Jun 30, 2006

White Dwarf issue 1

White Dwarf issue 317 was almost passable, WD 318 was shockingly worse and rumors speak of a completely lackluster WD 319. Nobody can of course be sure about anything yet, even though I -the almighty super-gnome, do know one thing. No matter how disappointing the next WD turns out to be, the first issue of White Dwarf was excellent. It had Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson in it (well, their writing actually) and was a complete (-ly brilliant) sci-fi and fantasy games magazine, that managed to fit tons of content in 24 pages.

Good news is you can download it. In pdf format. By clicking here.

Related Gnome's Lair posts: a truly vintage Dungeons and Dragons review, Warhammer diverting, Adrian Smith's artwork

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Gabriel Knight 2: The Videos of the Game

Ahh... don't you love another Elderly-style post? Of course you do and especially if it's all about Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within, the first (and evidently only) successful, playable, interesting and almost well-acted horror(ish) FMV adventure of gaming history.

Gabriel Knight 2, lovingly and surprisingly called GK2 by many, was a game that came on 6 (!) CDs filled with low-res video, high quality puzzles, engrossing story and, apparently, was also a game that was advertised via an impressive for the time trailer:

Though not up to par with its jazzy predecessor Gabriel Knight 1 or the magnificent (and my fav adventure of all times) Gabriel Knight 3, GK2 was very well received indeed.

Just Adventure review (A+)
Adventure Gamers review (4.5/5)
Four Fat Chicks review (Golden Star)
Quandary review (4.5/5)

Metacritic score: 89/100

Not bad. Not bad at all.

So... what else? Just one last thing. Before you all go off looking for the MobyGames entry, or start browsing online shops, have a look at a (funny?) Gabriel Knight 2 bloopers video:

Related @ Gnome's Lair : The text-adventure feature, the Sam and Max blog, the Space Quest IV walkthrough

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Jun 29, 2006

Escape the Dragon's Dungeon

This is a quirky, visually simple -but richly animated- game, that the good people of the Independent Gaming blog discovered (admittedly quite some time ago). It's a Java little thing and its friends call it Dungeon Escape!. Click here, play (for free of course) and understand the mechanics of the legendary Dragon's Lair (coin-op museum entry).

Can you guess witch of the following screenshots is the Dungeon Escape! one? Wow, you are teh smartest !!1!

For further indy game experiences have a look here or even here. Well, ok , here too.

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Jun 28, 2006

Text is King!

What? What about Elvis? And if text is King, then what in God's name was Freddie Mercury supposed to be?

Astonishingly, I care not. And being such an uncaring gnome, I've recently finished my review of Infocom's The Lurking Horror (it will appear in the next issue of my beloved Adventure Lantern magazine), stopped playing the brilliant and adequately creepy lovecraftian Anchorhead (experience the horror by clicking here), and promptly decided to blog on text. The king (no, not Elvis, really). Or to be more exact -as we gnomes tend to be- on text based games, and mostly on text adventures (a.k.a. interactive fiction).

But, before I go on, let me get a little, pesky something out of the way. I won't be referring to ASCII/ANSI games, such as Rogue, NetHack, Kroz or ZZT. They may be excellent, but they aren't actually based on text. They simply use characters to create rudimentary, but quite interesting graphics -not words.

For the two of you who need more elaborate explanations, I'll help you in the only way you could possibly understand. The visual way:

This ^ is a typical ASCII game.

This ^ is a typical text based game.

Now, that everything is crystal clear and ASCII games out of the way, let's move on to my (my own, my precious etc) favorite genre. The text adventure.

It all started in 1972 with Hunt the Wumpus, the first game to utilize the text-parser (a command line actually) in typical adventure fashion, and a game that ran on a ridiculously huge mainframe computer located in the deepest dungeons of MIT. Three years later the grandaddy of all adventure games was born. ADVENT, also known in a variety of seedy places as Adventure or Colossal Cave, was created in FORTRAN for the PDP-10. Limited though it was, it did fascinate those weird commies from the '70s. Mind you, that quite a lot of contemporary communists still enjoy these games, but only in Russian.

Anyway, as any communist would tell you, things matter only when they reach the masses. That's why Infocom and Zork were so important. It (Zork, silly) was the first piece of interactive fiction that was playable on computers normal -albeit not exactly poor- people could own. Apple II, Atari 800, C64 the first PCs and Amigas were all capable of running this little gem, that first appeared -as was customary- on another huge MIT supercomputer in 1977. The rest, as they (Who? They! Ahh, I see...) say is history. Infocom popularized the genre, published more than 30, mostly successful, text adventures, relentlessly strived to evolve its technology and parser, and then filed for bankruptcy.

Along the way, it also created a market that sustained at least a dozen of Interactive Fiction companies for more than 10 years. Companies like the British Level 9 of Knight Orc fame or the -also British- Magnetic Scrolls; the people who included beautiful and at times animated graphics in their games. Wonderland (if I remember correctly, it came on more than 10 low density "floppy" disks) was a prime example... Have a look right above this paragraph.

But, that's quite enough! The history or the current state of Interactive Fiction (hint: have a look here) is not the point of this feature-article-thingy. Everything I have written is just an introduction to one of the best, most valuable and adorable sites ever: the Play Infocom Adventures Online site, where you can lose yourself in Zork, Sorcerer, Planetfall, The Lurking Horror and other strange text-based beasts.

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
Related Gnome's Lair articles: Thy Dungeonman 3 & walkthrough, Lucasarts' secret FTP stash, Head over Heels, Sensible Soccer 2006

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Jun 27, 2006

The Chaos Bowl

What do you think, oh wisest of blog-readers, would happen if we mixed a healthy dose of this:

with a tiny part of this:

and a bit of this? (:)

Well, what?

Apparently, something many of us have already dreamt of (in those dark and sometimes lonely nights): A Blood Bowl game by Cyanide, the creators of the beautiful, brutal and fast-paced Chaos League. Hoorah!

Related @ Gnome's Lair: the Warhammer video games, Gory games, WD 318 review, 60+ free games

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Jun 26, 2006

Museum Monday #20

Monday. Thankfully the world is still intact. Quite a shock that, but a pleasant one nonetheless. Still, things could be so much better. Much worse too of course, but I'd rather stick to the pessimistic side of things, being a gnome with a dwarf's grumpy attitude and all.

Anyway. On to Museum Monday. Number 20 to be more precise. It's once again Amiga (and games) related, but quite impressive. It's Dr. Zarkov's GAGE (Golden Amiga Games Encyclopedia). Click and you'll have a chance of browsing through hundreds of classic (or not-so-classic) games.

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Jun 25, 2006

I'd never post something like that on a Monday. Never. Ever.

Being the happy little gnome I am, and an avid fan of Ron Gilbert's excellent (of course) Grumpy Gamer blog, I simply couldn't resist clicking on one of his Greatness' proposed links. "Something to cheer you up" it read and it led me to Ursi's blog. There I watched a nice uplifting and quite happy (in typical Schopenhauer fashion) video, which I took the liberty of reposting here for your viewing (dis)pleasure. Enjoy the destruction of Earth:

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Gory games, Gory Monday, Gory Cleese, Gory Turds

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Jun 24, 2006

The Hillyan News

Beyond good and evil is, as far as I can tell, a quirky little nihilistic book from a rather famous philosopher sporting a moustache. Quite unexpectedly it also is a beautiful, refreshing and optimistic video game.

To help you get an idea, here's a trailer (of the game; of course):

In reality it does look far superior than this, but that's not what I wanted to ... er ... blog about. The real interesting thing is that, I, being the lucky sod I am, discovered a hidden-secret-easter eggish website. Hillyan News. It's brilliant, Beyond Good and Evil related and very-very interesting, even for the masses who have never heard of the game. It is as brilliant as Lucasarts hidden ftp stash or as the whack-your-boss flash thingy was.

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Jun 23, 2006

Monkey Island's quirky little secrets

Keeping with the recent pirate theme (and keeping admittedly away from the also recent gore theme), I'll just talk about the precious little Monkey Island secrets and in-jokes, I recently discovered in the House of Mojo treasure trove. (briefly)

Like, for example, the little and quite pointless cheat of pressing CTRL+SHIFT+W anywhere in the game to reach the (rather final) credits sequence, or the games' two different endings, according to if you sank the ship Guybrush came on.

Or even the very self-upgrading cannibal security door, or the scores of naked ladies. Seems interesting right? Good. Now find out the rest of Monkey 1's secrets by visiting Mojo's place.

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Jun 22, 2006

Plunder the Monkeys

Or, and that's the correct way of putting it, Plunder Island, the definitive (?) Monkey Island inspired Unreal Tournament mod, you (and me) will soon be able to download from the exquisite plunder3d.net website. Not yet though. All we can all do for now is wait. And marvel at the mod's screenshots. Even visit plunder3d and see a teaser video.

See? There's also a theatre. For pirates of course.

Weird birds those. Will they be shootable?

There should be a barber somewhere...

Jun 21, 2006

Now, this is really sick! Nice!

The morals regulating video games are evidently quite weird. Unethical some might even say... You see, whereas showing a naked woman, an erect penis or two (perhaps even quite a few more) people having interesting sex is an absolute taboo and a definite financial risk, truly obscene acts like skinning somebody or chopping a head off are considered (relatively) ok. They might, at times and according to genre, be even seen as cliche. Still, as I'm against bigotry and censorship of any kind (all gnomes are), I've chosen to present you with the most disturbing gaming scenes I've yet encountered. With no particular reason(I was actually thinking of doing the sexy part, but that's quite a task. Soon, though...). Hope you'll find the following pics interesting...

Mind you, they are (very) disgusting.


(are you sure you're ok, when watching the blood go fshhht?)



Black Mirror

Silent Hill


Dare to Dream

Soldier of Fortune


Mystery of the Druids


The Suffering

Still Life

Fun, wasn't it? Now, have a look at some free (and hopefully relaxing) games, read all about Sensible Soccer 06 or just have a look at non-slutty gaming (female) characters.

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The lost (and not random) Lair

It's getting more interesting by the hour... What (I indeed hear you ask)? Have a look at Deitrix's blog, and all will be answered (or will it? answers on a postcard please).

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Jun 19, 2006

Sam and Max: The blog

At last. You 've played the game, browsed through the comic books, gawked at the cartoons and bought the official Sam and Max remote controlled vibrating panty. Now, the [admittedly unofficial] Sam and Max blog is here. Well, here actually, but you get the idea. Hope you like it, as it is a yours truly (tm) creation.

Museum Monday #19

Monday. And people are being as noisy (even nosy) as they can, presumably just in order to irritate me. Thankfully yoga lessons can help. Unfortunately I don't care much for yoga lessons, or the Zen lifestyle altogether. My Chi, you see, is quite non-existent.

Museum Monday on the other hand is very much existing, and this being its 19th installment, I'll show you the way to the Mac Geek's Apple Museum For-A-Day (no causality there). A small but sweet collection of Apple Lisas, IIs and Is, that also features the (obscure) Pippin games console. Follow me there... It's quite an interesting place.

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Jun 18, 2006

The art of gaming (of games actually, but that's ok)

This is something both Deitrix and Mr. Elderly would definitely dig. A whole PDF fanzine dedicated to the art of video games, or at least to the visual-arts part of video gaming. Its almost perfect name is The Art of Gaming, and it's free, as everything should be.

Follow this link and download issue 1. Or wait for a month, follow the same link (I guess) and have a look at issue 2.

On the other hand you can totally ignore this post and have a look at Adrian Smith's art or at more gaming related art.

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Nude Mario Videos

Not really. Sorry. This was just a cheap publicity stunt. Unfortunately this is not about nude Marios, or kinky Zeldas. It's about paper Marios, or to be slightly more precise about Super Paper Mario. A truly stylish forthcoming Gamecube game, with a truly interesting trailer (via):

And stylish (apparently) cell-shaded bosses (via):

Oh yes, forgot to tell you to mute the previous video. You won't need the sound for this one either (via):

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Mario's Complete Gameography, Donkey Pong, the first video game ever

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Jun 17, 2006

Pong. Donkey Pong.

The Turds. Not the subtlest of names, but one quite descriptive of an assortment of satyric (and admittedly satirical) roguish characters from the best of toilet humor. And as everybody has to admit, toilet humor just can't be contained... The Turds have just (well, not just, but you do get the idea) invaded the digital medium, wearing their cunningly crafted (by Codemasters) casual game guise.

But, what about this post's title, should the more perceptive of readers ask themselves. Well, what about it dears? It's Pong, Donkey Pong as in Donkey Pong And The Adventures Of Rimdiana Jones, the first (soon more will follow) and very free Turds game (found here). A brilliant and rather scatologic Donkey Kong remake-clone-homage-thingy, introducing quite a few of little tweaks and fresh ideas, but above all an epic storyline. This time, you see, it's not about a plumber and an ape. It is ...er... here's how the developers describe it:

"Donkey Pong And The Adventures Of Rimdiana Jones sees popular action hero, Rimdiana Jones, and agent Marilyn Muckroe, on a search for the legendary fartifact, the Lost Arse. However, disaster strikes: Marilyn is captured by giant ape-sh*t, Donkey Pong, and is to be sacrificed to a mysterious giant turd, worshipped by the lost Pongo Tribe."

And here is a glimpse at some quite unique screenshots:

Intriguing, isn't it? Guess you'd better try it out. Then, you could always head back here and read about Sensible Soccer 2006, see John Cleese or download a free game.

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To kill a gnome (that's only 125$)

A disgrace. A tasteless attack on harmless woodland creatures. A total lack of respect towards the true rulers of World of Warcraft. An unthinkable and unprovoked attack to our kind, that goes as far as calling us "kitsch little Euro invaders". Weird I can tolerate, kitsch never. Never! This is -I am quite sure- what uncontrolled imperialism leads to:
It's called Gnome-be-Gone (sic) and can unfortunately be purchased @ uncommon goods.

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Jun 15, 2006

U.K. White Dwarf 318: An angry review

Let me see if I understood correctly. First, I have to wait a ludicrous amount of time for Games Workshop to finally manage to supply its Greek stockists with the latest White Dwarf (apparently Han Solo wasn't available to smuggle it in and the Senate was reluctant to lift the bleeding embargo), then I have to pay something like 8 euros for a less than 130 pages magazine and finally I have to put up with 20-odd pages of ads. Is it worth it? Perhaps, but only if the content of the magazine is exceptional, and this, unfortunately, is not the case with the current WD (no. 318 if you didn't notice). This is one of the worse issues ever published; a peak in the recent streak of sub-par White Dwarfs.

So, don't buy it. Simple as that. Convinced? Not yet? But why?

Should I then elaborate, even though it will remind me of the painful and disappointing hour it took me to read through the whole mag? Well, I shouldn't, really, but I will. Albeit briefly.

General WD stuff: All around bigger and admittedly beautiful pictures, sparse and poorly written text (the word 'cool' is really overused), good quality paper, nice layout, and everything you'd expect included in the New Releases, Frontline etc parts. Nothing to actually recommend it for.

Warhammer 40k: Mostly based on the Cities of Death expansion. Think of it as a really elaborate and quite interesting advertisement: the new plastic buildings are showcased, the new book is briefly described, there are some mildly interesting painting and modeling/conversion ideas, a visually impressive (and nothing more) Battle Report and an excellent and quite relevant Dok Butcha's Convershun Klinik. Other than that you get repeated references to this year's summer campaign (The Fall of Medusa V) and a very handy WH40k reference sheet. All an' all an overtly generous 5/10. (That's a grade. For each of the mag's sections. Got it? Great!)

Warhammer: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. This is the really horrible part. It might sound nice, but don't be fooled. The Regiments of Renown is nothing more than a half-arsed presentation of some minis and (another) pathetic plug for the new Giant. The Tomb Kings 'article' is a slightly camouflaged advertisement, while the proposed tactics, beginner's stuff if not outright wrong. The Horde article is rather good and quite an interesting read, even though it could definitely have been longer. Anyhow, it does help raise the grade to 3/10.

Lord of the Rings: Not special, not horrible, and by far, not extensive. What's offered is a 500 points Battle Report, a short banner painting guide, some miniature previews and, believe it or not, nothing else. That's a 2/10.

Conclusion? Don't buy it. Buy an overpriced Citadel miniature instead. You'll be doing yourself a favor and -in a way- protesting White Dwarf's (total lack of) quality.

Related Gnome's Lair articles: WD 317 review, a beginner's guide to diverting, the latest Warhammer news and rumors

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Get up, stand up

and whack your boss, preferably by clicking here, or here.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Olde Gamies and Fartie Owls, Java retro games, C64 nostalgia
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Jun 13, 2006

PC Review: 'Sensible Soccer 2006'

At last, a chance to toss those silly looking joypads aside and grab what real men were always supposed to grab. Joysticks! Yes, joysticks, even better digital joysticks, for this is a review of Sensible Soccer's latest spawn, and Sensible Soccer was meant to be played only in the traditional way. The joystick way. Oh, in case you didn't know, it also happened to be the best footie ever, on any platform and of every possible universe. Of course not everybody believed this. The unenlightened ones grumbled about the lack of impressive eye-candy, the incompetent ones about the lightning fast gameplay speed, the stuck-in-the-past ones about Sensi not being Kick Off 3 and the really hopeless ones about the lack of realism. Well, my friends, if you want realism, go out, play football and feel the pain. If, on the other hand, you want the best feel of the beautiful game, the perfect footbaling pace, the anti-goalie aftertouch, and all this without risking a heart attack, then play Sensible Soccer, preferably on the Amiga and if possible with a digital joystick.

What do you mean you don't have an Amiga? Who says that's ancient history? Just kill the FIFA fanboy in you, gag your inner PES groupie, and stay with me, as I tell you an almost perfect fairy tale, lovingly named Sensible Soccer 2006, The Rebirth of a Legend, dealing with the second attempt to bring Sensible Soccer in the 3d era and the first one that actually manages it. A story of great successes and minor failures, a story of football wet dreams and ball porn. A story about the best, but unfortunately not without its flaws, contemporary footie on the PC. A story about a game that doesn't cost a fortune. This is the story of Sensible Soccer 2006.

Actually, it's no story. It's a review. Sorry about that.

Sensi 2006 is played in the traditional 16bit bird's eye view, just like its revered daddy, only slightly zoomed in, a bit angled and with a quite more dynamic camera. In case you were wondering, that's totally unlike the FIFA/PES viewpoints and definitely a good thing, as the player can see a much greater part of the field, thus having a chance to get imaginative with his passing, pull through smart long balls, deep crosses, or even score a 40 metre goal. All this was admittedly already there in the original Sensi. What the 2006 version added to the experience are some very stylish 3d cell shaded graphics and excellent replays, a greater variety of stadiums, weather conditions and outfits and quite a few new game mechanic changes. Every player now has a certain amount of stamina, that has to last him for the whole match. Then -and that's quite an important bit- 2 more buttons have been added to Sensi's original one-button gameplay, the first being for short passes and the second for sprinting. Finally, the (much improved) keeper can instantly be controlled with the press of a button. Oh, and there is a small arrow showing the direction the ball will follow if kicked. Aftertouch has by large remained the same (just flick the joystick right after the ball leaves the player's foot to the desirable direction), as has the two players mode. Make that the glorious two players mode, that shames the multiplayer capabilities of any MMORPG or FPS. Well, at least in the fun-factor it does...

Unfortunately, though, Sensible Soccer 2006 isn't perfect. It doesn't even give you the chance to lead the Dead Rockstars team to victory. There are also slight problems, a mediocre tactics screen, un-funny spin-off names for real players (there's an editor though), and at times a lack of polish. Nothing that couldn't get fixed with a patch mind you, but irritating nonetheless. The controls are at (rare) times unexpectedly unresponsive, some offsides spotted by the ref just don't exist, and graphic glitches haven't been 100% avoided. Add to this that the original Sensible Soccer was apparently much faster. And better (at least on the Amiga).

Still though. An amazingly fun football game. Codemasters just did it!

That's an (eight and a half) out of (ten).

And what follows is the trailer (via):

Related @ Gnome's Lair: World Cup 2006 tracker, Sweety Puzzle review, Lula 3D meta-review, 60+ hand-picked free games

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Jun 12, 2006

The World Cup tracker

As -apparently- the World Cup is what's important this summer, I guess I'll just have to share a nice little email attachment I received. An excellent World Cup 2006 tracker in excel format, that unexpectedly keeps track of the World Cup. Who'd have thought? Anyway. You can download it here and then feel grateful.

On the other hand you could try wasting your time by having a look at the latest Museum Monday (actually posted a few minutes ago), an excellent freeware retro remake or by marveling at Adrian Smith's art.

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Museum Monday #18

Monday. Aargh! And that's neither the famous castle of Aaaargh, nor an abstract way of singing in the traditional Dada style. No, it's just "Aargh!", plain and simple, as Monday has struck again in the most infuriating of ways. And it's not even noon yet. There is definitely enough time for things to get worse. Much worse. Nice.

But, as the Monday tradition has it, I digress. On to Museum Monday (tm) #18. This time it's all about the Apple II, or to be more precise "The Apple IIgs Gaming Memory Fairway", an impressive gaming history site, cataloguing even Apple II's unreleased games.

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Jun 11, 2006

Fictional Reality issue 24

I had started doubting its existence, but evidently I was simply over-reacting. Fictional Reality, the best (and admittedly only) wargame, RPG and miniature related PDF magazine, is back. Download issue 24 @ fictionalreality.org and stay happy. It even has an Albrecht Duerer cover! On the other hand, the World Cup is getting more and more interesting...

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Jun 10, 2006

Head over heels everybody!

It was 1987, kids born under a socialist sun were enjoying the Soviet BK-0010 home computer, when all that we, being the capitalist brats we were, could do was wait for Ocean's usually dull offerings. Thankfully -for 1987- they came in the guise of Head over Heels, a brilliant arcade-platform-adventure released for the 8bit home computing marvels (the Amstrad 6128, the Speccy and the C64) and later for their 16bit cousins (those should be the Amiga and the Atari ST). Not on the PC though.

PC users (who knows, Mr. Elderly might have been one of them) just didn't have a chance to explore the open-ended world of the two dog-thingy beasts, apparently called Mr. Head and Mr. Heels. So, they (the PC gamers that is) just sat at their corner and wept, as humble Spectrum fans enjoyed more than 300 different rooms, solved puzzles, avoided annoying booby traps, used Mr. Head's and Mr. Heel's unique abilities or combined the two (literally) to progress in this tough game.

a Spectrum screenshot

an Amstrad 6128 screenshot

Well, PC owners, despair no more. The good people of Retrospec remade Head over Heels, both for the PC and the Mac! The graphics are now fully colored (!), high(er)-res and as always cute and cuddly. They are beautiful, actually. Moreover, the remake is (wisely) very faithful to the original -nigh on identical some might say- bar the few welcome improvements. Like the ability to save your game, which might even give you a chance of making it to the end of the bloody difficult Head over Heels. Anyway. Grab this wonderful freebie here. You'll thank me. Oh, and if you do, better thank me in a more material way. Right. Cheers.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: the first video game ever: OXO, Mario's complete gameography, DOS games on XP

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