Parallel Realities: Retro-themed Linux games
The Parallel Realities website offers a collection of simple, mostly SDL based action games. They're all fairly lightweight and might make good boredom beaters on a less powerful machine, or failing that, a handy distraction while waiting for something to complete in the background. If amazing graphics are your thing, be warned that the retro styling of all of these games leans more towards nostalgic appeal than an attempt to wow.
The games all worked well when operating in a window, something I prefer when playing a game under Linux. They could all be played via the keyboard, but worked best when used with a dedicated USB game controller.
As well as the games themselves, the site contains some interesting essays on how the games were created, in addition to some SDL game creation tutorials. This makes the site a promising first stop for anyone interested in learning about game creation under Linux.
Most of the games can be downloaded as RPMs, Debian packages, Windows executables or as source code. A word of warning: the Debian packages have been produced by running the Alien package converter over an RPM, so they might not install very cleanly on Debian derived distributions such as Ubuntu.
The Legend Of Edgar
This is my favourite of the games but that probably says as much about my history as a games player as it does about the the game itself. The gameplay is inspired by 8 bit era “arcade adventures” that combine the action based thrills of a platform game with simple puzzle solving and exploration of a large game world. The side-on perspective 2D graphics and character animations are functional rather than fancy, but serve their purpose. The music is jolly, although sometimes a bit out of place for a fantasy themed game.
This is the sort of game that benefits from a thoughtful, planned approach rather than being a pure reflex test. Given that the game revolves around quests and a storyline, I would have preferred the ability to save anywhere, rather than the console-style fixed savepoints system that the game uses. Some may baulk at the simplistic graphics and gameplay, but for those of us who played classic games like Dizzy many years ago, this game is a welcome trip down memory lane.
The .deb from the site installed without any problems on my Kubuntu 10.04 system.
In Project: Starfighter, you control a free floating spaceship beset by hoards of alien fighters. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my USB game controller to work with this game so I was to reduced playing on keys. The difficulty level is hard, and it was more of a question of a minute or so of survival rather than genuine progress in this pure shooter.
I couldn't satisfy the dependencies needed to install the .deb, so I built the game from source. In order to satisfy the build dependencies, I fetched the packages required to build Blob Wars, a Parallel Realities game that was in the Ubuntu repository. Having unpacked the source, "sudo apt-get build-dep blobwars" followed by a simple “make” and then “sudo make install” gave me a working executable that was invoked by typing “starfighter”.
Random Shooter sits half way between a full game and a proof of concept demo. It's a simplistic horizontally scrolling shooting game and the difficulty is ramped up very high indeed. If you like extremely unforgiving shooters and bullet hell, this might serve as a short term distraction.
Metal Blob Solid
Metal Blob Solid is a action platformer. Guide your blob character through many maze-like levels, shooting enemies and completing objectives as you go. The pick up weapons system sometimes adds a bit of strategy to the running, jumping and shooting gameplay. A game like this wouldn't be worth bothering with without a responsive control scheme and well designed levels, and thankfully, it delivers in those areas. The graphics are basic, as with the other Parallel Realities games, but the gameplay is solid, sometimes requiring a bit of though before running in, all weapons blasting.
The website had a newer version than the Ubuntu repositories and the .deb package installed without incident.
Blobwars: Blob and Conquer
Blob and Conquer is the sequel to Metal Blob Solid, but this time, the graphics and the environments are rendered in 3 dimensions. For this reason, a system with OpenGL graphics acceleration is required. You can play the game with a mouse but perhaps the best way of experiencing it is to use a controller with two analogue sticks, using the left stick for movement and the right stick for camera control. The graphics are a few generations behind the latest PC blockbusters, but it does carry across a lot of the style of the first game, making it feel like a true sequel.
Using an NVIDIA 7600GT and the proprietary binary drivers, the game installed without incident on a Debian Sid install.
For many of us, gaming on Linux is an adjunct to our main gaming life that takes place under Windows or on a console. What I mean by that is that there is a class of "utility games" that is handy to pick up and play as a quick break or to kill time while something is going on in the background, such as a compile job or a large download. These games are all definitely worth a look with that purpose in mind.
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.
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