Too Much Free Time

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

Posts Tagged ‘not on mobygames’

Hanami no Yopparai wo Osaeru

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 6, 2015

It’s October, and that means IFComp! Naturally, therefore, I’m reviewing… not interactive fiction. I’ll get to that Real Soon Now. Instead, I’m continuing my (announced and immediately ignored) series on independent (doujin) games.

The game we’re looking at today is Hanami no Yopparai wo Osaeru (花見の酔っ払いを抑える), meaning (very roughly) Stop the flower-viewing1 drunkard.

Hanami no Yopparai wo Osaeru title

The developer was attempting to make a game in the style of old handheld games, and in my judgment had absolute success.

Hanami no Yopparai wo Osaeru 01

The player character, on the left, must reach the drunk, on the right, while avoiding the thrown bottles.

Hanami no Yopparai wo Osaeru 02

Reaching the drunk successfully adds points to the player’s score.

Hanami no Yopparai wo Osaeru 03

Failing to avoid the bottles costs the player time.

It’s hard to tell from the screenshots, but the bottles are moving from position to position like they would on a Game & Watch or other LCD game. A video will show it better:

I only played the trial version of the game (available on DLsite). I’m not sure what might be different in the full version. This isn’t a great game, even for 108 yen. For a similar, and rather better, game, you can play Dave Baskin’s Bouncing Babies for DOS, itself a clone of the Game & Watch title Fire.

  1. For the cultural significance of hanami, see Wikipedia

Posted in 2015, Action, Arcade, Bad, Full Review, Windows | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Bleed Out Sakuretsu

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 5, 2015

I don’t believe I’ve written about any remotely popular games for at least two years… and I’m not about to change that. But I am writing about a good game, at least: Bleed Out Sakuretsu, a vertically scrolling shooter for the Sharp X68000, by Gold Cats Project.

Bleed Out Sakuretsu - title

First: yes, the title screen says ‘sakuretu’. But the common romanization of this game’s title seems to be ‘sakuretsu’, and as goes TOSEC, so goes my nation.

Bleed Out Sakuretsu - ingame

Bleed Out Sakuretsu has a powerup system reminiscent of Gradius. As you continue scoring points, you can purchase a shot upgrade, a barrier, or other, even more powerful powerups. The opposition is a variety of ships, small shots, and guided missiles.

Bleed Out Sakuretsu - boss

The boss sprays out bullets danmaku-style, and periodically fires a pair of front-facing lasers. You’ve got to deal with this while avoiding guided missiles, and since you are destroyed in one shot (unless you buy a barrier), this, like the rest of the level, provides a good challenge.

Here, an unfortunate revelation: the boss is, as far as I can tell, invulnerable, because the available version of Bleed Out Sakuretsu is a trial edition, and I can find no evidence that any full version was ever created. I would love to hear otherwise, if anyone has better information on old doujin games than I do, because it’s a very fun game.

It’s hard to do a shooter justice with just words and screenshots. The video above shows (I believe) the entire game, which should give a much better picture of it.

If you like shooters, I’d say Bleed Out Sakuretsu is worth a try. It’s only about two minutes long, but it’s fun, and I believe there’s a place for brief games, too.

The Touhou series looms largest on the doujin shooter landscape, of course, but there’s a huge and fascinating variety of games (of all genres) stretching back decades, which I think could use some more attention from the English-speaking web. I’ll probably be looking at a few more doujin games in coming weeks, so I’ll try to shine a light on whichever titles catch my eye. Maybe there will be some hidden gems, or maybe just hidden failures. We’ll see what comes.

Posted in 1996, Full Review, Good, Vertical Scrolling Shooter, X68000 | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

History Mystery

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 12, 2015

In the early eighties, the sudden popularity (and, indeed, the recent existence) of home computers gave rise to a new kind of publication: the disk magazine. These periodicals were published not on paper but on computer disks (and sometimes cassettes), and although the content varied, they generally featured computer programs (including games) in addition to, or even in place of, articles. The most famous of these are perhaps Softdisk for the Apple II (launched in 1981) and Loadstar for the Commodore 64 (launched in 1984). The medium flourished1 alongside more traditional magazines which might offer (inconvenient!) type-in programs. There was a price to be paid for this convenience: a single ‘issue’ of Softdisk cost about the same as an annual subscription to a paper magazine.

Among the many disk mags was Scholastic’s Microzine for Apple II. Featuring (as you might expect) primarily educational content, Microzine began publication in 1983,2 continuing for about a decade. It also inspired a spin-off series, Microzine Jr., which was launched in 1988. Each issue of Microzine included four programs, one of which was a game.


Which all brings me to the subject of this article: History Mystery by David A. Bowman and Mark A. Malamud, which was included in Microzine #18 in November 1986. According to the ‘Letter from the Editor‘ in that issue:

You’ll have fun reading The History Mystery Twistaplot™ adventure. A priceless hourglass has been stolen from the Microville History Museum. Some of the ghosts in the museum will help you find it. (Yes, the museum is haunted!)

You play the part of “the ace reporter of your school newspaper, The Chronicle” (incidentally, of selectable gender), out to get a story about a stolen Babylonian hourglass. After chatting with the ghost of Mark Twain about the situation, you find yourself in the lobby of the museum.


The museum consists of 29 rooms3 which you must navigate, gathering items and clues to solve the mystery of the stolen hourglass, which the museum’s ghosts believe is actually located within the museum. Each room has a description, seen on entering the room, and an entry in the self-guided tape-recorded tour, accessed by pressing T. The tour often contained educational information4 which might be used to solve the game’s puzzles.


Some rooms have items to be collected, while others have ghosts to talk to or other objects to interact with. The game is in two parts (purely for practical reasons, I presume). Selecting the second part from the menu requires the player to input the password given at the end of the first part (“The Sands of Time”) and begins the second part, in which the player must collect the hourglass and escape the museum while being chased by Winsome Slugg, the criminal who had stolen it.

Tracy's Gift Shop

Upon completing the game, the player gets a rather neat reward: the museum’s gift shop, called “Amy Minkley’s Gift Shop”,5 will be renamed after the player. Not only in the ending text, either: in future playthroughs, the in-game name is changed. Which, I suppose, might make this the first game with a New Game+ feature.

History Mystery took me about an hour to complete, though I suppose it took me quite a bit longer when I was a child. I remember having a lot of fun with it, back then, and it’s still neat as a bit of nostalgia, today.

My copy of the game is this 1987 compilation, Tales of Suspense.

My copy of the game is this 1987 compilation, Tales of Suspense.

I’ll try to look at some more games from Microzine and other disk mags in the future. There’s a lot to be said about them, and the resources on the internet are scarce at best. This post has been several years in the making, during which time I’ve been contacted a number of times by people who, like me, had fond memories of a game which might have been History Mystery, but who couldn’t be sure. My thanks to them for providing me the impetus to do my civic duty and get this out there. Fans of old educational games, you are appreciated!

  1. Wikipedia has a substantial list
  2. According to this article: “The first issue of Microzine was first displayed at the January 1983 Consumer Electronics Show, and was available in stores by March 1983.”) 
  3. I mapped them out here 
  4. “…Welcome to the Telephone Exhibit. The first telephone call was made by Alexander Graham Bell. As he was calling, he accidently spilled acid on himself and yelled for his assistant: ‘Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!’….” 
  5. According to the game, “named after one of the great school reporters” (probably the editor of your school newspaper, Amy Minkly), but likely actually named after Amy E. McKinley, the editor of Microzine–though perhaps she was a school reporter, once. 

Posted in 1986, Adventure, Apple II, Educational, Full Review, Good | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Spring Thing 2014: The Adventures of a Hexagon

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 15, 2014

The Adventures of a Hexagon by Tyler Zahnke is an entry in the Spring Thing 2014. If you’re planning on playing and voting for games in this competition, you should probably stop reading now.

The Adventures of a Hexagon is a CYOA-style story, implemented as a set of HTML files, about a day in the life of a hexagon. Geometrical shapes, we learn, can escape from textbooks when no one is looking and go off to have their own adventures.

Hexagon is very short. There are only 38 pages, each containing at most a few short paragraphs of text, some of which are extremely similar. I completed every path in about five minutes.

The story is also extremely lacking. Essentially, the PC, a hexagon, can choose to go to either the Museum of Geometry or the Polygon Village, either with his friends, Pentagon, Heptagon, and Octagon, or, in the latter case, alone. Ultimately, if you choose any option other than joining with a group of other hexagons, the PC is killed. If you try visiting the village with your friends, the only path to a good ending is for the PC to abandon his friends to the tender mercies of a gang of polygons, and find a group of other hexagons to join with. If there is a theme to this story, it is that one must seek out others like oneself–that those who are different are not to be trusted, and one cannot be happy among them.

But I fear I’m giving the game too much credit, saying that. A sample of the game’s text should illustrate it better. If the PC goes to the museum and, through a series of pages which basically amount to ‘specify your path’, chooses to look at the triangle exhibit, you are presented with:

You take a closer look, and you realize that the triangle has a little needle point sticking out of it. But it’s too late! BLZZZT! It sticks the needle in you, leaving a great big hole in you. Game over! I guess you can never trust a triangle!

That’s it. The end. Pick the pentagon exhibit, and you get:

You get your six sides together and hop up on the ledge. The five pentagons say, “You have one side more than all of us! Har, har, har!” You hear a sound like that of a broken record as you are dragged to the wave-pool. Broken record sounds are always a bad sign in a dramatic scene. You are now being dragged underwater by the fierce five-siders. You have been drowned by the pentagons!

Other choices end with the hexagon killed similarly suddenly. Only choosing to view the hexagon exhibit doesn’t end in the PC’s death:

You approach the hexagons, and they all say, “Hello, Sixling!” The other five hexagons then open the door, and you enter the building just as they do. A late 1990s dance song starts to play as the hexagons hit the dance floor. You join them in a disco-style up-beat dance.
Congratulations! You got to dance with some polygons! You finally found a path that wouldn’t get you smashed to pieces by other polygons! You won!

The other ‘good’ endings are almost exactly the same, having the PC dancing with other hexagons.

The whole game is just a set of menus leading to the PC either being killed or joining other hexagons and dancing. It’s a story, generously speaking, but the non-ending parts of the story would probably fill less than half a page.

The Adventures of a Hexagon is not worth the few minutes it takes to complete.

Play time: about 5 minutes.

Posted in 2014, Bad, Freeware, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Spring Thing 2014: The Price of Freedom: Innocence Lost

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 14, 2014

The Price of Freedom: Innocence Lost by Briar Rose is an entry in the Spring Thing 2014. If you’re planning on playing and voting for games in this competition, you should probably stop reading now.

Innocence Lost is the first part of the story of a Greek boy, Andreas, who, along with his brother, Alexius, is sold by his father to a Roman slaver. This part covers Andreas’s childhood, with later parts yet to be released.

The game is a browser-based CYOA-style story, hosted by ChooseYourStory, a site I was not previously familiar with. Three of the ten games in the Spring Thing use it, though, making it the single most popular ‘engine’–so I suppose it must be popular.

Here a brief digression: it troubles me to have games in competitions hosted externally and unavailable for download. When the host disappears–and it will, eventually–those games will simply be gone, unless the author has somehow archived them, or some enterprising player has done the same. This won’t affect my scoring of the games, but I hope that authors will keep this in mind when choosing a venue.

After the story begins, the plot proceeds in a frankly predictable fashion. The protagonist and his brother are put on a slave ship to be taken to Rome. There, they meet and befriend a young girl, Lula, who has been a slave for some time already. When they arrive in Rome, all three are purchased together, and it turns out that they are to be trained, along with other youths, as gladiators. The story briefly follows their training and culminates in a battle between six of them and six competing trainee gladiators.

The player’s choices throughout can impact Andreas’s strength, speed, or ‘approval’ with another character. The most substantial change the player can make is affecting which and how many (if any) of the children die in the battle at the end of the story, including possibly Andreas himself.

The mechanism of this change is the strength, speed, and approval scores mentioned earlier. During the battle, certain decisions will succeed or fail, based on Andreas’s strength or speed, and after the battle the other characters in the story will have (brief) conversations with Andreas that are impacted by his approval score with them.

When Andreas’s strength, speed, or approval score with another character changes, it’s displayed by the game in conspicuous colored text, inline with the story. This is a little distracting, but more importantly it had a strong influence on how I experienced the game. From the very beginning, because of these notifications, I was aware that the game was keeping tracking of the approval statistics, and I soon learned about strength and speed, so when making any choice, I could not help but think about how it might impact Andreas’s stats. It put me into a mindset to engage in metagaming, and made it more difficult to immerse myself in simply roleplaying as Andreas.

When first meeting Titus (the owner of the gladiatorial school) and Rhode (the trainer), for example, Andreas may either describe his education to Titus or attempt to bite Rhode’s finger. I, as the player, had a shrewd suspicion that doing this would impress Rhode with Andreas’s fierceness, but Andreas’s motivation wasn’t to impress her–he wanted to bite her because he disliked her. I’d have thought that, even without the approval scores being made explicit, but if they had any impact, it was only to widen the gap between player and player character.

This gap was especially noticeable on subsequent playthroughs. It became clear, at the end, that ‘winning’ the game meant keeping all six children alive through the final battle, and that doing this would involve having sufficiently high stats, so my replays quickly devolved into simply trying the different options to learn what impact they had on Andreas’s statistics, then finally going through the game making all of the ‘right’ choices, so as to preserve all of Andreas’s teammates. It took me an hour to play through the story once, but less than twenty minutes to play through it five more times, start to finish.

Innocence Lost‘s biggest weakness is its linearity. Your choices have literally no meaningful impact on anything but the final scene. Andreas can’t be bought by anyone other than Titus. He can’t be killed prior to the battle. Your choices incline the story in one direction for just a few paragraphs before it returns, unerringly, to the single path the author determined. This, combined with the very visible statistics, makes the game more about optimizing statistics than influencing a story.

The writing in Innocence Lost is reasonably solid, if unexceptional, and the characters are interesting enough for the brief time we know them. Unfortunately, Innocence Lost makes poor use of the medium. Of course, a degree of linearity is to be expected from a game that is the first part of a trilogy. Perhaps the later installments in the series will give the player more choice. If not, this story may be better suited to static fiction, abandoning the conceit of choice in favor of more strongly developed relationships between the characters.

I give The Price of Freedom: Innocence Lost a rating of 6/10. Fun enough to read, but unexceptional as a work of interactive fiction.

Play time: 1:16 for six complete playthroughs.

Posted in 2014, Decent, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

All Quiet on the Library Front

Posted by Tracy Poff on April 12, 2014

All Quiet on the Library Front by Michael S. Phillips is a 1995 interactive fiction game, entered in the first annual interactive fiction competition. The premise is that the PC is a student enrolled in CS 441 – Interactive Fiction who has been slacking off for the entire term. To save his grade, the PC must navigate the university library to acquire a biography of Graham Nelson, to use as a source for a term paper.

Phillips’s first (and, to date, only) contribution to interactive fiction, Library has the hallmarks of a first game: it is set in a fictionalized version of the author’s workplace; it contains many references to the IF community; it has a rather thin premise. That said, it’s competently implemented and reasonably well written.

Library‘s main sin is that it’s too simple. Its puzzles are very straightforward, its NPCs don’t seem to do anything but serve their very limited purposes, and there’s little else to do but what’s required. I only finished with 26/30 points, and I have no idea what the other points could be for, but I don’t have any particular urge to get the rest.

Most of Library‘s scenery is implemented, though some actions, like x me, give default responses. On the other hand, you can kiss alan for a response that’s both humorous and useful as a hint–well done.

Overall, Library is just mediocre, and there are too many better works of interactive fiction for me to recommend it. If I were rating it for the ifcomp, I’d give it about a 4/10.

Play time: 30 minutes to win, plus about 10 more of exploration.

This review is based on Release 2.

Posted in 1995, Decent, Freeware, Full Review, Interactive Fiction, Platform Independent | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on June 2, 2012

Patternia is a 1992 Tower of Hanoi game published in Game On in December 1992, with programming by Henrik Holmdahl, graphics by Simon Leijnse, and music by Kaspar Dahlqvist and Jakob Hellander.

Patternia really can’t be compared to any of the previous games in terms of graphics–it leaves them all far behind. The difference, I presume, is that all of the games I’ve reviewed up to this point, except Pyramidon, were written in BASIC, and were often type-in games, which severely limits how nice the graphics can be.

Patternia is controlled with the joystick, like Die Türme von Hanoi. In contrast to that one, though, Patternia does not animate the movement of the discs. And it’s a good thing! There’s a timer in Patternia, and if you don’t complete the puzzle within the time limit, you lose. Even for me, it was a close thing, on each level, and I’ve played dozens of Tower of Hanoi puzzles in sixteen different Tower of Hanoi games prior to this, so the optimum strategy is quite well fixed in my mind.

You’re given points at the end of each level depending on how much time you had left, and how many moves you used, including a bonus if you solved the puzzle optimally. I gave up on the 7-disc puzzle, but it was actually pretty fun, racing the clock.

Patternia beats the earlier Tower of Hanoi games in music as well: first, because it has music; and second, because the music is pretty good. I won’t be adding it to my playlist (which contains more than enough video game music as it is), but it’s not bad at all for background music.

If you’ve an urge to play a Tower of Hanoi game for the Commodore 64, Patternia is absolutely the best choice.

Posted in 1992, Commodore 64, Full Review, Good, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Die Türme von Hanoi

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 2, 2012

Die Türme von Hanoi is a 1989 Tower of Hanoi game by Nikolaus Heusler, published in 64’er Sonderheft #42.

This one is pretty good looking, and has quite a different style, with the dark coloration, than the others I’ve played. The animation is quick, and the pulsing from light to dark of the discs looked rather nice.

I did have one difficulty with it: GB64 lists it as controlled by keyboard, but it is really controlled by joystick in port 2. It took me some time to figure this out–I’d tried every key on the keyboard and used two different emulators before I realized that GB64’s metadata was wrong. Let the player beware.

I really prefer using the keyboard to play these games; it’s quicker to type the numbers than to select stacks with a joystick. The joystick controls in this one are much better than in Pyramidon, however, so it’s not too bad. Die Türme von Hanoi gets points for its unique visual style, too, and I note that it has an automatic solver that can be used at any time to complete the puzzle.

Die Türme von Hanoi ranks along with Pharao’s Super Nadeln as one of the best ‘pure’ (i.e. no plot or anything like that) implementations of the Tower of Hanoi puzzle. Still not something you’ll want to spend much time on, but a worthy piece of software, all the same.

Posted in 1989, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Towers of Hanoi (1987)

Posted by Tracy Poff on June 2, 2012

Towers of Hanoi by Daniel Miller is a 1987 update of his 1985 Tower of Hanoi game of the same name.

While substantially the same, this game is much improved compared to its predecessor. The animation of the discs is much quicker, which cures the major problem with the previous game, and it also registers when you’ve won, rather than just going on forever. The game also beeps when moving discs, though that sound effect is quite primitive for 1987.

Towers of Hanoi was published in Loadstar #39, as well as Best of Loadstar #4. Hard to imagine a simple game like this being included in any kind of ‘best of’ compilation, but there it was.

Posted in 1987, Commodore 64, Decent, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tracy Poff on June 1, 2012

Pyramidon is a 1987 Tower of Hanoi game by M. Kötter.

Wow, is this game different from the last dozen or so I’ve reviewed. Just look at that lovely title screen! It’s got sound, nice graphics, a plot, everything you could ask of a game. Well, almost everything. It’s not much fun, but nobody’s perfect, right?

As far as I can decipher (German is not my strong suit, I fear), you are an astronomer who has discovered that a comet is on its way, and will strike a pyramid. Naturally you decide to save the pyramid… with a flying saucer. I’m not too sure how you got your hands on one of those, but… well, maybe you’re an alien astronomer.

You may choose between three difficulty levels, the harder difficulty levels having you rescue larger pyramids. The easiest, Menkaure’s pyramid, has three levels  (corresponding to the three-disc Tower of Hanoi puzzle); the second, Khafra’s pyramid, has four; and the hardest, Cheops’s pyramid, has five.

Having selected the difficulty, you’re presented with the pyramid you chose in the center of the screen, and your task is to move it to one side by lifting the layers and solving the Tower of Hanoi puzzle.

While you’re doing this, a meter at the bottom of the screen shows how far away the comet is. Should you succeed in moving the entire pyramid before time runs out, you’re given a score based on how much time was left. You’re also treated to an animation of the comet smashing into the Earth where the pyramid used to be. Should you fail, you still get to see the same animation, but it destroys the pyramid and you get no score. Bad astronomer!

Unlike most of the other Tower of Hanoi games I’ve reviewed so far, which are more like computerized puzzles, Pyramidon is really game-like–it even gives you a score at the end. Unfortunately, the flying saucer moves very slowly; it took me ten minutes to beat the highest difficulty level, and I doubled the emulation speed after a while because it got too boring waiting on the movements to finish. I guess you have about fifteen minutes on the timer when you start, and it takes most of that time.

The game also has a slight problem with the controls. When the flying saucer is moving up or down, you can reverse direction, in case you started moving by accident, which is very convenient. When moving left or right, though, you can’t do this–you have to wait for the flying saucer to finish the movement before you can reverse it. Perhaps accidentally going the wrong way wouldn’t have been a problem on a real C64, with a real joystick, but the analog stick on my gamepad made it pretty easy to go the wrong way, so this missing feature made an already seemingly-interminable game take even longer.

I regret that the first really polished looking Tower of Hanoi game I’ve come to has such poor gameplay, but I’m afraid that’s how it is: I recommend against playing this one, unless you’re quite patient.

Posted in 1987, Bad, Commodore 64, Full Review, Tower of Hanoi | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »