The Best (and the Rest) of Windows Entertainment Pack, part 3 and final thoughts

Finally, we come to the end of our Windows Entertainment Pack tour with the last nine games.  There have been some real ups and downs in this tour – a few great games and a few truly lousy ones – but most of the games have fallen somewhere in between in terms of quality.  Will the final nine be so great that they significantly raise the average?  (The answer is no.)

As before, the games included in the Best Of collection are marked with a + so you can tell them apart.

+ TetraVex

Despite what you just read, TetraVex is actually a good puzzle game.  The rules are quite simple – just match each edge with the same number and complete the square.  TetraVex features game boards from the extremely easy 2×2 to the mind-bendingly difficult 6×6, but most players will probably be comfortable with the 3×3 and 4×4 boards.  Nice game to kill some time.

I’ll tell you right now that this is the best game among the final nine in this post and probably the only one worth seeking out, just in case a fire is starting in your house and you have to call 911 and escape and only have time to read up to this line.

+ Tetris

Okay, okay.  Tetris is one of the most famous and classic puzzle games in existence.  This version, though, is not even close to the best version of Tetris you can play.  It doesn’t allow the player to move pieces down more quickly in order to slide them into slots – your options are either to slam the piece down or to wait for it to move down at its normal pace, which is a real annoyance.  This version also doesn’t feature the Tetris theme, which as you might know is the Russian folk song “Korobeiniki” – here it is as performed by the Red Army Orchestra, and here it is as performed by the Game Boy.  In fact, it doesn’t feature any music at all.  Still, there’s only so much you can do to fuck up Tetris.  It’s not too bad, but if you have a Game Boy and a Tetris cartridge, you should play that instead.

TicTactics – At first I thought TicTactics was just a normal tic-tac-toe program, which would have been the second-laziest idea on any of the Windows Entertainment Packs after Jigsawed.  However, this game adds a twist.  It lets you play a boring old game of 3×3 tic-tac-toe, a.k.a. the game that will always end in a tie unless one player is severely sleep-deprived or has suffered massive brain damage.  It also lets you play 3D tic-tac-toe in a 3x3x3 cube.  Yes, this is the future, and we have 3D tic-tac-toe.  There’s also a 4x4x4 option for the real freaks.  The addition of another dimension mixes things up, though in the end it’s still just a game of god damn tic-tac-toe against a computer opponent and once the novelty wears off you will be bored of it.  Now if they’d found a way to make four-dimensional tic-tac-toe, that would have been impressive.

Tic Tac Drop – It’s Connect 4.

That’s the substantive part of my review of Tic Tac Drop.  The worst part of it is the creators don’t even acknowledge their theft of the idea for this game, even though it would have been obvious to everyone.  Connect 4 was published by Milton Bradley in 1974 and a copy was in damn near every American household by the early 90s.  If you want a real laugh, check out the help file for Tic Tac Drop, in which the writer gets all exuberant about the creation of tic-tac-toe and how it was designed by the Lord Himself so that one day someone would create a variation of it for the computer.  Yes, the game allows you to change the victory conditions to require a longer sequence of checkers, but guess what number it’s automatically set to?  That’s right: four.  The makers of Tic Tac Drop thought they could fool us, but we all know this game’s true name.  Tic Tac Drop can go fuck itself.

+ Taipei – remember in part 2 when I said I don’t like mahjong solitaire?  I still don’t like it.  And this is mahjong solitaire.  Not even a good version of mahjong solitaire, either.  It does feature several layouts of tiles, but the graphics are poor and the tiles are so bunched together that you have to squint to tell some of them apart.  Technically playable, but I can’t say more in its favor.

+ TriPeaks – Yet.  Another.  Motherfucking solitaire card game.  This one actually isn’t that bad – a bit like Golf in that you have to create a sequence of cards to clear the board and win the game, but in this case the cards are slowly revealed as you draw the ones on top of them.  For some unimaginable reason, the creators thought it would be a good idea to add a scoring system based on US dollars so that you’d be able to win and lose fake money as you played.  Because that certainly raises the stakes.  TriPeaks is made for high rollers only.  Remember to wear your dinner jacket and make your Grey Goose vodka martini with an olive before you sit down for a game.

+ Tut’s Tomb – Blessedly the last solitaire card game in the WEP, and this one is undoubtedly the worst of all.  It’s based on Pyramid, a game that’s not bad in itself, but the creators of Tut’s Tomb inexplicably changed the game to make it nearly unwinnable.  I’ll let someone smarter than me explain why.  That’s an article about Tut’s Tomb by the same guy who wrote the insanely comprehensive guide to FreeCell I linked in part 1.  Anyway, Tut’s Tomb is a pile of shit.

Winmine – Hey!  This isn’t Winmine!  It’s fucking Minesweeper!  I don’t know why Microsoft is trying to trick me with this alternate name, but here it is – it’s Minesweeper.  This game was featured on every single PC from Windows 3.1 to Windows 7, after which it was no longer bundled but included as a free game in Microsoft’s app store starting with Windows 8 (well, “free” – more on that shortly.)  I don’t know why this wasn’t included in the Best Of collection except for the fact that it was bundled with every copy of Windows separately, creating the impression that it was not actually a WEP game but rather just a game that came with Windows like Solitaire.  But it was in fact introduced with the first Entertainment Pack in 1991.

I’m not a fan of Minesweeper.  I know a lot of people who like it, but the fact that the ends of so many games rely entirely upon a 50/50 coin flip guess as to where the final mine is bothers the shit out of me.  It’s bad game design.  (This was not the case with the above lost game – I actually fucked that one up all by myself.  But my point still stands.)

Wordzap – The final game of the WEP series, alphabetically speaking.  And it’s… okay.  Just okay.  It’s a timed word jumble game you play against the computer.  I really have nothing to say about this.  One of those games that might have had some value back in the early 90s but not too much now with the advent of the internet and a million other games like this.  It apparently didn’t have enough value at the time to make it into the Best Of collection, though.

So that’s the lot of them.  Every game in the Windows Entertainment Packs reviewed.  These games were the early 90s equivalent of modern mobile apps, now relics of a time lost to history – a time before internet connections in every household, before smartphones.  Before Candy Crush and Fruit Ninja, before gacha games, before microtransactions.  Not all of the games we’ve looked at over the past few posts have been great, but there’s still an innocence to them, even to the bad ones.  Most of them were just programs that Microsoft employees had been messing around with.  As much crap as I dumped on Fuji Golf, Jigsawed, and Tut’s Tomb, I can’t accuse them of pretending to be “free” and then trying to take my money by promising me a chance at rolling something really good or concealing new abilities behind a paywall to make their challenges easier to overcome.  And they weren’t infested with ads.  You know what is infested with ads, though?  Minesweeper.  It is now, anyway.  Microsoft decided to ride the ad train by putting ads in Minesweeper, the office timewaster classic since the early 90s, and graciously allowed players to remove the ads for a fee.

Forget every shitty movie adaptation of a video game you’ve seen, and forget those stupid Star Wars prequels and the fourth Indiana Jones movie.  This betrayal, more than anything, destroyed my childhood.  And I didn’t even really like Minesweeper.

Well, at least they haven’t fucked up Chip’s Challenge.  Not yet, anyway.

Just you wait, Chip… just you wait.

 

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9 thoughts on “The Best (and the Rest) of Windows Entertainment Pack, part 3 and final thoughts

  1. Taipei is how I learned of Mahjong solitaire myself, and I have to agree; I don’t particularly care for it myself. I heard competitive Mahjong is a lot more fun.

    • Yeah, competitive mahjong is great. I got into it by watching Akagi, one of my favorite anime series ever. I’m absolutely no good at it, but it’s fun to play. I really need to get back onto Tenhou to get my ass whipped by some high-level Japanese players.

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  4. Thank you for cataloging this stuff. It’s important. I’m so sick of hitting the Windows key in Windows 10 and seeing ads for games I don’t want to play. At the same time, it’s a new generation.

    When your mother is an English major and raised you, you’d be amazed how many hours you can clock in WordZap. Half of the fun is getting a rare word right and the computer counts it. The other half of the fun is getting a word and saying, “Wait… is that a word?” and checking the dictionary after the round. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

    • Thanks. I had a good time replaying all these games, even the ones that weren’t really that great. I can see the appeal of WordZap, though. I’ve played word jumble games like that before and tried insane combinations that I thought would never work but did in a few cases. There are some surprisingly obscure words in English.

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