Yesterday in my basement, I discovered an old CD-ROM copy of Best of Mega Games for DOS. It didn’t look like much: worn, covered with dust, scratched, and worse for the wear. Nonetheless, I knew exactly what it was. Circa 1993, I had spent hours playing it. I mean, 11-year-old me simply could not get enough of 1990s DOS technology. I loved the stuff.
Now, this is the part where most people go “No, don’t stick the CD in the drive, Batman!” Nostalgia always makes everything seem better than it really is. Well, I heard that voice, but I ignored it and popped the CD into my laptop and waited for about thirty seconds.
Nothing. Just a dead spinning disc and no friendly ‘Mega Games’ logo on the screen as I had remembered. Now, this really shouldn’t have surprised me. The CD really wasn’t built for modern systems, but it should be able to run in Windows. Sometimes. On a good day.
Time for solution two. I opened up the CD and took a look at the contents. Lots of install files. Lots of install files that, when clicked upon, did absolutely nothing. Crap. But in there, there was a little hint of gold: all the game files appeared to be intact. This sprung an idea: what if I imported them into an emulator?
A little bit of Googling turned up D-Fend Reloaded, a skin for the popular DOS emulator dosbox. This little tool is freaking amazing. It takes all of the annoying command-line garbage and crams it into one little window that does it all for you—except for batch processing, so I spent three hours painstakingly adding each of the several hundred games that came on that disk.
A couple hours later, though, my work came to fruition when I booted up the emulator to play some Hexxagon. Now, for those of you that remember, Hexxagon is a little like a cross between Chinese Checkers and Go. Hexagonal board with a bunch of hexagonal spaces, click close to clone, click far away to jump. If you land adjacent to an opponent’s piece, it changes to your piece color.
I was hooked for a few hours on the gameplay, but I have to say, some of the most amusing aspects of these games were the sadly inadequate attempts at DRM present on the disc. For example, in the end chamber of Hugo’s House of Horrors, one of the characters asks you if you registered the software. If you are dumb enough to say no, he chops off your 8-bit head. Hexxagon itself proudly boasts that if you send $22.99 to the manufacturer, they’ll be glad to send you Hexxagon 2, complete with new gameplay, new pieces, and longer turns (over a meg of stuff!) absolutely free.
All of this gave me a few hours’ chuckle, and you know what? The games were really almost as fun as I remember, even if they were occasionally frustrating.
So yeah. I’m going to go back to that now. That’s all.