard anyone call the tiles “stones”. The help file claims this is loosely based on the “ancient Chinese game of mahjong”, but what it means is that it’s based on mahjong solitaire, which is a completely different thing (also, neither of them are ancient unless the late 19th century and the 1980s respectively count as “ancient”.) I was never a fan of mahjong solitaire, and I’m not a fan of this game either. You have to place all the tiles on the board such that their neighbors match at least two of three attributes. I don’t know, maybe someone would like this game. I didn’t.
Going out on a sour note here, unfortunately, but there are still nine games left to review. Look forward to the exciting conclusion, coming soon!
What is the “wall of Jericho” screenshot…?
It’s from a scene in Evangelion with that character Asuka staying over with the protagonist Shinji at his place but telling him not to go into her side of the apartment while they’re sleeping. She says she’s built the “wall of Jericho” across it so he can’t cross or something like that. Only the wall of Jericho fell down, didn’t it?
So the screenshot itself is a bit NSFW and well-known for that reason. If someone hasn’t seen the show, I don’t guess any of this makes sense out of context. It’s such a weird reference to make here that I kind of regret doing it now, because I don’t know how many people are going to get it. But since I wrote this post a year and a half ago, I don’t remember what I was thinking anyway.