Wednesday, March 13, 2013
A long time ago … a really, really long time ago, before Windows 95, when most computers were running DOS … I bought full versions of Apogee Games on floppy disks in a small music store in my home town. Apogee, DOS, the floppy disks, and the small music store are all gone by now, but memories remain. Memories of a store where you could get or at least order unusual CDs (or games). Memories of DOS, which was more difficult to handle, but in hindsight at least was working correctly. Memories of floppy disks that stored a huge 1.44 MB of data. And memories of the early Apogee games: Commander Keen, Crystal Caves, Word and Math Rescue (good enough platformers for math and language training), and Secret Agent Man.
Lately, Apogee games have turned up at GOG, first of all the Duke Nukem games (which I didn’t get), then Hocus Pocus (which I got the day it was released), now Secret Agent Man (which I will get after my Sims-induced game diet). Now, if GOG gets the two Commander Keen episodes I don’t have from Steam (Aliens Ate My Babysitter and Keen Dreams) and Alien Rampage (also known as Halloween Harry), I’ll be a very happy platformer.
One thing is sure about the old platformers: they are hard. Chances of dying are high, which means a lot of tries to master a level. Especially the early Commander Keen games and Secret Agent Man have a high difficulty. Your character can jump unrealistically high … and usually lands just where you don’t want them to land. Saving is only possible outside levels on the overall map. If you don’t have to start up levels several times when you play the game for the first time, you’re much, much, much better than me at them.
Yet, even with their low-grade graphics, the games still are great today. They aren’t smooth, they aren’t good-looking, they aren’t casual, but they are a lot of fun. If you can stand to fail numerous times in each level, that is …