The first official Microsoft game bundle for Pocket PC is done by third party developer Rapture Technologies. Known to Microsoft as the Microsoft Games PocketPak, it is also listed under Rapture’s site as the Rapture Arcade Pack (not to be confused with my recent review of a Microsoft Arcade PocketPak). Despite its chameleon nature, both are the same. Unlike the mindlessly innocent game packs from before, this Microsoft bundle packs a serious satirical twist on the everyday corporate world. With titles like Killer Commute, Rapture’s parody seems squarely aimed at the archetypal North American cubicle worker. Beyond that though, I’m not sure whether this package will have as much appeal as the innocent games like Solitaire, Hearts or Minesweeper. Included in this bundle are: Task Master, Fire Drill, Stock Scramble, Cubicle Chaos and Killer Commute.
Weighing in at roughly one megabyte each, this package is a rather hefty investment for a few titles. Rapture has opted to clone, rather than create new game genres. Of the five in this package here, all except Fire Drill appear to be mimicries of existing games albeit spun up with a satirical twist. Rapture has enveloped each title in a fairly stylistic interface. Moreover, the graphics are well done and the audio cues are kept to a minimum. None of the visuals seem too tiny for the PDA format although the colors may sometimes be slightly dark. Conversely, the interface is tailored for handheld action. Input can easily be handled using a single hand equipped with stylus. It seems more intuitive, at least to me, to use the pad in games like Cubicle Chaos; an Arkanoid or Break-out clone. Rapture even includes cheat codes and a nominal twenty levels for each game.
Similarly, other titles take on classic games with the satire motif. Cubicle Chaos was actually released earlier by Microsoft. Those gamers looking for value might want to point out that this game was actually available as a download on the official Pocket PC website. Killer Commute is a variation of the old Frogger series, although the frog has been replaced with office people. Stock Scrambler is a Lode Runner clone but the monks are done away with. In their place are men in dark suits.
Task Master is effectively a Lemmings clone replete with the classic Psygnosis interface. Recently, my review on Lemmings criticized (if one can say that of a freeware game) for its vehemently faithful representation of the PC game on the PDA platform. This resulted in lemmings that were a bit too tiny and often you had to squint to find out which lemming was who. In Task Master, Rapture has gotten around that by allowing you to pan around the level. Moreover, the office ‘lemmings’ are much larger in size.
Fire Drill is a game that I could not immediately find an equivalent to. At first glance, I thought it would be the old Rescue game where people jump out of fire buildings and you would have to save them with a blanket below. In actuality, this game is a 2D top-down action game where you as an office worker must utilize a finite amount of fire extinguisher to put out fires in an office setting. You have a set amount of time and often fire spreads from one source to the surrounding area. Scattered throughout the map are a series of powerups, including extinguisher supplies and first aid kits. I found the interface a bit cumbersome here. Given the inherent button issues with the iPaq, I didn’t expect to find any utilizing the stylus. However, the moving balls of inferno often times got me because I couldn’t properly choose whether to aim/move at them, which are all done with the same stylus action. This, as one can imagine, caused a bit of grief.
The whole motif reminded me lots of Dilbert; probably one of the best modern real-life satires I have ever come across. Added to the fact that the protagonist in these games is an overweight man with glasses and tie, the resemblance seems even closer. But yet, I think while this might appeal to the tech masses; Microsoft is really missing the boat on who actually buys these game packs. The tech savvy will be the ones who look over these generic packs and opt to buy something that challenges them or are hard-core gamers themselves. On the other hand, the real audience that bought the Microsoft Entertainment Pack until it spawned four or five renditions are either lay people or the actual executives this Pocket PC game pack is mocking. Dilbert fans often refer to bosses, as the PHB; or pointy haired boss. I’m not too sure that the actual PHBs are savvy enough to actually find Dilbert (since they could have easily also found Minesweeper and Hearts freeware clones instead of buying it pre-canned) or are good-natured enough to bear the cynicism. Likewise, although I understand where the humor comes from for these games, in the end, with all things considered, I believe the satire detracts from the strength of these titles. When I play a game, I want to play Lode Runner for Lode Runner’s sake or Arkanoid for its sake. Somehow, the less believable fantasy worlds of the old classics (Who *really* believes they are saving the world in Gyrus or Space Invaders?) seem to me, more enjoyable. Ultimately, this is merely a stylistic preference on my part but it was one that I thought needed further justification.
[07/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer