Another random pick today. Zanzarah: The Hidden Portal has an easy three-word description: Pokémon with fairies. You play the part of Amy, an ordinary British teenager in unreasonably tight trousers (yes, this game is definitely post-Tomb Raider), whisked away to fulfill a prophecy in a magical land of elves and goblins who use their smaller winged brethren in the fantasy equivalent of cockfighting. I’ll describe the game content more fully in my next post. At the moment, I want to talk about my adventures in installing the thing.
My first problem was that the install disk was damaged and unusable, with visible abrasions on its surface. I assume this happened when I moved. Possibly it could be resurfaced: I’ve occasionally resurfaced disks in the past, with spotty success. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I turned to piracy. Now, I normally don’t pirate games. I’m aware of the arguments against copyright law in its current form, and generally agree with them, but the way I see it, that just makes it more important that I avoid behaving like a freeloader and undermining those arguments. But this situation here, copying something that I purchased legally but can no longer access, is one of those arguments. Once I had my freshly-burned CD, it was a little reassuring that the installer prompted me to type in a code from the original CD case, allowing me to assert my legal right to play it. But presumably these codes can be found on the internet as well.
Once I managed to install it, there was one more obstacle to playing it: the key configuration. Zanzarah uses the mouse/keyboard movement scheme familiar to PC gamers — mouse to turn, keyboard to move in the four cardinal directions relative to your facing. But by default, the movement keys are the arrow keys. Now, I could play it like that — certainly I played a number of games like that, before I discovered the superiority of WASD, along with the entire PC game industry — but if I could rebind the keys, it seemed worth it. And the game does in fact offer a key-rebinding menu. But on my machine, it doesn’t work. For mysterious reasons, whenever I tried to rebind something, it wound up bound to “Mouse Z Axis” instead of what I wanted to bind it to. So I had a merry time figuring out how to edit the configuration file directly, which involved blind guesswork with a hex editor. A word of advice to anyone writing a game system: Make your configuration files text-based. Someday, someone’s life will be easier if you do.