Games Interactive

So, about those terrible Games Magazine puzzle anthologies. They’re both on the Stack. In fact, the first Games Interactive from 1999 is, I think, the only game to leave my Stack and later return to it. I accidentally mailed my copy of the CD-ROM to Netflix in one of their DVD return envelopes a number of years ago, at a time when they were new enough that they didn’t yet have a process in place for returning it. I thought that was it, that the game was lost to me forever, and I wasn’t really too unhappy about that. But just a few months ago, I found another copy in a set of old game discs that a coworker was giving away, as happens periodically at my workplace. So let’s give it a whirl!

But first, it’s time for one of those technical problems stories that long-time readers of this blog know and love. My Windows machine reacted to the Games Interactive disc in a strange and mysterious way: it treated it as empty. That is, it was capable of reading the disc enough to display its name and custom icon, and to show its capacity as “0 bytes free of 76.6 MB”, but when I opened the disc, it showed me no files, even with “Show Hidden Files” enabled. Actually, that’s not quite true: for some reason, it showed one file as queued for writing, as if I had inserted an empty CD-R. Fortunately, I still have an obsolete Macbook with a CD-ROM drive. Its battery is long gone, but it still works if it’s plugged in, and it was capable of reading the files off the disc and writing them to a thumb drive for transfer to the PC.

That done, and the installer run, and after some fiddling around with compatibility modes, the game insisted that I needed to insert the disc before it would start. This worried me a little, considering that the system couldn’t detect any files on the disc, but fortunately, it seems that all this check cared about was that there was a CD-ROM with the right name available; if it found that much, it let things proceed. Of course, once it was past that check, it immediately tried to read files from the disc and failed. But this too was solvable. The entire thing is written in Macromedia Director, and previous experience with Director games suggested that it would be willing to use files in the install directory in preference to the CD. So I just moved the entire contents of the thumb drive over. With that, I almost had it working. It ran without errors, played the opening logo videos, and brought up the main menu.

gi-halfThere was just one problem: Only the right side of the screen was visible. The left side was solid black for as long as the game was running, even when I alt-tabbed to a different app. This would interfere with playing the game.

Looking closely at the intro sequence, it looked like one of the logo videos was playing wrong. I think this may be the result of the video starting while the graphics card was still trying to figure out how to switch to 640×480 resolution. It played in wrong colors, and used only the left side of the screen, the part that went black afterward. Well, if the logo videos are causing problems, they were at least inessential. There were three .smk files in the install directory — ah yes, Smacker! That takes me back. Deleting those allowed the game to start up without problems, and I’ve successfully run a few puzzles without further errors.

Unfortunately, the puzzle of getting it working was the fun part. Tune in next time for griping about the game itself.

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