TheFreaksComeOutAtNight is proud to present its latest feature, archiving and reviewing the finest gems long lost in the digital cobwebs of so-called “progress.” Our writers and researchers are working furiously to bring to you the sweetest and most well-aged wines Time forgot in Her cellar when she last had over those rowdy party-goers Fate and Death. Yes, fair reader, this is The Shareware Era!
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The time: early to mid-nineties
The place: your bedroom
Admission price: FREE
In the shadow of 9/11, the tall majesty of that word “free” (short for “freedom”) has been riddled by countless hijacked consumer aircrafts, leaving us with a Swiss mockery of this once grand notion. After Nietzsche killed God (the idea, not the guy—that would be pretty hard to do!), the only proper thing he left us with was freedom, which I guess is an alright thing to have. But just like that time in third grade when everybody was having a great time jumping off the swings, knowing that they shouldn’t be but hey the teachers don’t care, somebody had to show off and purposely fly into the teacher’s pet just because the kid wouldn’t stop beating him up after school. The idea of “free” today is such a joke that Metal Gear Solid 4 costs $60—sorry, I mean $560—sorry again, I mean 560bbc (Ed.: read “Big Brother Credits”).
There was a time when “free” meant something, when one could look in a computer software catalog and see listed “1001 Free Games! Only $10!” Now properly known as the Shareware Era, this was the golden age of PC gaming, when games were given away for free and you were actually encouraged to share them. Grounded at home for indiscriminately shouting swear words? Trapped at your grandparents’ for some stupid holiday? Lost and suffering an existential crisis without anything to do? Just stick in that shareware collection CD your friend gave you and viola! instant escapism. And these were no mere cave scrawlings either, though even if they had been, they would have been cave scrawlings of the most profound artistic quality, found only in the Jurassic University Fine Art Cave with expensive wine and cheese for your video gaming pleasure. Sure, it may be true that a shareware game was only a fraction of its respective registered game’s content, but it was a pretty big fraction (ranging from 20 to 50 percent), and nobody ever actually paid the money to register shareware games anyway.
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The subject of today’s article is a woefully obscure title called…
Little is known of what befell Moonlite Software after they unleashed this Necronomicon-like text upon the masses. Nor have scholars found in anthropological studies any further reference to this mystical Tahookaboo, the setting for the game’s premise, which involves a rather portly individual named Clyde and his adventure to “rescue treasure.”
Though he may resemble at first glance a certain mustached plumber, do not be fooled: Clyde is a true everyman. Even on his arcade debut, Mario’s plumber overalls were more costume than common folk garb (hence the name Super Mario), while Clyde, his hair graying and his blue sweatpants frayed at the edges, looks as if he crawled out of a cardboard box to reclaim for all others trodden and spit and ejaculated upon by capitali$$$t society their proper due: limitless Tahookabooian treasure. There is absolutely nothing “super” about Clyde; he can walk, jump, fall, and die. Furthermore, Clyde has an energy meter, which represents not the power supply of an armor suit or some such technological gadget but rather his own ability to continue walking. That’s right, the only “enemy” in this game is Clyde’s own girth, as every few steps drops his energy meter by a value of 1. When it runs out, Clyde collapses onto the ground, completely incapable of going further, and dies of starvation. Note that Clyde starts with only 50 energy.
Don’t let the game’s title fool you; at its heart Clyde’s Adventure is a puzzle game—if by “puzzle” you mean completely unintuitive interaction and trial-by-error memorization. And that’s exactly why this game shines so brightly! In each level, Clyde must collect a treasure, all green gems (many of which are randomly hid inside walls), and plenty of (read: all) silver balls which miraculously give Clyde’s tiny legs a little more oomph to carry his weight. In order to do this, Clyde must figure out the exact path to take in each level so that he does not (1) lose access to unexplored areas, (2) run out of energy for his legs, (3) fall into spikes or lava, (4) reach the exit before finding everything else, or (5) get trapped. Fortunately, collecting things is always fun, giving the illusion that one is somehow getting ahead in life, but the castles of Tahookaboo will not make this an easy task! Each level is devilishly designed at every turn to trick Clyde into doing one of these five things! Fortunately, the magical aura inside the castle has the amazing ability to reverse time whenever this happens—though it can only allow Clyde to go back to when he entered the castle. Those Tahookabooian mystics sure were a strange bunch, huh?
The odds are certainly against him, but rack one up for our side: Clyde has mysteriously come into possession of a magic wand which can make certain blocks beneath him disappear—like magic!
Too bad Clyde has so little energy, or else maybe he could scout ahead before doing risky things like teleporting! The entire game is basically this over and over, except the clever Tahookabooians mix things up from time to time and make it so that you are actually supposed to do what seems logical. Hours later…
Eight castles might seem like a meager amount of gameplay, but do not be fooled! In order to progress to new castles, Clyde must get every gem in every castle, which requires at least a hundred tries on each castle to discover the exact path that Clyde must take. Seeing as how the final castles take several hours for just one playthrough, these “mere” eight levels provide quite an impressive amount of replay value! I myself have never finished even the first castle. Unlike both nonlinear art, which the viewer can gaze upon without any predetermined end, and linear art, which has a determined end obstructed only by the reader’s own patience to endure the author’s pretension, an end does exist in Clyde’s Adventure—only it is an end that the player will never reach, because said player’s own life will have ended long before reaching it.
Clyde’s Adventure is a true tour-de-force of the shareware art.