Owlboy – Compatibility

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

System Requirements

Linux

Operating System: Any Linux variant with glibc 2.15 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

macOS

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7.5 or greater.
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Video: OpenGL 3.0 or greater supported
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

SDL_GameController devices fully supported

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or greater
Processor: Any dual core processor 32-bit or 64-bit
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Video: DirectX 10 capable graphics card required. DirectX must be version 9.0c or greater.
Hard Disk: 600 MB required

Windows 10

This game was designed for and seems to work flawlessly in Windows 10.

Owlboy – Linux, Mac OS X 10.13, Windows 10 Game First Impressions

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy Title Screen

Owlboy is a puzzle, platformer, two-dimensional free movement shooter released in 2016 for the Steam platform. It was developed and published by D-Pad Studio. With a rich though linear storyline like you might find in a JRPG, Owlboy blends many genres and integrates game mechanics from many types of games.

Owlboy follows the adventures of a mute owl by the name of Otis. Given Otis’ disability, he is bullied by his peers and has a hard time living up to the standards of the town leaders. Overcoming disability and standing up to bullying may turn out to be a theme throughout the game.

The game begins with the player flying around the village of Vellie getting to know the villagers and serving as a look out for pirates. The villagers inform Otis of a troublemaker who has been plaguing the town. Eventually the player explores to the point where the bully owls frighten and intimidate Otis. The local tinkerer named Geddy comes to Otis’ defense and they team up to explore together. At that point Geddy becomes part of the player’s party and Otis can pick up Geddy to fly him around.

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Pew Pew, Take that Troublemaker!

Otis flies around using the W, A, S, D keys. Geddy has a pea shooter than can be used to shoot at enemies and objects. It is particularly effective when shooting anything that is wooden. The player uses the mouse to aim and the left mouse button to fire. Most of the game controls are well labeled on screen whenever they may be used to interact with the environment.

After all of the villagers have been greeted and another owl has been saved from bullying, Otis and Geddy encounter the town troublemaker and chase him down to a cave where the real game begins. The first area is fairly simple to navigate and serves as a tutorial to help the player learn all of the game mechanics and get used to the style of puzzle solving that will be expected later.

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Spin to Break Rock, Not Wood

Geddy can be picked up and flown around and is useful for firing on enemies. His pea shooter kills most enemies I have encountered thus far and annihilates dry old tree trunks. When not carrying Geddy, Otis can use a spin attack that can only stun enemies, but can also be used to break rocks which are impervious to the Geddy’s pea shooter. It is in this area that the player learns the strengths and weaknesses of each character’s abilities. Similar to Super Mario Bros. 2, health is boosted and restored in Owlboy by pulling produce out of the ground and eating it. Whenever I have encountered something growing out of the ground, I have found it best to go ahead and eat it to get a larger health bar.

The First Boss

The First Boss

The first boss wasn’t as easy as I tend to expect a boss to be immediately following a tutorial. There was a good deal of trial and error as I worked to determine which character needed to fire in what way in order to cause the boss damage. I don’t recall seeing any health bar for the boss to indicate how much damage was being dealt, nor was there any particular difference that I could detect in the flashes that came from shooting the boss with Geddy’s pea shooter and using Otis’ spin attack.

It eventually became clear however that the first boss had armor in the front that could not be penetrated. It that had to be kicked off using Otis’ spin attack from behind. Then once the armor was off, Otis’ had to be carrying Geddy in order to shoot the boss with the pea shooter. Once I figured out the pattern, defeating the boss wasn’t at all hard, but definitely provided evidence for an interesting game going forward.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Throwing Geddy into a stone wall. This is fun.

Upon defeating the boss, the player gains an artifact that allows them to press a button to transport Geddy to Otis’ location from wherever he happens to be. This is an extremely helpful mechanic as I was worried about losing him throughout most of the game leading up to the first boss. In many games any companion received must usually be handled with care. In Owlboy it appears you can slam Geddy against any wall or throw him off cliffs with great comedic slapstick relief and he will come back with no issue. Geddy looks fragile, but he can take a real beating.

Once Otis and Geddy get back to town after chasing the troublemaker and defeating the boss, they find the village riddled with pirates. The pirates seize an artifact that will help them attack the capital of Advent and they leave to do so. Otis’ mentor Asio leaves with the village professor to warn those at the capital while Otis and Geddy are tasked with going to the ancient Owl Temple to discover if there is a way to defeat the pirate fleet with the old owl technology.

Sky Pirates!

Sky Pirates!

Owlboy’s graphic style is reminiscent of 32-bit platformers released in the mid to late 1990s. The parallax looks phenomenal. The sound is what I would expect and suites the story. In many ways Owlboy is a typical puzzle platformer that delivers everything I would expect in a predictable manner. But just when I guess where I think it is going, it has so far surprised me with a little twist here or extra unexpected depth there. This also seems to be a good title for adolescents. The content so far seems safe while the challenge provided is worthy and not too easy. The game is rated E10+ by the ESRB, so I’ll leave that to parents to decide. I certainly have enjoyed playing Owlboy thus far, and look forward to continuing the adventures of Otis and Geddy again soon.

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition – Compatibility

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

System Requirements

Windows

Operating System: Windows 7 or later
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: 256 MB Graphics Memory
Hard Disk: 400 MB

Mac OS X

Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8 or later
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.66 GHz or better
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Video: 256 MB Graphics Memory
Hard Disk: 400 MB

Windows 10

This game was designed for Windows 10 and ran flawlessly when I played it in Windows 10.

Mac OS X 10.12

This game was designed for Mac OS X 10.12.

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition – Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.12 Game First Impressions

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition Title Screen

Alphabear is a single-player word puzzle game first released for mobile devices on the iOS and Android platforms in 2015. In 2017, the game was released for the Windows 10 and Mac OS X 10.12 operating systems as Alphabear: Hardcover Edition as a download for the Steam platform. The game was developed and is published by Spry Fox LLC.

Within a typical level, the player is tasked with making words from the letters provided in the blocks on the screen. The more letters are used, the more space is freed up on the board which is then consumed by the player’s bears on the screen. Each letter begins with a score count and with a green color. Each turn a letter is not used its color changes from green to yellow to red and its total score count decreases. A deep red letter will become unusable on the next turn and transform into a stone. Stones impede the players ability to grow their bears and should therefore be avoided.

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition puzzle gameplay

Alphabear: Hardcover Edition puzzle gameplay

The objective of the game is to maximize points by maximizing the size of the words the player creates and the size of the bears within the playing field. Most levels have a point goal the player must reach in order to progress. Occasional levels introduce a time limit within which the player must complete the level.

Skinny Bear Leveled Up!

Skinny Bear Leveled Up!

At the end of each level, the player’s score is tallied up and a new player bear is unlocked or a bear already existing within the player’s inventory levels up in ability. This introduces somewhat of an role-playing game element to Alphabear: Hardcover Edition. Prior to entering a new puzzle stage, the player may enter her bear inventory and choose up to three bears on her roster to participate in the next puzzle based on their various abilities. As a bear is gained or levels up, the player is greeted with a screen where their bear is in a selfie containing a cute little tweet randomly generated using the words the player made during the last stage. The player may actually tweet or save these selfies before they progress to the next round if they so choose.

Level End Scoreboard

Level End Scoreboard

At first blush, Alphabear: Hardcover Edition seems to be just another word puzzle game. I saw it was being offered on Steam’s free weekend, so I downloaded it to write a quick first impressions article. The game install file is only 196 megabytes in size; downloading and installing it on Steam takes virtually no time at all. Not paying attention to the clock, I played it long enough that I almost ran out of space on my game recording device. Alphabear is fun and addicting.

Bear Inventory

Bear Inventory

As with other word puzzle games, it is often the case that the player begins trying to coin words that are new to them in order to get out of a tight spot where they don’t know what word they can legally play next. Alphabear: Hardcover Edition offers a dictionary that defines every word that is played. I found this to be particularly helpful when I was just clicking around and stumbled upon a word I didn’t know. This game would be extremely helpful to those who are hoping to get better at Scrabble and actually know the words they are playing. It also appears it might help a child with an elementary vocabulary to learn more words and better spelling for fun outside of their classroom.

As I said, this title is free for the weekend, and only around five dollars retail. I had fun with it and thought it was worthwhile. It may be one of the better edutainment titles I have played. Check it out and see what you think.

Peggle – Compatibility

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 98 or later version of Windows.
Processor: Pentium Compatible 500MHz or greater.
Memory: 256 MB
Video: DirectX Compatible Graphics. DirectX 7.0 required.

Windows 10

Installs – Yes
Runs – Yes
Uninstalls – Yes

Peggle appears to run flawlessly in Windows 10.

Peggle – Windows Vista Game First Impressions

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle Title Screen

Peggle is an arcade puzzle game, released in 2007, that was developed and published by PopCap Games. Given the cartoony artwork on the cover of the game’s jewel case, it almost looks like one of those games that used to be sold as a gateway for getting a user to try America Online or to install a Yahoo! Toolbar. I was concerned when I installed it on my machine that I might have to uninstall some unsavory software. I am glad I did install Peggle as it not only seems like a safe stand-alone piece of software, but it is actually a very fun, addictive game.

Multiball!

Multiball!

The objective of the game is to eliminate all of the orange pieces prior to running out of balls. Once all of the orange pieces are eliminated, the player progresses to the next level. The player controls the direction in which a ball is launched. The ball then bounces off of every surface it hits in Plinko fashion until it falls down through the play field. At the base of the play field is a ball catcher that oscillates to and fro. If the ball is caught by the ball catcher, the player is awarded an extra ball to use in play. Otherwise, the ball is lost, and the player fires another ball to attempt to eliminate the orange pieces.

There are also blue, purple, and green pieces. Blue pieces are the standard default pieces. They award a set number of points when hit, but do not contain any special properties. Purple pieces award increased bonus points. Green pieces cause special actions to occur based on the host mascot of the particular stage of levels being played.

Kat Tut's Pyramid

Kat Tut’s Pyramid

There appear to be 50 levels divided into five level stages. Each five level stage is hosted by a particular animal mascot, or master. The first stage is hosted by Bjorn the Unicorn. When a green piece is hit in Bjorn’s levels, the player is awarded a “Super Glide” for the next three balls. Super Glide allows the player to target a piece and then target where the ball will ricochet into another piece. The second stage is hosted by Jimmy Lightning, who appears to be a hamster on a skateboard. Hitting a green piece in his levels spawns a second ball that bounces in the opposite direction of the ball that hit the green piece. If timed correctly, this can cause the player to catch both balls. The third stage is hosted by Kat Tut. When a green piece is hit, the ball catcher turns into a pyramid for five turns. When this happens the player’s ball has a better chance of bouncing away from falling into the abyss and instead making it into the ball catcher for a free ball. I’ll need to play further to explore the other level stages.

Extreme Fever

Extreme Fever

When the final orange ball is hit, the game enters “Extreme Fever” mode. Gameplay enters slow motion and rainbow sparks fly to the background music of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s symphony number 9. The ball then bounces into one of five containers at the base of the play field for bonus points. The middle container is worth 100,000 points, those on either side of it are worth 50,000, and the final containers are worth 10,000 points.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Peggle hits all the right stimuli to keep you playing. Flashy graphics, encouraging cute fuzzy characters, and catchy sounds and music all combine to keep a player focused on shooting another ball onto the play field and getting to the next level. I had meant to review a different game tonight. When it didn’t work on Windows 10, Peggle was my fall back. Even though it was late, I couldn’t stop clicking and wanting to play that next level and watch my score go up and up. This game will eat your time. If you didn’t have anything too important going on, you’ll be glad it did.

Peggle Game Disc

Peggle Game Disc

I purchased my copy of Peggle second hand still in shrink wrap from either a thrift store or a yard sale. The price was right, so I grabbed it. However, Peggle also came out on the Steam platform. At the time this article was published, it could be purchased for $4.99. It’s not the the most challenging puzzle game out there. I would actually consider it more of an arcade game than a puzzle game, but it is a virtual dopamine factory with its visuals and sound. This would also be a good title for small children as it is easy and avoids frustrating the player at its lowest levels.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – Compatibility

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee Title Screen

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95
Processor: Pentium 166MHz
Memory: 16MB RAM
Optical Drive: 4x CD-ROM
Video: SVGA 16-bit compatible graphics card
Sound: Sound Blaster compatible sound card

Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes
  • Runs – Yes
  • Uninstalls – Kind of. Creates an Uninst.isu file for uninstallation via the Windows operating system that works with varied success. Files are copied to “C:\Program Files (x86)\Abe’s Oddysee\”. If you delete this directory and the shortcuts in the start menu, you will have uninstalled the game.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – Windows 95 Game First Impressions

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee Title Screen

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee Title Screen

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is a cinematic platformer developed by Oddworld Inhabitants and Digital Dialect and published by GT Interactive for the PC in 1997. This is one of the games I got excited about and played nearly right when it first came out. I put a lot of time in on this game back in my middle school days, and it’s been a treat to play it again after so long.

Abe's wanted for his meat. Help him escape.

Abe’s wanted for his meat. Help him escape.

A friend of mine informed me that GOG.com is currently handing out free copies of the original Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee to promote the newer remake Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty! that came out in 2014. At the time this article was published, there were several more hours left on the GOG.com promotion, so go to their site to see if you can pick up a free copy for yourself. If you have the original disc, it does work natively in Windows 10, but the GOG copy is DRM free and will run without the original CD-ROM.

"We used to make Meech Munchies, till the Meeches were through."

“We used to make Meech Munchies, till the Meeches were through.”

Having run both versions, I found it interesting that the cutscenes in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee are manufactured to run off of a slower CD-ROM drive and as a result a lower frame rate. I thought I would get a significant boost in cutscene frame rates by running the GOG version, but it appears the development team realizing the limitations of running cinematic high-resolution video off of a 4x CD-ROM drive opted instead to simply display a dark slide show with fade-out effects and sound superimposed. The result is a cutscene of superb graphics and sound quality for the time that you can’t understand why your computer can’t handle to make it less choppy 20 years later.

Chanting a Mudokon to freedom.

Chanting a Mudokon to freedom.

In the game’s first cutscene the player meets Abe, the lovable Mudokon protagonist, who narrates the story and around whom the story is based. While working late one night at Rupture Farms, a meat processing facility, he pokes his head into a corporate board meeting to satisfy his curiosity. The player learns from Abe’s narration that Rupture Farms had been harvesting the ingredients of their products to extinction and are running low on sources of revenue. Their solution to get profits back up was to make Abe and his fellow Mudokons into a new snack on their product line. When Abe hears the news, he is understandably frightened and works to make his escape.

Scoreboards are spaced throughout the game to show you how you're doing.

Scoreboards are spaced throughout the game to show you how you’re doing.

The objective of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee then is to help Abe and as many of his fellow Mudokons escape Rupture Farms. The first level provides a tutorial for the player to help them learn how the game is played. Following the tutorial’s instructions to the letter will not give the player a perfect score in the beginning level, however. The player is scored positively by how many Mudokons Abe is able to free from Rupture Farms. The player is scored negatively for each Mudokon Abe kills throughout the game. This final score will determine Abe’s fate at the end of the game. Abe has the ability to chant to possess Sligs, the guards that keep the Mudokons captive, and to open portals to send fellow Mudokons home to safety. The tutorial goes over all of these mechanics, but if you want to play a perfect game, it is best to study the controls prior to beginning the game.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee Game Disc

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee Game Disc

While Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is a cinematic platformer, more emphasis is placed on puzzle solving than jumping and action. Many situations will call for quick action, but each time the player screws up resulting in death, they are respawned back to the safest location at the beginning of the immediate puzzle area. The game is very much like the classics Flashback: The Quest for Identity or Another World both by Delphine Software. The graphics and sound are impressive for the time it was released, and while the game can be quite challenging and frustrating, there is a intense satisfaction from figuring out how to solve the immediate puzzle and moving on to the next screen. The game can be saved on any screen, so once you have gotten past a difficult spot, save early and save often. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is one of the gems of the late 90s. If you’re reading this on the day I published this article, head over to GOG and pick up a free copy of this game for yourself.

Lemmings Paintball – Compatibility

Lemmings Paintball Title Screen

Lemmings Paintball Title Screen

System Requirements

Operating System: Windows 95
Processor: 486 DX2 66MHz
Memory: 16MB RAM
Optical Drive: 2x CD-ROM
Sound: Sound Blaster or compatible, or Gravis Ultrasound
Video: 256 color VGA graphic capability

Windows 10

  • Installs – Yes
  • Runs – Yes
  • Uninstalls – There is no uninstall utility. Just delete game files in C:\Games\LemBall

This game works nearly flawlessly on Windows 10. It runs at a low resolution in windowed mode. Attempting to make the game full screen will not work.

Lemmings Paintball – Windows 95 Game First Impressions

Lemmings Paintball Title Screen

Lemmings Paintball Title Screen

Few games have left a more lasting impression on me than Lemmings, the puzzle sensation that came out on nearly every platform starting with the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST in 1991. My dad got one of the early Atari ST copies through the Atari User’s Group he was a member of. Lemmings was a game of great fun and great frustration for me. I loved and hated how hard the puzzles were.

I was just starting to learn how to read in grade school at the time, so reading manuals was a struggle. Lemmings had a manual that was in comic book format, so it was pretty easy to read for children like me. It didn’t matter if you had no manual though, Lemmings started you off easy. Level one taught a simple concept; just dig. Each level built on the one before it, spoon feeding you as you went. By the time you beat Lemmings you were ready for the expansion pack, Oh No! More Lemmings! that came out in the same year. That was the puzzle game that really kicked my butt.

Pull the lever Kronk.

Pull the lever Kronk!

When I first saw Lemmings Paintball in the stores in 1996, it was at a time when paintball was becoming a popular sport. My friends and I would go play paintball in the new paintball arenas that were popping up at the time. There were all sorts of other video games attempting to simulate paintball; though they were primarily first person shooters. Judging by the box, it looked like Lemmings Paintball was an isometric action title departing from the spirit of Lemmings games past and Lemmings games to come. I recall attempting to bill it as a puzzle game to my parents to get them to buy it for me as an edutainment title. I thought if I could associate it with its Lemmings heritage, they might purchase it for me. But based on the same packaging, they also believed Lemmings Paintball had to be an arcade action game (a.k.a. a waste of my parent’s money).

You can fly a balloon over obstacles.

You can fly a balloon over obstacles.

This was a real shame because in the brief time I have played Lemmings Paintball I have found it has offered me an experience that was closest to the fun I had playing Lemmings on the Atari ST. Playing Lemmings on the Atari ST now isn’t the same as it was. I have been spoiled by better computer mice on the PC. Going back to the Atari ST mouse is cumbersome and frustrating. Playing Lemmings on MS-DOS isn’t the same experience either. The graphics are far inferior and the sound quality is abysmal in comparison to the rich MIDI music of the Atari ST. Lemmings Paintball seems to be the compromise. With the release of Windows 95, the PC had finally come into its own for gaming. This game seems to showcase this for me, acting as a bridge between the Atari world I came from and the PC world I entered into.

Lemmings Paintball Main Menu

Lemmings Paintball Main Menu

After Lemmings Paintball’s initial opening cutscene, the game enters a menu system that is modeled after the ones familiar to Lemmings players complete with large square buttons and the lemmings hand used as the mouse cursor. It appears there is a two-player mode, but I have yet to try it. Entering single-player mode starts the game at the first level. Just like Lemmings games past, Lemmings Paintball has a password system by which you can jump to any level using its password.

Great success!

Great success!

The levels start out easy, teaching a new concept each level. The controls are a little different from past Lemmings games, however. Whereas in the original games you would click on an ability and assign it to a lemming to lead all the lemmings to the promised land, in Lemmings Paintball all lemmings have equal ability and the objective is to take the flag in each level without losing your last lemming. The puzzle is in guiding the lemming or lemmings to interact with their environment to get to the flag instead of changing a lemming here or a lemming there to enable a certain percentage of lemmings to exit the level.

Mmmm, right in the face!

Mmmm, right in the face!

Each level starts with the available lemmings being dropped into the puzzle just like in the original games, but this time in a three-dimensional, isometric view. When a player clicks on a position on the playfield, the activated lemmings will walk in a line as straight as possible to that location. If there is fire in the path they are walking they will walk into it and burn up, so if there are dangers it is best to carefully avoid them by clicking with small baby steps where the lemmings need to go. If there are multiple lemmings available to the player at the beginning of the level, then each lemming can be selected individually and moved separately from each other. Sometimes a player will find that they no longer have enough lemmings to complete a level because the lemming or lemmings they needed died or got stuck. When this happens, you can click the pause button to pull up a menu to restart the level.

Click pause button in lower left corner to restart.

Click pause button in lower left corner to restart.

There is paintball ammo that may be picked up to equip the lemmings’ paintball guns. Lemmings shoot at the position of the mouse cursor when the right mouse button is clicked. In a sense, given that the lemmings do have enemies in the level, this component to the gameplay is an action game element. However, the action game element I experienced was never any more reflex dependent than being absolutely ready to click on the bridge-builder lemming at just the right time to keep him from shrugging his shoulders and stepping off his bridge into oblivion as I have already experienced many times in the original Lemmings game.

Lemmings Painball game disc.

Lemmings Paintball game disc.

Lemmings Paintball is truly a puzzle title. The player must flick switches, figure out how to raise and lower platforms, avoid dangerous obstacles, ride balloons away from danger and effectively neutralize enemies between themselves and the flag they are attempting to seize. On one hand, there are paintballs and paintball guns in this game, so it is aptly named. On the other hand, it is a shame they named the game the way they did, because I am certain more people would have given this game a second look if it had been advertised more as a Lemmings title and less like another mid-nineties action title. Given that it works well in Windows 10 as a desktop game, maybe fans of the older lemmings games will take note and give this one the shot it deserves.