Bonus: A short score of games

I have a short list of games that I’d like to lump together. In past months I’ve shifted the focus completely to games for a week or two at a time, but truth be told, I don’t think anything I have here is particularly earth-shattering.

On top of that, I think part of the audience drifts away when too many games take over for too long, which I can respect. 😐 Variety is the spice of life, but always give the people what they want. So for those reasons, I’ll dish these up in the same way as the conglomerate posts of last week. This will help clean out my list, and tomorrow we can jump back into boring console gizmos. πŸ˜‰

Abura Tan: I'm a rootin-tootin cowboy, battling mimics and mutants.

Abura Tan: I’m a rootin-tootin cowboy, battling mimics and mutants.

abura-tan: I suppose that I would be polite in describing Abura Tan as a cross-genre roguelike, with cowboys and engineers exploring dungeons and doing battle with monsters wielding six-guns or bows and arrows. I’ve never been a fan of low fantasy or genre mashups; stick to one theme and don’t bombard me with interdimensional what-ifs. Of course, this may also be the reason I was never a Warhammer 40K player. … 😐

As you can see at right, I did succeed in playing Abura Tan from within DOSBOX. I was only half interested in actually compiling it, since it was mostly .cpp files and lacked the normal source structure I’m used to (in other words, I’m hopeless without a working Makefile … it’s embarrassing, I know). If you try to run this in DOSBOX, hunt down a working package and decompress it to the same folder as the DOS executable. Otherwise, you’ll get errors. Not in Debian or Arch/AUR.

block: What fresh hell is this?

block: What fresh hell is this?

block: ibiblio calls this a “small text based maze game,” which I would only edit to say a “small, text-based platform game.” ibiblio is not wrong, but block has elements of both Lode Runner and Boulder Dash, and not so much of mazes. It’s also a side-view jump-and-run, so I feel ibiblio’s caretakers should amend that description.

With one action per keypress, your “character” has the option to move objects around the screen in a way that will allow exit from the level. Maps warp in torus fashion, so falling through the bottom of the level places your caricature at the top of the screen, and so on. It’s not a terrifically exciting work and devolves quickly into a turn-based action game, but it’s not terrible for 1999. Truth be told though, if you want something more like Lode Runner, grab oldrunner instead. Not in Debian or Arch/AUR.

bombardier: Undoubtedly the worst possible solution for an emergency landing.

bombardier: Undoubtedly the worst possible solution for an emergency landing.

bombardier: I had to fire up VICE to find out what bombardier hoped to emulate; apparently there was an ancient Plus/4 game called Blitz 16 that bombardier recasts in free software fashion. (I believe Blitz 16 was rebranded as Super Blitz for the C-64.) You are piloting a bomber over a city, and running out of fuel. Release bombs to clear an area to land, but keep in mind that your aircraft is slowly spiraling downward. If you run into a building, the game is over.

bombardier is sufficiently entertaining to keep from becoming just another console gimmick, but it’s not going to overshadow other text-based masterpieces. Probably most entertaining are the status line messages that thank you for bombing Bill Gates’ house, or congratulating you on your birthday. πŸ˜• Other than that, it succeeds as a faithful text-based rendition of the original game, and has no qualms about stretching to fit terminals larger than 80×25 (and will kindly ask you to resize your terminal if it’s too small, without barfing up an electronic hairball … which is a nice change). tl;dr … a decent game, but not likely to keep you busy longer than a few minutes. In both AUR and Debian.

chimaera: A thing of hybrid character and fanciful conception.

chimaera: A thing of hybrid character and fanciful conception.

chimaera: Another doozie from the author of sumeria and ox3d, this is a conversion of an ancient interactive text adventure that may (or may not) compile on a modern Linux system. If the task proves too convoluted, the downloadable executable worked fine for me.

The description and the source code bill chimaera as an “infinite” adventure, which I believe means “open-ended,” but that might be a misunderstanding on my part. If there is a specific quest or plot to fulfill, I couldn’t find it in the brief time I played chimaera. The game is capable of interpreting very brief, very simple two- and sometimes three-word commands, but the real beauty of chimaera might be its extensive range. The packaged HTML file explains the game’s history, and brags of roughly 20,000 possible mathematically generated locations, with the subtle goal of dragging as much treasure as possible back to your base. If that’s the case, then chimaera is indeed quite an accomplishment. Not in Debian or Arch.

frobtads: Makes the imaginary-text-adventure-world go round.

frobtads: Makes the imaginary-text-adventure-world go round.

frobtads: Including frobtads in this list is kind of like listing the Quake engine in a list of games; as I understand it, frobtads is not a game, it’s what makes the game go. In the same way a 3D engine might wrangle the underlying graphics in your favorite de-evolution of the Call of Duty franchise, frobtads manages the logic and data that form interactive fiction games.

Listing frobtads here is doubly asinine, since anything I showed you in action would most likely be a separate game with frobtads only as the medium of delivery. Another level of futility crops up in that the frobtads package — which is both AUR and Debian — contains compiler and other tools. So let’s just call this a wrap, and I’ll suggest it if you’re interested in playing or developing text adventures. I do feel obligated to mention that there are graphical analogues for frobtads, and similar tools for other operating systems. Game themselves are available from the creator of, or from other sites.

gnuminishogi: The smaller board doesn't make the game any less irritating.

gnuminishogi: The smaller board doesn’t make the game any less irritating.

gnuminishogi: I waffled for quite a bit before admitting gnuminishogi as a game in its own right. gnuminishogi reduces the gnushogi board to 5×5 and strips the playing pieces down to only six, conceivably making for shorter games, simpler games, easier games, or all of the above. This appears only in Debian, and the AUR version of gnushogi did not include anything similar that I could find. Adding to that, the “size” flag for gnushogi — -c — caused errors when given a value of 5. This suggests to me that gnuminishogi is hard-wired to accept the 5×5 board and stripped armies … or I have fouled something up again.

Either way, the argument against including gnuminishogi as a discrete game is perhaps more powerful: The commands and arrangement are the same as its larger brother, which means gnuminishogi suffers the same dreadful play and obtuse interface as its predecessor and its extended family. Consider only if you’re desperate for something to do, and don’t have the time or patience for a full round. Otherwise, ignore.

mindsweeper.awk: Prepare to have your mind swept.

mindsweeper.awk: Prepare to have your mind swept.

mindsweeper.awk: I’m dropping mindsweeper.awk here today not because it’s somehow dysfunctional or ill-constructed, but because it’s a rather unusual programming feat and works exactly as it supposedly should. mindsweeper.awk, as you might have guessed, challenges you to a game of Minesweeper, this time in a 5×5 grid with very fundamental controls. From there out, the game behaves much like its brethren.

I’ll be painfully honest though: While I admire it for its uniqueness as an awk program, I have so little enthusiasm for Minesweeper games on the whole that I can’t really vouch for mindsweeper.awk aside from its basic functions. Whether it’s really a viable game or a worthy challenger for the Minesweeper-Clone-of-the-Year award … is for someone else to decide. 😐 awk -f mindsweeper.awk for your consideration.

moo: I am endeavoring to construct a mnemonic circuit using stone bulls and cows.

moo: I am endeavoring to construct a mnemonic circuit using stone bulls and cows.

moo: For such a small game, moo packs a lot of humor. moo is a rendition of the Mastermind proto-game, by the same author as chimaera, sumeria and ox3d. While not a terrifically advanced version of the logic and guessing game, it does have its own share of small fillips.

For one, you have the option of watching the computer play against itself — or as this program calls it, “watching Dick play.” You can also go head-to-head with the computer (which I never won), or play by yourself. The computer shows your failures and successes through a code of bulls and cows, which accounts for the unusual name. Scoring is kept by the number of guesses you require to solve the code. This is not in Debian or Arch/AUR that I could find, but fear not — it will take all of about 15 seconds for you to download, decompress, compile and play. One more thing — before you dismiss this tiny game out of hand, be aware of its historical significance.

nct: What's that? You're looking for another Tetris clone?

nct: What’s that? You’re looking for another Tetris clone?

nct: My endorsement of nct is tenuous at best; this is another Tetris clone for the console, but I sometimes run into small problems with gameplay that make me wonder how complete it is. From a holistic standpoint it has most of the requisite points that make it a good program — color, easy controls, good use of screen space, customizable difficulty, and so forth.

The difficulties arise in that sometimes blocks fall through one another, and I’m not sure if that’s intentional or not. It may be that there is some esoteric rule that nct subscribes to, which makes that oddity a feature and not a bug. But given the age of the program (some timestamps reach back to 1999) and the fact that it’s not in Debian or Arch, I don’t hold out hope for updates. Then again, considering how many hundreds of Tetris clones there are, I’m not too concerned either.

paranoia: At your service, citizen.

paranoia: At your service, citizen.

Paranoia: A very long time ago, in what was a different world, there was a dystopian science-fiction-ish role-playing game known for ridiculous predicaments and bizarre adventures. As I understand it, Paranoia is still around in new editions, but for me will always have reached its apex with “Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues” and “Vapours Don’t Shoot Back.”

paranoia is a computerized “choose your own adventure” game in the same vein, originally released in the February 1987 edition of Space Gamer/Fantasy Gamer. The game is primarily text-driven, but generally only accepts input as choice A or choice B. The setting and atmosphere may not necessarily appeal to you, and it’s not a text adventure per se, so you might see this more as an electronic book. If you remember the original tabletop game, it might amuse you a few times through. But if not, it might be little more than tl;dr. 😦 A Python port exists. Not in Arch or Debian.

seabattle: Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

seabattle: Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

seabattle: Believe it or not, seabattle might have been the strongest all-around game in this entire dozen. Great color, easy controls, a variety of scenarios, plenty of on-screen help, and a menu-driven interface. It’s a wonder that I have to reach all the way back to 1997 to grab a gem like this.

By all rights, seabattle should have warranted a post on its own, but we’ve run across (aground on?) a lot of Battleship renditions in the past, and most of them would outstrip seabattle on features it can’t compare to. I’d happily endorse this as an alternative to the illustrious bs, and definitely score it easier-to-use than netships. For a single-player Battleships game that’s easy to play and enjoy, this gets a definite thumbs-up.

Tom Bomb-em: I think there's a spaceship in there somewhere.

Tom Bomb-em: I think there’s a spaceship in there somewhere.

Tom Bomb-em: Invasion of the Inanimate Objects: Last but not least, this is an arcade-style shootemup from the author of seabattle. Originally an SDL invaders-style arcade game, it’s possible to build a strictly curses version by installing the SDL_mixer and smpeg packages in Arch, and heavily editing the file in the tarball.

The sad part is, the curses rendition is utterly unplayable, with no readable text and only the vaguest semblance of action on the screen. I included it here because, yes, it does work as a console game, but only in the widest possible definition. The SDL version works fine for me in Arch, but unless you’ve seen what the game does in its graphical state, it’s impossible to even know what keys to press to start the curses rendition. Not in Arch or Debian, in spite of dating back to 2000.

That clears out the leftover fractured games from my list, and allows me to be a little more discriminating with console entertainment in the future. After all, there are thousands of games available to you in a text-only atmosphere, and you can afford to pick and choose your arsenal of amusements. πŸ˜‰

3 thoughts on “Bonus: A short score of games

  1. Matt

    Try Tom Bomb-em with a very large terminal window and tiny font; it’s basically rendering the graphics that show up in the SDL version, I think, and needs more “resolution.”

    Enjoying your posts greatly,

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Thanks Matt. I hadn’t thought to give it more space. I’ll try it and see how it goes. Cheers! πŸ˜‰

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