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December 1999

Classic Video Games for OS/2

By: Don K. Eitner freiheit@tstonramp.com

Fans of classic arcade games are in for a treat and it has nothing to do with the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. This time, it's about five native OS/2 versions of classic games such as PacMan, Centipede, Space Invaders, Breakout, and Hebi. All of them can be found at http://www.chez.com/ccaissotti/jeuxos2a.htm.


PacMan was one of the most popular early video games. I'd be surprised to find anyone over the age of 10 who doesn't know PacMan in one form or another. It spawned numerous sequels over the years such as Ms. PacMan, Baby PacMan, and PacLand. This OS/2 version is a pretty good remake of the original classic.

Game play is simple, using just the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate the maze, avoid the ghosts, and eat whatever else gets in your way.

Although not entirely true to the original PacMan (I seem to recall the original having corridors at screen edges that allowed you to pass through to the other side of the maze) PacWarp has some nice graphics and offers a few difficulty options. Over time I did notice a slight flickering of the display during gameplay, but it was not excessive and the game played smoothly. Overall I rate this a 4 out of 5.

PacMan - US$12


Another great arcade game that had me pumping in quarters for hours as a kid, Centipede for OS/2 brings game play which is fairly true to the original but with some nicely enhanced graphics. The centipede itself is still just a series of circles moving about in a predictable manner, but the other bugs that come across the screen trying to bomb or bite you look a lot better than they used to!

You move with the arrow keys (including up and down, which I didn't realize until my third or fourth play of the game) and shoot at the bugs with the space bar. The arcade version of course made use of a trackball but I'm not aware of any such trackball support for this version of the game, since moving the mouse has no affect on your character.

As with PacMan, game play here is smooth and more or less true to the original arcade version, so I'm rating this a 4 out of 5.

Centipede - US$10

Space Invaders

Complete with flying saucers, the ability to blast holes in your own defensive barriers, and those pesky rows and columns of alien invaders marching back and forth across the screen, this is possibly the most faithful remake in this whole review!

By this point it should be evident that all of these games share quite a few display and input elements and also that game play is very similar. Each uses the arrow keys for movement and, when needed, the space bar is used as the Fire button. Twenty or so years may have passed since Space Invaders was first released, but it's still just as fun to play. My rating is a full 5 out of 5!

Space Invaders - US$10


Breakanoid seems to be a cross between the classic Breakout game (I think it appeared first on the Atari 2600) and the later arcade hit Arkanoid. It only allows side-to-side movement with the purpose of knocking a ball around the screen to destroy blocks in a wall. Unlike some variations of the game which appeared over the years, the wall does not descend every 60 or 90 seconds, so game play is fairly straightforward and easy. However, like Arkanoid, some blocks that you hit will roll down a cylindrical power-up item (very slowly) which seem to consist of either slow-motion, a bonus life, and one that you want to avoid -- instant death. You'll learn to differentiate these based on the symbols displayed on them as they roll down the screen toward your "paddle".

The screenshot shows an end of a game at level 3 (after a number of blocks were knocked out) and also displays the difficulty settings dialog which is common in all five of these games.

I did have a problem with this game playing very slowly at first and then suddenly, at around a score of 200, speeding up to a healthy pace which I very much liked. Be wary of those slow motion power-ups, though, as they make the game crawl rather painfully again.

Overall I rate Breakanoid a 4 out of 5 because, although game play can be very slow, the graphics are nice and the game can be quite addictive!

Breakanoid - freeware


Now I don't recall seeing this one in arcades, but I do remember a similar game that shipped with QBasic for DOS which was called Nibbles. Hebi is quite a bit more challenging than Nibbles, though, involving a series of tight mazes you must squeeze your snake through to gobble up twenty or so apples. The number of apples increases with each level you pass. Each time you eat one, your snake grows in length and if you accidentally run into your own tail, you die. This is where navigating the mazes becomes challenging because the apples often appear in hard to reach corners and you don't want to block yourself in!

The only complaint I have with this game is that it plays a little too fast! Your snake races across the maze in two blinks of an eye, meaning you need to have some really good hand-eye coordination (better than mine) to get beyond 5 or 6 levels. Of course, that could be just part of the challenge which makes this game so addictive!

5 out of 5 for Hebi! The game is easy to learn yet quite challenging even on early levels. It also is a very original take on the Nibbles concept (to the best of my knowledge) and I always appreciate a new spin on an old classic.

Hebi - US$10


These five games won't win OS/2 any points in PC Gamer or other such magazines, but for the OS/2 user who enjoys a few good challenging games rather than today's rampant bloodbath shooters, you really can't go wrong with these. Many of them also have Windows versions but I was unable to test those as I haven't got Windows on my system.

The graphics in each game are about equivalent to an old Nintendo Entertainment System -- better than an Atari or ColecoVision but not nearly as good as today's modern game consoles such as PlayStation or Nintendo 64. But then, these are games from an older era where skill mattered more than flashy graphics or sound, so I consider this to be perfectly acceptable.

Game play on all five games was smooth, with no annoying flicker (except as noted for PacMan) or sluggishness on my system (AMD K6-2 400MHz, 64MB of SDRAM, Matrox Millennium G200 video card). Your results may vary, but these games do all seem to be well designed.

All of these five games are great for children as they stress hand-eye coordination, reflexes, some little bits of geometry (about as much as billiards would), planning, and they don't involve gory messes that might frighten or otherwise scar younger minds. But we all know who will REALLY be playing PacMan in the middle of the night. :)

The prices listed for each game are not set in stone. For instance, the developer offers a bundle of four of these games for only US$22. However the Game Pack mentions the game Pengo which I have not found for download by itself, so this may be a pack of only 3 games (PacMan, Space Invaders, and Centipede) for US$22. Still, that's a savings of US$10 and Breakanoid is free!

Besides being the assistant editor for the VOICE Newsletter, Don Eitner also has a very good web site devoted to alternatives to the darkside with a wealth of knowledge on OS/2 as well as BEOS; The 13th Floor - http://www.tstonramp.com/~freiheit/

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