06
Oct
14

Boppin’ for DOS

Boppin’ is a puzzle game developed by Accursed Toys and published by Apogee in 1994. Unlike most puzzle games this one has a story, you play as either Yeet or Boik in a quest to restore all the bad guys to the video game world that were stolen by Hunnybunz. Without the bad guys all the heroes are out of jobs and are bored as no-one wants to play a game that isn’t complete.

It was originally made for the Amiga, but it didn’t see much success there. So the authors ported it to the PC and made some improvements and trade-offs in the process. The PC graphics in VGA were re-mastered in 256 colours as opposed to the 32 used on the Amiga. The sound however had a down-step in quality on the PC as it was converted for lower bit rates and FM synthesis.

The VGA graphics are excellent, they are very artistic and unique for games of the time. This is hardly surprising as one of the designers had lots of experience with artwork and designing tiles and sprites for games. I was also impressed in general with the animations, although you need a machine better than the minimum specs to avoid slow down. The minimum specs call for a 386 with 2MB of RAM, I’d suggest a fast 386 at a minimum and to avoid any 386sx machines as they have limited memory bandwidth. This would have made the game less popular with owners of older machines at the time.

Something interesting you may run into depending on the version you play is the suicide animations for Yeet and Boik, and the ‘Deaddy bear’ logo for Accursed toys. These feel like strange additions to the game given the artwork and graphics are fairly cheery and colourful. It doesn’t fit with the motif of the game. The later version of the game had these removed by default with a ‘politically correct’ logo screen for the company and the option to re-enable the blood via the command line.

Sound support comes in many flavours including the Sound Blaster, Gravis Ultrasound, Pro Audio Spectrum and more. I used Sound Blaster support as that was most convenient at the time. Digitised sound is used for the sound effects, and they were what you’d expect for the most part. The FM synthesized music was much more interesting and quirky, reflecting the art style and atmosphere of the game. Again, when playing on a slower machine the sound quality suffered much like the graphic speed, another reason to use a faster DOS machine.

Controlling Yeet (or was it Boik?) is fairly straight forward. You can move either left or right with the usual keys and can use up and down to use elevators. You are meant to throw blocks around the play field so that they collide with like blocks to eliminate them. You throw a block by holding the ‘waggle’ button and either left or right and then releasing the waggle button. This was a bit odd at first, but I got used to it. The blocks only travel in diagonal directions at first and will bounce around until they hit either a refractor which changes their direction or a block that will stop it either for elimination (known in-game as boppin’) or losing a life if the block doesn’t match or has hit a non-bouncy wall. It sounds more complicated than it actually is.

It was actually quite easy to learn enough to play through the earlier levels quite well. There is no time limit so it pays to carefully line up your shots and work out any bounces. If you do happen to get stuck in a level, you can restart it restoring your lives and score. If you happen to die, you can continue with the only penalty being loss of score. It makes progressing through the levels much easier and means you won’t have to repeat the earlier levels every time you die.

The game also includes a two player mode. Basically you both just compete for points by trying to bop the blocks faster than your opponent. It basically just adds the urgency that the single player game lacks. Unfortunately I didn’t have anyone to play with me to try it out properly.

In the end I found that it was quite fun, but it wasn’t as challenging as I would have liked as a single player. Once I had mastered the controls and got a feel for how the blocks move and bounce it got significantly easier, the main challenge remaining was learning the level layouts and the best way to complete them. There are lots of levels, and you can load and save your game, so you need not repeat playing any levels to preserve some of the challenge.

Boppin’ has been released as freeware and is fairly easy to find. If you go to the home page for the game you will find a windows version of the game that uses the Amiga sounds and music whilst retaining the DOS graphics and levels, getting the best of both worlds. The windows version also restores the original gory logo and the suicide animations, I wonder where they were trying to go with that?

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