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The Slacker's Guide to Shareware - Part 3
June 5, 2002 | Chris Barylick

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Summer is officially here and despite the fact that the season does its very best to kill the Slacker on an annual basis, some terrific shareware games have glanced his way with “come hither” looks in their binary eyes. With that in mind and the fact that gaming is appropriate even while performing open-heart surgery, the Slacker is happy to present four titles that have earned their proverbial stripes. No, your couple of bucks won’t allow a game’s creators to frivolously throw their money away on the Segway units of the future, but it might just allow them to buy food, pay the rent and afford the flamethrowers that would make all the difference in reaching a more amicable agreement with their apartment’s cockroach population…

Native Assault
As retro and cool as it may be to hearken back to the 1980’s, some of us actually lived through them and are able to recall the experience. In search of the classics, Adrenaline Entertainment has whipped up its own OS X version of the legendary Missile Command, recalling a time when a fair number of us lived in a fair amount of trepidation of the idea of nuclear annihilation. Even without the promise of the Russians sending missile-bound death our way if someone so much as looked at them the wrong way, the game holds up even if this new version is without the bells, whistles and Aqua sexiness that seems to be so popular in the new OS X programs of today.

Simple to learn and play, players must use their missile bases to guard six cities from incoming missiles, bombers and wandering probes. Since there’s no time to hone in on incoming targets, an “explosion radius” strategy must be used that targets a group of two or three incoming missiles, the player gauging the speeds of the incoming targets and setting their own missiles to detonate at a location that will destroy the threatening targets. As the game progresses, more missiles will threaten a city while wandering probes and bombers will need to be destroyed as well.

A few decades of downtime has led to some impressive changes. In addition to the obvious graphical overhaul and the fact that missiles finally realistically explode if their flight paths intersect each other, Adrenaline Entertainment seems to have stepped back and rethought the game almost from an RPG standpoint. After each level is finished, the game tallies remaining missiles, the current score and the number of cities remaining into a bonus score and awards points which can be spent on upgrades such as an increased number of missile bases (the player starts with two and can only keep two missiles airborne at once to begin with), increased missile speed and the option to repair damaged cities. There’s actual strategy at work here, a welcome change to a classic that anyone over 20 spent way too much time playing.

Native Assault comes with an easy set of hardware specifications to fulfill, demanding only 5.9 MB of hard disk space, Mac OS X 10.1 or later and a low RAM requirement. Adrenaline Entertainment has priced the game within reach of most shareware consumers, yet at $20, this game is little pricy for shareware. The selling point isn’t the rehashing of a classic or the updated changes but simply the challenge of a game that can be picked up and put down with ease. There’s always a more frenetically paced level to take on, more missiles to shoot down, different strategies to use and giant, strange bosses to fight, something that makes a classic even more fun. Even if you do nothing right this summer and your life becomes an 80’s teen drama of romantic disasters, do yourself a favor and try Native Assault on for size. The lads at Adrenaline Entertainment have outdone themselves and this is worth your time, attention and probably the registration fee.

Glypha III
On a hot summer night in the 80’s the geeks gathered around the great quarter-gobblers of yore and fed the machine, Pac-Man fever in the air. Joust was never a kind game to the Slacker, the joys of running and jumping from ledge to ledge on a large ostrich were often muted by the giant pterodactyl that needed to be killed just so. In the end, it spawned Glypha III, and that’s all that matters. Updated for Mac OS X and available for the price of nothing, this open source/public domain game by John Calhoun and Mark Pazolli brings back every element of the 80’s classic with every detail intact. Glypha III is still as fun as ever and the perfect game to either become deeply engrossed in or play for 10 minutes and then meander off to do something else. The play style is the same as it ever was: run and fly from ledge to ledge defeating enemies and gathering the eggs they leave behind. The techniques from the original Joust are still in place, players needing to hit the enemies with their lances higher than those of their enemies to win the skirmish. Collect the dropped eggs quickly before higher level enemies emerge from them, avoid crashing into the ledges, keep some momentum going and the game is yours. Rest assured that things become harder at higher levels, the pterodactyl having yet to rear his beaked head while the classic “giant hand in the lava pit” stands by ready to snag your ostrich if you fly too low.


Archives  Features  The Slacker's Guide to Shareware - Part 3