A sufficiently outdated technology is indistinguishable from a rock.

The Rock-n-Roll DOSBox Freak Show

Date/Time Permalink: 02/04/08 08:08:35 pm
Category: Linux Gaming

I'm glad that somebody who can get away with saying these things has finally said it: Linux is becoming more Windows-compatible than... well... Windows! Of course, we can quantify that to mean "open source software, which hangs out with Linux a lot".

Yes, I too, have been noticing how GNU and Linux are becoming the de-facto standard bases for virtualization and emulation. Over and over, I see people in forums complaining about some favorite game or application not working on Windows, and several people pop up with recommendations for DOSBox and Wine. Even on Windows, DOSBox is held up as a solution to many problems.

What Windows-native programs have I gotten running on Wine this year? Incredible Machine, Starcraft, Roller Coaster Tycoon, Quake, and the Windows-version of MakeHuman, to name a few. Not five feet from me sits a running Windows XP box, and yet when I get hold of a Windows program, the first thing I think is to see if it runs on Wine. It usually does.

But DOSBox - ah! This is getting to be one fun program. Version 0.72 has shown a stellar boost in performance - there's almost nothing I can find that won't run in tip-top shape on it now. Since my recent explorations of Heretic and Hexen, I've started to snarf DOS games at random just to try them out. About 80% of what ran on DOS is now freeware, shareware, or abandonware, so it's just one big all-you-can-snarf buffet out there.

So, what would a typical day look like if you simply spent the whole thing searching and downloading at whim and wild hair random, running every DOS game you can get your hands on? The good, the bad, the cosmetically challenged, and to no further purpose than to stop every now and then and reflect, "I can't believe I'm playing this"? Let's find out now.

Rings of the Magi


An innovative puzzle game of arrow buttons and sliding rings which look like Froot Loops, all on a wooden board with some "magickal" hugger-mugger behind it. Speaking of Froot Loop, who's the Aryan Brother in the gay sapphire robe who mentors this thing, with Jedi-wannabe quotes like "You must try harder." and "When I am gone, you must take my place."? Every time I play it, I feel like I'm being drawn into a cult. Get it here.

Ms. Pac-Man - PC


A freeware implementation of Ms. Pac-Man, just like the arcade. Really! Only the screen scrolls up and down so it will fit into a 640x480 buffer without tarnishing its glory. And it always exits with a simple "Have a nice day". Get it here.

Brutal - Paws of Fury


A typical Street Fighter clone, done with martial-arts-using critters. Play as Prince Leon of Kenya, Kendo Coyote, Karate Croc, and many more. Since I haven't mastered the complex keyboard control yet, nor have I dithered out how to slow it down without crashing it, my experience with this game so far has been: (1) Pick awesome cute critter. (2) Suffer humiliating defeat at the hands and feet of a killer rabbit who is always the first character. (3) Goto 1. Do it drunk - twice the hilarity! Get it here.

Captain Comic


Sure, it's ancient. It uses about eight colors, knows how to beep in about eight notes, is crude, slow-paced, and really, really simple. But I think this is probably the very first PC graphical game I ever played, back when one of my kid friends showed up with a floppy disk full of freebies he'd gotten off a bulletin board site. This is the kind of experience filed away in my memory along with the oldest computer jargon I know ("nup"). So it always has a fond place in my processor. Don't be dissin on my homie Comic! Get it here.

Alien Carnage - a.k.a. Halloween Harry


All kidding aside, this game is ten pounds of awesome in a five-pound bag. As popular as Apogee's 2D shooters always were, it's amazing that this, their crowning jewel in the genre, isn't better known. It's been officially released as freeware, and I'm darned if it isn't better than half of the games I've paid for! Incredible graphics for the time, bouncy music, huge levels, smooth play, innovative features such as buying ammo from vending machines and vertical travel with a jetpack instead of just jumping, a sense of humor, and surprises around every corner! The opening splash screens and dialog alone will remind you of a very well-produced demo-scene show. As smooth and polished as this is, how could it possibly have been released back in 1994? Get it here.

OK, everybody back to work...

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