Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Circus Linux!

Ouch. I'm beginning to think that New Breed Software specifically has it in for me. Circus Linux is an adaptation of an old Atari game called Circus. Maybe Circus was cutting-edge in its day, and considered great fun. Circus Linux is not fun.

A clown is launched from one side of the screen; it bounces onto the field of play, and your job is to maneuver a see-saw with a clown already on it, down at the bottom of the screen, so that the other clown will land on the unoccupied end and launch the clown who's already on the see-saw into the air. At the top of the screen are balloons, which get popped (for points) whenever a clown hits them.

Basically, you're bouncing clowns around. It plays like Pong or Breakout. There are no levels - when you eliminate a row of balloons, another one takes its place - meaning that there's no reward for continuing to play the game. The first time you bounce a clown, you've done all there is to do.

Atari games were skill-based, rather than content-based, due to hardware limitations (you couldn't fit a lot of content in the memory they were working with). Rather than evolve the game to take advantage of the power of modern machines, the guys at New Breed simply slapped an early-90s level of graphical paint on top of the 30-year-old game.

Admittedly, this is not my kind of game, but even if you're into skill-based gaming, it's pretty crappy. Graphically, it looks like early 90s shareware. That's the best way I can describe it - I don't know if it's even in SVGA; it may just be 16 colors. That's probably mean, but honestly, it's not pretty. The animated backgrounds are kinda cute, but also kinda ugly.

Circus Linux! has a host of faults, but the most significant is this: there's no way to make it go to full-screen mode from within the game. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but the mouse is the only way to control the game well, and when it's running in a window, it's way too easy to end up getting the cursor out of the window of the game. When you do that, it ceases to control the game. You have to figure out where on your desktop the cursor is, and move it from there back to the window where the game is running. The game doesn't stop while you're doing this. So it's well nigh unplayable as installed.

You have to open a terminal window and launch the game from the command line with the '--fullscreen' switch to play the game properly. That's just dumb. Virtually every real-time game I've played for this blog either defaulted to full-screen, or allowed you to switch between modes from within the game. This is rank amateurism.

The figures are too small, however, to make playing in full-screen a lot of fun. This game probably uses the same aspect ratio of actors-to-playing-field that the original Atari game did. Meaning that if you play it from the same distance that you would play a game on your TV, it would be fine. But since you're up close to it, I found it impossible to keep the top of the game and the bottom of the game in focus at the same time, which was nerve-wracking. I didn't have the problem with Briquolo, for example, which is virtually the same game (mechanics wise).

The beginning of the song that plays during the title-screen is the best thing about the game; it's sort of a soulful SNES-sounding synth piece. Then it kicks into retarded circus music, making this game as painful sonically as it is visually and functionally.

Unless you have fond childhood memories of the game upon which this is based, steer clear. It is not fun, it is not pretty, it is not technically impressive, and it is not good. It may be nostalgic, but at this point, I don't know how many people are still playing games that used to play the old 2600. New Breed Software seems to specialize in doing simplistic, repetitive, skill-based games that suck. I can't wait for the next one I encounter!

(In all fairness, they're doing these games for free, and for all I know, they're Atari enthusiasts or something and they're making exactly the game they want to play - but no one in their right mind should want to play these games)

1 comment:

Chris said...

Circuis Linux is a great time waster. If you liked Circus Atari, this is a faithful port of the original. It is also very easy to add "--fullscreen" to the panel icon and it will always start in fullscreen.