Xboing on NetBSD

Xboing is a breakout style game for the X windows systems, it was written by Justin C. Kibell in the years 1993 – 1997. It is written using the basic X toolkit libraries so will run on pretty much any Unix system with a half decent compiler set. The game models itself after an arcade machine, and even goes as far as having an attract mode (or demo) to show the basics of the game.

The graphics are very colourful and pleasing, and I’m happy to report it works very well even on very old hardware, or via an XDMCP session over the local network. I found it worked quite well on my old sparcstation. The animations and movement of the paddle and ball are fast and this helps the controls be responsive.

Sound didn’t work very well for me, it froze the game on the sparc, which could be caused by any number of issues. The game doesn’t suffer for not having sound, so if you have similar issues, I’d just turn the sound off.

Gameplay is very similar to all the other break out classics around with some differences. For instance, the power ups do not drop out of bricks when they are broken. Instead they themselves are bricks that when you break them give you the power up contained therein. You get a limited supply of bullets in the game to help you clear areas faster. This is very handy when there are only a handful of bricks left that are quite hard to hit with the ball. That being said, because you have a limited supply, you aren’t tempted to go shooting down every brick in a level as it will affect how much ammunition you carry over to the next level. Interestingly you can accidentally shoot your ball and end your game if you aren’t careful. I’ve also noticed you can squeeze the bullets up between columns of blocks to hit something at the top of the screen. This was useful when the “eyeball dude” went past, I had a chance to shoot him for points.

The default setting for the game is quite fast, so you will probably want to slow it down. Don’t slow it down too much however as this impacts your ability to score and get bonus score for completing a level quickly. Control is via the mouse, and is very responsive and quick. The only problem I had was when I accidentally moved my mouse out of focus and the paddle stopped moving. This may not be a problem for you depending on your window manager, I could always configure mine to improve the situation!

I found that the game was quite fun, and offered something different to the other breakout games out there that mostly follow after the classic Arkanoid. The challenge is high enough depending on the speed you set, and you shouldn’t find yourself bogged down trying to get that last one or two bricks for very long. So if you are a fan of breakout games, have a Unix system, and want to play a good breakout game, I’d recommend giving Xboing a try.

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