11
Nov
13

Robomaze II for DOS

Be thankful this site has no sound!

Be thankful this site has no sound!

Being stuck in bed the past few days left me some time to peruse some of my favourite DOS game websites. Recently I found Robomaze II on the RGB Classics website, I read that it was fondly remembered by many. You’d think with II in the title that it would be a sequel to an earlier game, but there is no Robomaze I. The game was released back in 1991 by a company called MVP Software, but developed by a company called Wetware. I hadn’t really heard of either company before, but I found that MVP had a catalog of about 20 odd games spanning both DOS and Windows 3.1.

Shareware professionals member!

Shareware professionals member!

It supports both CGA and EGA graphics cards and appears to have been designed for older XT, AT and early 286 machines although there were many 386 machines around at the time. I ran the game in EGA under Dosbox, and it seems the best way to play it for reasons I’ll explain as we go.

The first reason to use Dosbox is related to the animation speed. Faster CPUs cause the animations to run way too fast, and adjusting the speed in game doesn’t help with faster machines. Fortunately you can use the cycle count in dosbox to adjust the CPU speed. I thought the EGA graphics were reasonably well drawn and animated, but sometimes it isn’t clear what somethings actually are.

Ah silence!

Ah silence!

The sound comes from the PC speaker, and if you have it enabled be prepared for some horrible music at the title screen. Seriously it’s bad, so very bad. The in game sound is limited to some basic sound effects and thankfully is much better, but still nothing fantastic to write home about.

So having started up the game and having my ears raped by the horrible sound, I tried to read the instructions and story but was faced with a wall of all uppercase text that was difficult to read! I managed, but it sure would have been nice to have lower case letters and some better formatting.

First Level

First Level

The games controls are pretty simple, but not the usual for PC platform games. You control your player with the arrow keys, you press left or right to start moving, down to stop moving and up to jump. When you press left or right you continue to move until you either drop, hit something or press stop. This produces some of the most awkward movement I’ve had in a platformer, but I guess you could get used to it. The space bar fires your weapon, and there are some other keys used for special abilities.

Decoration?

Decoration?

I’d personally recommend you use a joystick, which is the second reason I used dosbox with this game. You can use the mapper to use the keyboard, or connect a modern joypad.  Not having a game port on my capture machine meant I had to use my USB game pad. The joystick controls are far easier to handle and behave a bit more like you’d expect. You still need the keyboard nearby for the special abilities.

The hanging gardens

The hanging gardens

Aside from the controls the game is relatively nice to play, but there are some annoying points. Firstly there is quite a distance between check points. If you die or need to save and reload you go back to the last check point. It can be quite punishing of mistakes. I was also annoyed by moving platforms, since they crush the player you can find yourself being unable to avoid taking damage.

In summary, there are some things to like about this game, but you’ve got to be able to get past it’s weak points. This one is probably best left to those who remember it nostalgically.

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