Return to Dark Castle: 6 Original Mac Games You Should Play In Your Browser
The folks at Archive.org have ported some gems PC gamers should catch up with.
Image: Dave Winer
A few years ago, the folks at Internet Archive ported a bounty of old MS-DOS games games for preservation, making games like Prince of Persia, Treasure Mountain, and Castle Wolfenstein available to anyone with an internet browser. But anyone who grew up with a PC down the street from a kid with a Mac knows that MS-DOS wasn't the whole story. A new collection of original Macintosh games, released this month, will bring you back to a more monochrome era of software.
As is the tradition of Apple computers, there just aren't as many games here as there are in the Archive's DOS collection. But some of these games are the most important and influential in history, and now you have an opportunity to play them without booting up an unused computer that looks like the leg of a brutalist park bench. Here are a few must-plays in the collection:
I will bet you twenty dollars that you have played a descendant to this game you've never played, or even heard of. As one of the toughest, meanest games of the 80s, Rogue is a dungeon crawler where wits, intuition, a little bit of luck and a lot of dying will light your path. Every hall is shrouded in darkness, and behind every door could be life saving potions and weaponry, or a gang of emus to bludgeon you to death. The game's steep learning curve, sense of mystery and the dynamics of interaction gave the game a cult following, especially among other game developers. It's the namesake for "roguelike," a more recent genre of games that are like- Rogue, and a family that includes everything from Dwarf Fortress and Spelunky to Dark Souls.
Colossal Cave Adventure
Another essential, Will Crowther and Don Woods' Colossal Cave Adventure (sometimes just called Adventure) is considered by some to be the first text-adventure, meaning I'm willing to bet even more money you've played a game in its lineage. In it you can explore and loot a massive cavern two words at a time. Among being many firsts, the game is also remembered for all the humorous descriptions of your death, so if you find yourself alone and immersed in darkness with all of your bones shattered, you can at least have a chuckle about it.
Is it hard? Yes. Is it obtuse? Oh totally. Will the tinny sounds of bats and rats make your brain meat melt? I'm not a doctor, but I think the answer may surprise you. But in its day, Dark Castle was a Macintosh essential. A sort of showboat for Apple, trying to prove the computer could be a home to vibrant, detailed and challenging action games on the platform and, given how few would ever come out again on Macs, failing horribly.
Now here's a fast paced game that works wonderfully. More 3D than the usual Pong clone with extremely gratifying sound effects, Shuffle Puck is a computer adaptation of air hockey that doesn't show its age. Using the mouse to thrust the paddle around the table, you whap the disc against your opponent. Simple stuff, but I hope its sequel, Shufflepuck Cafe, is eventually added to the collection. A lavish, sci-fi version of the game with cartoon alien opponents and one who would flash a nipple that somehow went right under the publisher's attention.
Run for the Money
Actually I have no idea what's going on in this game. It looks really interesting. I'm kind of hoping one of you goes at it for a bit and just tells me what is going on. Apparently it's an edutainment game about a bunch of business savvy aliens who crash land on a planet of monkeys and try to sell bananas to buy paint in order to leave. And maybe you do learn a little bit about business acumen but it sure couldn't teach me what the controls were.
One of the original games by Brøderbund, who would go on to become synonymous with Carmen Sandiego and Myst, Lode Runner is a fast paced action game about stealing gold and punking guards (who are sometimes robots, depending on the box art). You can scale ladders, climb ropes, and even dig holes to weave around in an ongoing game of cat and mouse. The guards are not homing missiles and will often deke around the map to make things harder. And no I do not know what a "Lode Runner" really is other than it sounds a lot like "Road Runner" and yes I will assume that was intentional.