From the archives: the best games of 2001
If you've already read our articles, "The Best Distros of 2000" and "The Best Window Managers of 2000" and crave even more retro geekery, we descended back down into the dark cellars below the Linux Format head offices to dig out more gems from the archive. This time we've surfaced with another group test: the best Linux games of the time, which is both fun (we all had fun playing these back in the day) and depressing (Linux games have sadly not moved on that much!) at the same time.
So, if you want to hitch a ride back to 2001 to see just what the cool kids were playing, read on...
Once you exclude commercial games such as Quake, Doom, Unreal Tournament and every from Linux Game Publishing, there's not a great deal to be amazed by on Linux. Back in 2001, things weren't much different - SDL was still catching on, with SVGALib much more common; 3D games were few and far between; and card games were the only thing really done well.
Tux Racer, of course, briefly blossomed as a shining light of what free software could achieve, only to be snuffed out in the midst of closed-sourcing and multiple forks. Today, distros ship with a stock selection of average games that are little more than diversions, despite booming games sales elsewhere in the world.
Is Linux destined to be stuck with nothing better than BZFlag and Cannon Smash? What really is holding back further game development on our platform? Have your say in the comments below, or, better yet, read some of our code projects and learn to write a game yourself!
Picture the scene. Another caffeine-demanding Monday morning. That disgustingly clingy drizzle outside shows no signs of stopping. The bus is slow, the train can't keep itself on the rails, and you're already 15 minutes late. And on arrival, you're blessed with a whole wonderful week of hard graft, agonisingly annoying colleagues, sanity-threatening stacks of work, and an overall belief that a solution must exist to this endlessly spiralling vortex of tedium.
What can you do? Assuming the position of a full-time hermit isn't likely to improve the situation - cave life isn't the most happening scene right now, and boredom will soon make a hasty return to your life with little remorse. The well-known line from that great film The Shining goes: "All work and no play makes $PERSON a dull boy", and with this in mind, the best way to relax after a lengthy day's toil is to gather some top-notch computer games.
Game for anything
Traditionally, UNIX variants like Linux have been the haunt of techie types and those concerned with the "serious" aspects of computing. As we've seen, though, Linux is making significant inroads into the desktop arena, and consequently game publishers have wasted no time in filling this growing hole in the market for entertainment software.
However, it shouldn't be a race. The "quantity vs. quality" argument still causes much debate. Do we want Linux to be deluged with masses of seen-before tripe, or would a few magnificent killer games from well co-ordinated coders be of greater benefit to the platform?
Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto - widely regarded as the consummate game designer, and the man behind Mario, Zelda and other notable classics - has proved that time is better spent on a few key games rather than thinning-out resources over a scattering of projects. Miyamoto and other designers have spent time defining and refining a variety of game genres, and the proof is in the swelling bags of dollars at the end.
So there's money to be made. Lots of it. But: remember Worms? Just one example of a first-class game that took the world by storm, yet was originally programmed by a single solitary bedroom hacker. We're not entirely dependent on the major publishers to make Linux a top choice for gamers - legions of free software coders around the globe are capable of making home-grown games to challenge the commercial players.
In this group test, we're taking a hand-picked assortment of the best (and most interesting) free Linux games, giving them a thorough going-over, and rating them on the categories listed in the box. So, joysticks at the ready, let's take a look...
The four components of fun
A truly great game is built from a careful balance of the most essential ingredients. Developers must concentrate on every aspect to ensure maximum satisfaction and fun: an eye-candy extravaganza is pretty dull without any solid underlying structure, while even the most playable game can be reduced to a tedious chore if the graphical world has been incompetently realised. Four of the main elements are listed below:
- Visuals - Are the characters and game environments appealing to look at and participate in? Of course, it's easy to go overboard and bombard the simplest of games with unnecessary frills. Take Tetris, for example, where clear and obvious graphics take preference over souped-up imagery.
- Sound - Both the in-game music and sound effects should be clear, undistracting and suited to the task at hand. Ambient classical will hardly pump the adrenaline during an intense overtaking manoeuvre, while hammering techno would be just a tad annoying when you're fathoming out a taxing puzzle.
- Gameplay - How does it actually feel? Key issues in this department include responsiveness (how fast the game keeps up with your actions), level design, and the behaviour of other characters and objects. Definitely the most crucial element to be considered.
- Longevity - The game's lifespan. This isn't just a reflection on its difficulty level, though; cramming the game with hidden secrets and extra goodies provides plenty of replay-value after the end has been reached. Mario World for the SNES is a perfect example.
xBill 2.0 - http://www.xbill.org
Catapulted to fame through his whoppingly-successful software company (and then shot back down again by the expert marksmen of the US DoJ), the man everyone loves to hate is, well, widely hated. Naturally, some bitterness is attributed to Gates' staggering wealth, but anyone who has suffered one too many BSODs in a day is bound to be a teensy bit miffed with the guy.
Only one solution remains. Download a copy of xBill. Remember the nightmares you've suffered at the hands of That Software Company. And release your pent-up frustrations with some clicking-crushing endorphin-releasing point-and-press annihilation fun, all at the expense of the man himself.
One possible solution to Microsoft's monopoly that the DoJ didn't consider.
Many distributions have a copy of xBill lurking somewhere on the CD, but it's only a small download from the Net. Once installed, you're ready to face the plot - yes, a suspiciously-familiar bloke by the name of "Bill" has created a virus "so powerful, it has the power to transmute an ordinary computer into a toaster oven". Each and every system is vulnerable to this unpleasant disease, so your job is to prevent Bill from installing his deadly OS - sorry, virus - onto any system he can find. Initially things are easy, with just a few machines running Linux, MacOS and OS/2 at risk, and a handful of Bills around that need squashing with the mouse.
Don't get complacent, though; further on, the action grows horrendously frantic as hundreds of Bills toddle around infecting stacks of systems with their hideous programs. And watch out for the fires.
You can't expect endless nights of gameplay out of xBill, but it's a well-executed joke and those who find pleasure in squishing prominent software tycoons will enjoy a quick burst of satisfaction. Play it, and remember that it's not for real. Sadly.
Our rating: The ultimate stress-relief tool for softco execs. And just about everyone else, for that matter. 3/10.
BOB: Space Guy
BOB: Space Guy 1.3.0 - http://nak.ourstudents.md/software/games.html
Gamers often view the text console as a poor-man's alternative to the real world of X-based entertainment and high-resolution zillion-colour action extravaganzas. Yep, there's certainly truth in the fact that X can deliver more in the way of flashy visuals, but with some clever coding a text-based program can still look pretty smart. See BitchX for an example.
Although the console is typically reserved for puzzle games and adventures, BOB: Space Guy (or BobSG) tries to bring an action-packed shoot-em-up to the world of ASCII. Package sizes are minute, and as it only relies on the ncurses screen drawing library (installed by default on most systems), you can get playing straight away.
Like other shooters, BobSG drops you into a scrolling starfield with hoardes of aggressive aliens intent on removing your life as quickly as possible. You control your own ship through the J and L keys, and the thruster system used bye the game adds momentum as you move around. Linger too long, though, and the aliens' projectiles will send your ship straight to the scrapheap. Fortunately, you're equipped with a rather spiffy gun yourself and can pick off the offending invaders using the space bar. There's also an auto-fire option if you tire of repeatedly whacking the key.
Rumour has it that dollar-sign-shaped aliens have already colonised Neptune.
Once the intruders have been disposed of, you can move on to the next level. As time progresses, things get increasingly nasty and the number of aliens grows to eye-bleeding proportions. It's tough - clearly a good thing in terms of challenge - although the floaty control system makes direct hits somewhat more difficult.
Players running a console-only Linux installation will find BobSG amusing for the odd frap now and then, but the gameplay is very repetitive and it's clearly not a must-have title. Still, as it's a tiny package and will run on almost any system, give it a go.
Our rating: A simple text-based blaster, but nothing to write home about. 4/10
GNUchess 4.0pl80 - http://www.gnu.org/software/chess/chess.html
Sometimes, blasting brainless beasts isn't the most appropriate way to wind down after a solid day's work. First-person shooters and racing sims are excellent diversions for a quick bit of relaxation, but a well-coded puzzle game is the perhaps best tool to eat away at the hours.
Even though GNUchess will happily run as a standalone program at the text console, desktop users will prefer to use it in conjunction with xboard. This provides a graphical front-end for the chess engine on test here, along withCrafty, the Internet Chess Server (ICS), and email competitions through cmail.
Right from the start, it's clear that the GNUchess and xboard combo are no-nonsense tools for the serious player. You're presented with a simple layout (using a slightly garish yellow-and-green colour scheme), a set of buttons to cycle through the moves, and a time-remaining clock.
In terms of the game itself, GNUchess bases its difficulty levels on the amount of time you assign to the CPU player's moves. Our test chess novice found 2 seconds provided a solid challenge on this machine, while seasoned masters will prefer to give it more generous amounts of thinking time.
Yet another classic move from Mike. Everyone laugh as he loses his Queen.
Of course, two-player games are permitted too, and there's a full complement of saved-game features. xboard includes some extra options for tweaking the display, such as animated dragging, flashing moves and a flipped-view mode.
Up there with the advanced features is the hashfile option. With this enabled, your computer opponent stores positions and moves from previous games, and learns from its experience. Similarly, you can specify a "book" file containing a sequence of opening moves.
So, GNUchess is clearly aimed at the experienced player, and includes none of the BattleChess-style frills that are often added to attract newcomers. With its impressive number of configuration options alongside the variety of display types supported (plain ASCII, curses, X etc.), it's a superb choice.
Our rating: No fancy goodies for distraction - just solid chess. 9/10.
Koules 1.1c - http://www.paru.cas.cz/~hubicka/koules/English/koules.html
Periodically, a game appears which completely defies categorisation. Such titles as Parappa The Rapper and Wonder Project J2 surprised reviewers by rejecting the established genres and attempting something unique. So, say hello to Koules, a bizarre hybrid of action, puzzle and strategy elements that somehow fits together.
RPM packages typically weigh-in at around 200k, and as a basic X-based game you won't encounter any major dependency problems. Both full-screen SVGAlib and X versions are available, and for sound support you need the extra koules-sound package.
At first glance, Koules appears to resemble some sort of pseudo-hypnotic spheresploitation - the game world consists of a single black window will an increasing amount of balls appearing out of nowhere. Confused? Essentially, you control a lone character whose job is to knock the offending balls (or "Koules") into the wall and destroy them.
Just when you've almost cleared everything up, a brand new problem pops out of thin air. Bit like life really.
It's not that simple, though. For starters, the Koules don't simply sit around and wait for some action; instead, they have an steadfast goal to bash your character into the screen edge, causing instant life-removal. Now, they're merely an annoyance, but the main course comes in the shape of the truly sadist spheres, including the mammoth green blighters which send you flying. Several stages later, things get increasingly hairy with magnetic spikes which leap out of nowhere, spit-dribbling balls that won't let you get away, and an ever-growing number of Koules. It's like a surreal nightmare, and after a lengthy session your mind will be in a state of disrepair. Hire a psychiatrist before commencing play.
Essentially, Koules is one of those love-or-hate games which attract both praise and damnation. It can be staggeringly addictive, and Hubicka (the main hacker) has produced a perfectly balanced control system and learning curve. There's little to say about the graphics or sound effects - they're functional and just do the job (although the Star Wars-esque level intros are neat).
Our rating: LXF cannot be held responsible for any loss of sanity that results from extensive Koules sessions. 8/10
TuxKart 0.0.3 - http://tuxkart.sourceforge.net
Despite the great leaps made in processing power over the past few years, hyper-realistic racing games haven't won the battle against their cutesy counterparts. Even with the likes of Gran Turismo and GP3 attracting envious amounts of attention, the comic-style driving genre provides a more suitable environment for wacky circuits and insane weapon scraps.
It's accepted that Super Mario Kart for the SNES kicked off a new generation of driving titles. Featuring superb control and course design (along with an inexhaustibly entertaining multiplayer mode), the plumber-based racer led to an assortment of clones and copycats - such as Sonic R, Xtreme Racing and the Crash Bandicoot variant.
So, as Linux has its very own cuddly mascot in the form of Tux the penguin, there's no surprise in finding that a fantasy driving romp has built up around it. Yes, TuxKart won't win awards for its unoriginal name, but it could prove essential in winning more converts over to the OS. At around 2 MB for pre-built binaries, it's one of the larger games on test here, and you'll need OpenGL libraries like Mesa to get it up and running.
Here we are on Geeko Peak, in last position. Pedal to the metal time.
Hit the tarmac
Clearly, TuxKart has been heavily influenced by Nintendo's popular racer. The title screen's bright colour scheme and cheesy MOD musak (which severely grates after the first loop) all combine to supply that sickly-sweet image we're all familiar with. In this early stage of development, there's little in the way of options - just a lap selector (1 to 20) and a choice of four circuits.
Upon selecting "Tux Tollway", the game's first track, you're thrown into a traditional-style tarmac course. It sticks in the spirit, though; generous lashings of greenery and the SourceForge billboards all contribute to the non-serious atmosphere. Tollway doesn't hold much more in the way of scenery, although a few variations like chicanes and undulation add some interest.
Second on the list is "Geeko Peak" (can you see a pattern emerging here?). Owing much to the Choco Island courses on Mario Kart's 64-bit incarnation, there's a good deal of chasmic jumps, looming rockfaces and narrow bridges. Following that, "Gowns Bow" is an unashamed Rainbow Road rip-off - sadly, you can't knock the other competitors into the void beneath, but the transparency effects are stunning.
Saving the day is "BSODs Battlements", which features ample opportunity to whack your fellow karters into the bubbling lava below. Based on Bowser-castle type tracks, it sports the usual collection of tunnels and boost strips, along with a nasty glitch where the flying helper-penguin repeatedly chucks you back into the boiling ocean below.
In its current state (admittedly with much more development still to come), TuxKart us more of a novelty than a must-have game. Three major things still remain to be implemented: firstly, some decent background ditties for each level; secondly, a greater variety of courses; and finally, some sort of multiplayer mode. With these in place, TuxKart will jump to the status of recommendation.
Psychedelic antics ahoy at Gown's Bow - check out the smart transparency.
One other aspect that needs considerable work is the running speed. Right now, the coders recommend - at the minimum - a 450 MHz processor. On our 800 MHz test box, it's still a sluggish performer, but thankfully you can resize the window for a smoother update. Additionally, the control system needs some tweaking to avoid the over-responsive turns that make the kart a wall-magnet, and the collision detection is slightly creaky in places.
Niggles aside, TuxKart has an enormous amount of potential and its developers are fully aware of Mario Kart's style and features that need emulating. By including the groundwork for a circuit editor (some familiarity with a 3D package is essential), superb longevity will be assured and the choice of keyboard or joystick control is a welcome inclusion. If the developers keep on the right track (no pun intended) and fine-tune the gameplay, TuxKart will become a fantastic driving title for all ages.Our rating: A promising racer with some nice touches, but don't expect solid weeks of play just yet. 6/10
XFreecell 1.0.5b - http://www2.giganet.net/~nakayama/
How many people here think Freecell is the best reason for installing Windows? Maybe you're a Minesweeper fan, but whatever the case, Microsoft's card games always serve as a decent distraction from work. More importantly, a tiny window with some playing cards is less suspicious to your boss than a booming full-screen Quake clone. Naturally, Linux has its own range of Solitaire and Freecell games, and XFreecell is on test here.
As a plain Xlib-based game, XFreecell won't trouble you with any awkward dependencies and is straightforward to install. The pre-built binary includes a manual page, but if you're unfamiliar with the game you'll have to work out the playing system for yourself (which won't take long). Basically, Freecell is a sorting challenge: you have to build up the suites along the top in Ace-to-King order, and there are 4 free slots to temporarily move hindering cards into.
Playing XFreecell is much the same as with other popular implementations. There's no support for dragging, but the game uses double-clicks to throw cards into the free spaces (and alters the pointer when a selected card has a valid pile to be dropped onto). The graphics can't be described as anything but functional, with monochrome images for the JQK cards.
Let's see... I could put that there. It's tricky. Ah, might as well restart. Again.
Players with experience of Microsoft's version will be happy to find that XFreecell can use the same seed numbers for generating games. As far as the other options go, there's a basic options box for toggling animations etc., while individual moves can be undone and a score box is available to show percentages of wins and so on.
Yes, there's really not a lot to be said about Freecell. Some people can't live without a card game on their desktop, while others vomit at the thought of entertainment which doesn't involve heavy weaponry. Still, XFreecell is a small, fast and reliable version of Freecell, and while KDE and GNOME both have their own games, this will run under virtually any X environment.
Our rating: A clean and simple Freecell implementation, but action addicts should obviously look elsewhere! 7/10.
Imoria 4.85.19 - http://members.nbci.com/_XMCM/kertes/index.htm
Standard console games tend to receive little coverage in this modern day of texture-mapped 3D worlds and ultra-fast processors. It's a shame, because many text-based games can work well - leaving everything to the user's imagination, Multi-user Dungeons and exploration adventures can provide many more hours of gameplay than a jazzed-up substance-lacking Doom clone.
Perhaps the most popular of all text games is the fantasy adventure, where you assume to role of a human/dwarf/wizard etc. and proceed to journey around the land, collecting objects and winning battles. Imoria is one such game, but your first battle may be installation. Make sure you have gdbm-devel if you're building from source, and you'll also have to edit the Makefile and change its default locations of data files.
It's morning in the town, but better grab some grub before embarking on the quest.
Everyone has their favourite choice of character, and you're offered an assortment to choose from when first started. From there, you can move on to choosing the age, weight and height, along with the "class" (such as Mage, Priest and Druid etc.). Once the character has been configured, you can enter the ASCII town - your character is represented by an "@", while buildings and the like are easy enough to identify.
Each command key is listed in the help screen, and you can navigate the player around using the numeric keypad. Other characters move about too as you pop into the local shops (weaponsmith and so forth) and homes of other key plot-setting individuals. Initially, you can choose from 5 main quests, where your growing spell-casting skills can be put to good use.
Don't be put off by the simplistic front-end - beneath the texty exterior lies a complex adventure with all sorts to do. Admittedly, this type of game isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's worth a look if you're a fan of this genre and have exhausted everything else.
Our rating: Nothing spectacular to look at, but still an engaging romp. 6/10
ClanBomber 1.01 - http://www.clanbomber.de/
There's a nasty image around - often generated by the press - that playing games leads to social inadequacies (or, being a "nerd"). While this makes an entertaining story for other people who feel inadequate, there's not a lot of truth in it. Sure, spending 8 hours perfecting your lap times may not win you friends, but there are worse things to do.
Really, what this view most commonly disregards is multiplayer games. In a way, they're a kind-of non-enforced team building exercise, much like those devised by company managers, but with a hint of fun. Multiplayer games are a top way to either strengthen friendships (if working co-operatively) or damage them for life (if that rocket launcher was pointing the wrong way).
Bombtastic shenanigans aplenty as the two Tuxen fight it out against BSD's mascot.
Like most game genres, a few titles of note have appeared over the past few years which have taken multiplayer gaming to dizzying heights. Micro Machines, network Quake and Bomberman all won rave reviews at the time for the top enjoyment produced when a number of players get together. Now, thanks to the Free Software community, we have our very own Bomberman clone in the form of ClanBomber.
Knock and bomb
Keeping part of the ClanLib name, ClanBomber is built around that game-development libary. As a consequence, you'll need it (along with some of its own dependencies, like GGI) installed on your system before you can fire it up. Many recent distributions have ClanLib sitting somewhere therein, but it's not a major download.
At first site, the thing which immediately strikes about ClanBomber is its polished appearance. A fade-in attractive logo accompanies some crystal-clear sounds during the introduction, before landing you in the menu screen. One of the game's best features is it's ability to run under a variety of interfaces - there's SVGAlib, framebuffer and full-screen X versions.
Those who've never played Bomberman before will have little trouble getting acquainted with the game world. Like Tetris and Tron, it's one of those deceptively simple yet endlessly challenging games which take seconds to learn and years to master. In a nutshell: you control a character in a 2D over-head world view, placing bombs to blast away blocks and your enemies.
In true Linux tradition, you can play as Tux the Penguin. But, with a nod of the head to other free UNIX developers out there, you can also be the BSD Daemon and various other sinister creatures that seem to be popular in the community. You can also rename the characters and assign each one to a particular team, and there's a variety of keyboard layout options (shown in a mini photo on-screen).
Venting frustration with colleagues is possible as ClanBomber supports up to eight players on one system. While this can get crampt with several gamers crowded round a single keyboard, we gathered some victims in for testing and it worked reasonably well. More importantly, network play is planned to be included in subsequent releases, so there'll be no excuse for working during office hours.
Block and blow
Essentially, ClanBomber's arenas are much as you'd expect and the game is ready-supplied with a healthy 32 of them. The usual bomb-improving and capacity-extending power-ups have been implemented, in addition to a skateboard and kick function. And, while the multiplayer mode naturally shines the brightest, ClanBomber's computer player AI has been fine-tuned and works competently.
The level editor in action. You can set the character starting position and add ice patches etc.
Level-editors in games have traditionally been slack efforts providing little of the capability you'd expect, but ClanBomber's coders should be applauded with an easy and workable arena designer. Undoubtedly, this adds a huge amount of longevity to the game, and it's especially useful in the multiplayer challenges.
Yes, ClanBomber is another Bomberman clone, and so many have been produced over the years. However, the hackers behind it have carefully crafted a well-polished and highly-playable version with some fantastic features. The ability to run both full-screen and in a window is a welcome addition, and overall it's highly recommended if you've got a few mates round.Our rating: Marvellous multiplayer mayhem with the added bonus of a level editor - give it a try. 9/10.
ITetris 1.6.3 - http://www.alphalink.com.au/~michg/ace/itetris/
Clearly, no game roundup would be complete without some sort of Tetris clone thrown under the spotlight. This enormously popular and achingly addictive block-based puzzler featured as the flagship title for Nintendo's equally famous Game Boy handheld (with the original concept being devised in the mind of Alexey Pajitnov).
RSI, come to think of it, can probably be triggered in no better way. Virtually every computing platform that's ever been dreamt about has some variant of Tetris available, and Linux has a wife-swappingly good selection too. Intelligent Tetris comes in SVGAlib and X flavours - therefore a classy choice for both the console and full-blown graphical desktops - and was first knocked-together for MS-DOS in 1993.
At ground level, ITetris resembles one of those old Amiga/ST public domain productions with bright, bold visuals and a scrolling marquee of intro text. Jump into the game itself, though, and you'll find a familiar control system and layout in addition to one of its coolest features - a music playlist. Instead of piling all sorts of sound format support into the code, ITetris' hackers let you specify individual music players and tracks for each level and screen in the game.
What a mess. I just need one of them long thin ones. Grrr.
Zen-style mastery of the blocks - as old-time stackers will know - is overwhelmingly crucial. When it comes to the crunch, most Tetrisalikes are pretty much identical in operation and ITetris provides all the usual next-piece boxes, alignment grids and smashing flashes when four lines are obliterated at once. (Oh, and there's some extras like an Owl whose beady eyes follow the blocks with eery accuracy.)
Yet the fancy graphics don't distract from the job in question, and ITetris manages to be a competent and fun puzzler with top-notch music-selection options. There's a decent choice of levels tucked in there, and it can even play itself from random positions in the demo mode!Our rating: Like most other Tetris variants, it's obscenely addictive. Handle with care. 8/10.
XTamago 1.0.0 - http://www.hotlemons.demon.co.uk/xtamago/index.htm
Soft and cuddly pets are all well and good when they're behaving, but once they open their bowels all over your brand new carpet, you tend to lose sympathy with the belief that they're innocent little animals. You could buy a caged creature, but - as Violet the budgie often asserts - they just destroy mental states with their noise instead.
Well, a few years back a solution appeared in the form of Tamagotchi. This pocket-sized handheld beep-factory attempted to bring the fun of a family pet to a monochrome digital screen, and the fad didn't last all that long. You fed, cured and played with the little cuddlebot until it morphed into some sort of grotesque freak, at which point it died.
Even though the main marketing device was portability, a number of PC-based virtual pets have popped up for those who need the hassles of animal maintainance intruding on their work. XTamago is an X-based lovable which includes the usual operations that featured in Bandai's toy. Except this time, it's a dog. Probably. It might be a cat, but it's hard to tell.
"So what? You didn't bite Cupid into action, as I asked!" etc.
Everyone loves dogs, don't they? Seeing as the majority of families here in the north of England own seven Rottweilers, that has to be true. So, your job is to keep your canine chum healthy, fed and comfortable. Not an easy task, though. It'll persistently annoy you for more grub, affection and medication, and spout "dig my rap" (don't ask me).
Tamagotchi-alikes exist for almost every platform now, and XTamago doesn't excel in any notable area. It moans, you feed it, it moans, you inject it, it moans, and you kill the X server. Fans of the original toy may want to give it a try, but anyone else should pop down the park and dig up a real pet.
Our rating: All the frills and spills of animal life preservation on your desktop. Find a spider in the kitchen instead. 2/10.
So, after examining the games on test in this roundup, what can we say about Linux as a gaming platform? Could it overtake Windows as the OS of choice for entertainment software, or is it doomed to be simply a hacker's alternative forever? Questions like these are becoming ever more common as the platform receives more coverage in the press.
Looking at the huge progress Linux has made in the desktop world over the past few years, it would be unwise to dismiss it as a potential gaming platform. As the number of home-user desktop applications increases, so does the number of users wanting excellent games for some post-work relaxation. There's already enough demand to warrant Loki's superb work on porting many top Windows games, for example.
Pop over to http://linux.tucows.com for comprehensive listings of downloadable Linux games.
Even though Microsoft's OS attracts the most attention from coders (thanks to its enormous user base), three reasons stand out for choosing Linux as a development and game-playing platform: firstly, it's free; secondly, it's fast; and lastly, it's damn stable.
While the price point may not be such a significant issue, the other two points are. It's no fun spending £1,000 on a neat bit of PC kit if Windows' crawling performance brings it crashing down to ZX81 levels. Moreover, reaching the final stage of an epic adventure and suddenly suffering a Blue Screen Of Death is equally distressing.
Real gamers take gaming seriously. They're not interested in reboots, registry hacking or performance tuning. They want no hassles. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why consoles have proved to be so successful - they provide true plug-and-play, and Linux, with its outstanding performance and stability (together with constantly improving package management) is in a position to match this.
For good measure
We've aimed to cover a broad spectrum of games in this group test, but due to space constraints there's bound to be some other goodies that deserve a mention. Many other open-source gaming gems are being worked on as we speak, so if you've played to death all the games on test here and fancy a few more time-fillers, check these out:
- XRacer - WipEout clone with slick visuals http://xracer.annexia.org
- Aleph One - First-person shooter (similar to Marathon 2) http://www.uni-mainz.de/~bauec002/A1Main.html
- Tux Racer - Penguin racing through 3D courses http://tuxracer.sourceforge.net/game_info.html
- LinCity - Be Mayor for the day http://www.floot.demon.co.uk/lincity.html
- Arianne - Collosal online role-playing game http://www.arianne.cx