26
Oct
13

Monument of Mars for DOS

Title Screen

Title Screen

Monument of Mars was created by Todd Replogle for Scenario Software and released by Apogee sometime during 1990. It is one of the earlier games that Apogee released and as such was made to run on the widest possible range of hardware possible. They re-used the FAST engine that was developed for Pharaoh’s Tomb and Artic Adventure, so there are some of the same issues with collision detection.

A Pit

A Pit

Much like the other two games it uses CGA for graphics, and it animates nicely even on an older machine. The game does recommend that you don’t use an 8088 equipped machine, which I’m guessing is because of the crippled data bus. It was 8-bit compared to 16-bit on the 8086 and better machines, this made it much slower with graphics. I believe the other games running the FAST engine had similar issues with the 8088.

The hand drawn sprites themselves are about as good as you can get with CGA graphics, and most of the sprites are animated quite well.

Robots!

Robots!

The PC speaker is used for sound as most older machines had only that as a sound device, although they could all be fitted with an Adlib card at the very least. The sound isn’t bad, but the CPU speed will affect how fast the sound is played and also how long the game will pause whilst it is playing back. Slower machines will have longer pauses so may benefit from having the sound turned off to improve the rate of play.

Spikes and such

Spikes and such

The puzzles and obstacles in the game are similar but not as brutally difficult as Pharaoh’s Tomb and Artic Adventure. The problems with collision detection are still there, but seem to cause you less problems in the process of completing a level. With a little practice I got through about 11 levels in a reasonable time on my first play, and I didn’t find it overly frustrating. They also start out at a much more reasonable difficulty level and get harder as you go.

Moving platforms.

Moving platforms.

Most levels require you to get a key card to open the exit door. This may require you to jump over obstacles, and dodge or kill enemies. You have a limited number of shots for your gun so it is often best to dodge if you can, but ammunition can usually be found if you really need it. Some parts of the level have invisible switches that trigger when you walk over them, usually causing some blocks to appear. Usually this is to help you finish a level, so if something looks like you can’t get there, try looking for these invisible switches.

As the difficulty gets harder it is fortunate that you have infinite lives as you will need a few attempts to finish a level. There is also a level restart button so you don’t have to restart if you get yourself trapped. In this way Monument of Mars is much less punishing of mistakes than Pharaoh’s Tomb.

Tower Collapse!

Tower Collapse!

The technology used for the game was significantly out of date when it was released. Yet somehow it has a charm that makes it fun to play. The puzzles are challenging without being unfairly hard, and you aren’t punished for making a mistake. It runs on very old hardware that would have still been very common at the time it was made, so you didn’t need to upgrade too much in order to play.

Apogee made Monument of Mars freeware in 2009, so there is little reason to not give it a go if you like puzzle platform games from the era.

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