Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Archive for the ‘1990’ Category

Nihongo Word Processor v1.10

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 20, 2014

The second X68k word processor I’ll look at is the “SHARP X68000 日本語ワードプロセッサ Ver 1.10”, produced circa 1990 by Sharp itself. It is credited with programming by H. Nakamoto and management by H. Tanaka.

Nihongo Word Processor v1.10

For being only about two years newer, Sharp’s Nihongo Word Processor (henceforth, NWP) looks much nicer than EW. Its interface reminds me very much of classic Macintosh programs. Coincidentally, the Mac also used a Motorola 68000 CPU, though somehow I doubt it influenced interface design.

Besides being pretty, NWP is a perfectly serviceable word processor, with the standard features, plus one very neat divergence from the norm: on the right side of the screen is a pinboard with two notes attached to it. These represent the dual clipboard arrangement NWP uses. The left clipboard holds text which has been cut, and the right text which has been copied. There are separate paste commands for each.

It’s a minor thing, perhaps, but it’s exactly the kind of uniqueness that makes me interested in software from this era. At this time, the clipboard functionality was provided by each program individually, rather than by the operating system (and its associated standard libraries), so the implementation is a conscious choice by the developer.

As you look further back in software history, you can see different interface paradigms contending against one another for mindshare, each representing a different developer’s idea about how the interface ought to be. Single clipboard with no history won this particular battle, though there are outliers like emacs’s kill ring or the various ‘clipboard managers’ that provide something extra for the power user.

It looks like NWP shipped with certain models of the X68k. A positive bargain!

Posted in 1990, Word Processor, X68000 | Leave a Comment »

Microsoft Word 5.0 (DOS) & Microsoft Word 1.1 (Windows)

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 19, 2014

Like the last post, this one is a double feature. Sadly, unlike WordPerfect 5.1, which was released for both DOS and Windows with the same version number, MS Word used different numbers for is DOS and Windows version. So I’ve arbitrarily picked a DOS and Windows version each released at around the same time as WordPerfect 5.1 to look at.


On first glance, MS Word 5.0 for DOS, released in 1989, looks fairly similar to WordPerfect 5.1. It’s a big blue screen with some status info at the bottom. But that’s not quite all. In Word, the toolbar is constantly visible at the bottom, taking up several lines, and the text entry area is surrounded by a box. This box isn’t just for show, though: you can choose to split the view into many different windows, which each may contain different documents. In practice, splitting the screen into more than two windows is probably not very useful, since the available space will be tiny, but it’s still a nice feature.

As for the toolbar at the bottom, though, that’s a waste of space. They should have just devoted a bit of space on the bottom line to say “Menu: Esc”, or something, instead. I give them half credit for the interface.


MS Word 1.1 for Windows, released in 1990, looks more like what we’re familiar with from Word. With the standard menu-and-toolbar interface, it’s a fairly usable word processor, even if it has some quirks in the display.

Word 1.1 does have a big flaw, though: when I tried to open in Word 1.1 the document I made in Word for DOS, it actually crashed DOSBox! It did successfully open the document I made in WordPerfect 5.1, though… I think I’m going to have to give this point to WordPerfect.


Furthermore, opening the documents I made in either the DOS or Windows version of Word in Libreoffice yields a bunch of garbage. I know that technically it’s not Word’s fault if a piece of software written a quarter century later doesn’t properly import its documents, but it’s still a sad lack of longevity.

In short, 1989’s version of MS Word had some neat tricks with the multi-window interface, but I prefer the minimalist (and less-space-wasting) WordPerfect interface. WordPerfect 5.1 for Windows looks better than Word 1.1 for Windows, too, though both were apparently rather buggy, so they’ll be winning no awards: above all, software must work, after all.

WordPerfect was still king of word processors at this point, but over the course of the 90s, its crown would be stolen by Word, leaving the once-mighty application little more than an also-ran, relegated to filling out the OEM software stack of budget PCs.

Posted in 1989, 1990, DOS, Windows, Word Processor | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on January 6, 2009

Mines by Ian Heath is a Minesweeper variant for Windows 3.1, released in 1990.

At first glance, it seems very much like Minesweeper, but the goal is somewhat different: rather than finding all mines on the playing field, your task is to find a mine-free path from the upper left corner to the lower right. You can walk any direction including diagonals in order to reach your goal. The game includes the same marking functions that Minesweeper had, allowing you to mark a square as mined or possibly mined, but these are only for your reference in Mines.

Although you can’t change the size of the playing field, you can choose the number of mines on it. The default, 30 mines, is quite easy, but the difficulty grows quite a bit as the number of mines increases. The maximum, 160 mines, is very difficult indeed.

Every generated playing field is solvable: some path exists through the mines, though, as with Minesweeper, it may not be possible to determine for sure where the mines are. In the above screenshot, for example, the mine on the third column of the first row could have been moved down one without changing the numbers shown when the game started–it’s not possible to be sure any move is safe, though the square down-right of the 3 was definitely mined.

Mines can be downloaded here.

Gameplay: 8/10
The concept is great–it’s definitely one of the best Minesweeper variants I’ve played. Most ‘variants’ only change up the size of the board, or something equally tiny. The only reason this didn’t score higher is that the game lacks keyboard controls, which seem like the natural input method for a game like this, and has no timer.
Graphics: 7/10
Mines looks basically like Minesweeper, which is to say plain but not bad. The feet that represent the player blend in a little too well for my taste, but it’s otherwise fine.
Personal Slant: 8/10
The addition of a timer, keyboard controls, and maybe the ability to change the board size would have made this a 9 or even 10, but it’s still quite good even without these things.
Total: 7.7/10
Mines is a fairly original variant on Minesweeper, and a pretty well-done one at that. Anyone who likes Minesweeper ought to give this one a try.

Posted in 1990, Full Review, Good, Puzzle, Windows 3.x | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on January 6, 2009

Checkers is a Windows 3.1 implementation of checkers by Gregory Thatcher, released in 1990.

I’m just going to assume we all know the rules of checkers, and skip that part. Checkers provides an AI, so you can play against the AI or another human in hotseat play, or watch the computer play against itself. The difficulty (how smart the AI is) can be selected from five levels, Beginner through Master. You can also choose whether to play black or red, and can switch in the middle of the game, if you so desire.

The one with the white circle on it is a king, and was thoroughly beating me.

For anyone who doesn’t know how to play, the help file includes instruction on how to play the game as well as how to use the software.

Checkers can be downloaded directly at this link.

AI: 4/5
The AI beat me, so I guess it can’t suck too badly. However, I do suck very badly at checkers, so I’m only weighting this half to account for my inability to tell whether the AI is actually good. Minus a point since it could be more granular, too.
Gameplay: 4/10
It does what it says on the tin, but minus a point because waiting on the computer to move is boring.
Graphics: 2/10
The graphics are far too simple, and the board looks rather squashed. There’s no excuse for this, given that the DOS version of Battle Chess came out two years earlier and looked much, much better. The Windows version of Battle Chess wouldn’t come out for another year or so, but it too would look much nicer.
Personal Slant: 1/10
I don’t really like checkers that much, and this particular implementation doesn’t make me want to play it any more. I give it one point for including 0-player mode. Fight amongst yourselves, my minions, fight!
Total: 3.1/10
Checkers does indeed play checkers, but it doesn’t do anything beyond that. The overly-simple and somewhat poor graphics hurt this one quite a bit, along with the utter lack of anything original. Battle Chess had been out for two years at this point, so we all knew more was possible. Of course, this implementation probably wasn’t intended to be anything special–but it gets no points for achieving that goal. There’s really no reason you’d want to play this, since there are far better checkers games out there.

Posted in 1990, Bad, Board Game, Full Review, Windows 3.x | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Lucas’s Problem

Posted by Tracy Poff on January 6, 2009

Lucas’s Problem is a Windows 3.1 implementation by James Curran of a puzzle created by the French mathematician Édouard Lucas, who also created the more famous Towers of Hanoi puzzle.

The object is to reverse the positions of the colored blocks, so that red fills the right, and blue the left. Each color of blocks can only move in one direction (indicated by the arrows on these blocks) one space, or jump over a block of the opposite color.

There is, I think, only one way to solve this puzzle (up to reflection), so there’s not much to say. The puzzle isn’t hard to solve when you realize what situation leads to an unwinnable game, so this hasn’t got any replay value.

You can download Lucas’s Problem, or play a web based implementation, at Novel Theory

Gameplay: 8/10
The game works and responds to clicks as expected. The puzzle is pretty clever, though not an invention of the game’s creator. There’s nothing wrong with the game, but there’s just nothing to it, so 8 is the highest score I can give it.
Graphics: 6/10
The graphics are very simple, but acceptable given the scope of the game. One can imagine a more visually pleasing implementation of the puzzle, even in 1990, so minus a few points for not really trying there.
Personal Slant: 5/10
Although I really do think that Lucas’s puzzle was quite clever, Lucas’s Problem has no replayability and offers no value beyond the satisfaction of solving a nice, though simple, puzzle.
Total: 6.33/10
The lack of replayability in this one was a killer for the game’s score. I’m not sure what could have been done to alleviate this–perhaps if the scope of the game had been larger, implementing several similar games, like Towers of Hanoi, it might have made the game worth a second look. As it is, though, even if the puzzle is worth remembering, the game will be soon forgotten.

Posted in 1990, Decent, Full Review, Puzzle, Windows 3.x | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Classic Concentration

Posted by Tracy Poff on December 9, 2008

Classic Concentration is an NES game adapted from a 1980’s television program. It was published by GameTek, Inc. and developed by Softie, Inc.

When you begin, you are given to opportunity to choose your name and avatar, and whether you’ll play against a human or the computer. Then a five by five grid of doors is shown, with one door removed. The back sides of each door contain one of twelve prizes, and the goal for this part is to match them in pairs so the doors are removed.


Here, I’ve chosen a ‘wild’ door. Whichever door I choose next will be removed along with its mate, and the prize indicated on the reverse will be credited to me. With save states facilitating my choices, the computer had no chance.

After removing a pair of doors, the part of the background image that was hidden by the doors is revealed. The image is a rebus puzzle, which the player must solve. The player is given the opportunity to solve the puzzle after removing each pair of doors–it is not necessary that all doors should be removed before solving the puzzle.

The game is fairly forgiving of spelling errors–perhaps too forgiving, since it is possible to solve the puzzle without actually knowing what the rebus is supposed to be, just by putting in a pretty close approximation of what the pictures represent.

After two rounds of this, the winner gets to play the bonus round, which consists of fifteen doors, each with the name of a car on the reverse. There’s no rebus in this round; instead, the round is timed. If the player matches the seven pairs before time runs out, he wins a car.

At this point, the game ends, and the player is given a code to replay the same game, should he so choose.

AI: 6/10
The AI isn’t too bad, for an NES game, but it can sometimes guess the answer well before any human could do it–unless the human, like the computer, had a list of the correct answers, that is.
Gameplay: 7/10
The game is simple, so there’s not much to say here. I’d have rated it a point or so higher, but after matching a pair of doors you have a bit of a wait while your avatar rejoices, which gets boring very quickly.
Graphics: 9/10
The avatars are a little odd looking, and there’s nothing special about most of the graphics, but the rebuses look great. They’re well drawn and provide a nice variety of styles for the letters.
Sound: 6/10
The music’s pretty good, but it doesn’t always seem to match up with the situation–the music played when you match doors is quite low key–and gets a little repetitive, which prevents this getting a higher score.
Personal Slant: 8/10
Total: 7.2/10
This is a pretty solid little game. Though you might not want to play it much against the AI, it’s worth a play now and then, with a friend.

Posted in 1990, Decent, Full Review, NES, Puzzle | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: The Adventures of Rad Gravity

Posted by Tracy Poff on May 22, 2008

The Adventures of Rad Gravity is a platform shooter by Activision.

The game begins by giving us our mission: to discover teleport locations by infiltrating the computers on the planet below.

With this goal in mind, we are sent down to begin. The enemies are rather odd, and the level designs leave a great deal to be desired.

It isn’t obvious from these pictures, but certain of the blocks which make up the scene can be walked through, and others must be jumped over. There’s no particular indication which is which, although I think that they are color coded.

After passing through a few screens, we encounter these robots, which are initially very difficult to kill. The weapon we have at the beginning is some sort of energy knife or something, and its range is about the width of Rad’s body. The robots move fairly quickly, so you have to tap the button pretty quickly as well in order to kill them.

As you move through the level you pick up powerups, including additional life bars and a gun, which seems to be slightly less powerful than the knife, but has the enormous advantage of being a ranged weapon.

Not all the levels are identical, as you can see in the above screencap. The thing with the up/down arrows on it is a sort of elevator (which I got stuck on and had to jump to disembark), and the thing center-right is a teleporter.

Here we see an example of extremely stupid level design. Every horizontal line is a surface, so you can–if you release buttons at the right moments–move yourself to whichever height you desire. Of course, it’s much easier to dodge the electricity (which is bouncing between the ceiling and floor) when you’re at the bottom of the screen, since it gives you more time to run past it, so there’s no particular reason you want to be anywhere except on the the ground.

If it weren’t for the rather painful graphics and horrible level design, Rad Gravity might be a pretty good game. If you can stomach those faults, give it a try.

Posted in 1990, Decent, First Impressions, NES, Platformer | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: Zombie Nation

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 24, 2008

This time a shoot-em-up, Zombie Nation, known in Japan as Abarenbou Tengu.

The plot of Zombie Nation is odd, and I doubt that it matters. You’re a flying samurai head, and you are apparently charged with rescuing America, the population of which has been turned into zombies. Maybe.

There were lasers scattered liberally throughout the level which reduced me to one life unit, so I died quite often at first. You have only one life, and limited continues, each of which returns you to the beginning of the level. Therefore I relied on save states to explore.

It seems that you are meant to rescue people who will occasionally fly out of buildings and things as you destroy them. Collecting four such people allows you to have more shots on the screen at a time, and eventually allows you to use a special attack which targets the whole screen. The first level culminates in a battle against the Statue of Liberty, which seems to have become a medusa at some point.

Abarenbou Tengu is rather different. In a stunning display of needless changes in localisation, the samurai head you play as in Zombie Nation is not present in the Japanese version. Instead, you play as a tengu head. The Statue of Liberty, too, was changed in localisation: in the Japanese version, it was not a medusa, and was red besides.

I played further on Abarenbou Tengu than Zombie Nation, so I do not know how things changed after the first boss, but I do have to wonder how they might have changed the second boss:

Perhaps it’s better not to know. Still, despite the odd localisation and initial difficulty, Zombie Nation is a pretty good game. Certainly worth wasting a few minutes on.

Posted in 1990, First Impressions, Good, Horizontal Scrolling Shooter, NES | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: 75 Bingo

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 28, 2006

A horrible slots game by Sachen, the company that gave us Tasac and other gems.


I don’t have much to say on this one, since I don’t see the point of these games that are totally luck-based gambling simulations.


Verdict: Like other Sachen games, and other gambling sims, just don’t bother.

Posted in 1990, Bad, First Impressions, NES, Slots | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

First Impressions: Palamedes

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 25, 2006

A rather fun Tetris-like game.


Palamedes isn’t quite the usual falling blocks game. Instead, rows of blocks approach and it is your task to remove them by hitting them with matching block. You select which block to throw at them (from a cycle of six) and try to keep up. It’s something like Bust-a-Move, I suppose.


After a few false starts, I made it to stage six. This one would probably be easier using a gamepad, but mine’s loaned out, so take the apparent difficulty with a grain of salt.

Verdict: It’s a good game. These are few and far between, so I’d check this one out if you’re a fan of falling blocks games.

Posted in 1990, Falling Blocks, First Impressions, Good, NES | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »