In the mid 90s, I spent a huge amount of my teenage time dicking about with the CD-Roms that came free with our computer. This was because I was a bit weird and didn’t have stuff like friends or hobbies. Not unless you count writing shit poetry about Radiohead and the fact that you have a small bedroom as a hobby. I do not.
We had about a dozen free CDs chucked at us with our Packard Bell PC; most of them were shit and boring, like ‘Elle 2000 Recipes’ and ‘Telepower Pro’, but some of them became my very best friends. I think these games were mostly for five year olds, but when you’re a sad lonely teenager and you have no money, car or boyfriend, you must find other ways to entertain yourself.
Let me take you through the glorious world of software from the mid-90s that probably no one would have bought, so they had to give it away for free.
Batman And Robin Cartoon Maker
I never really got the hang of using this properly, so all my cartoons were surreal affairs with tinny, distorted voiceovers and a million Batmans (Batmen?) on the screen all at once. The workings of it were pretty similar to lots of animation games out there – you create your scene, then pick a character, and draw a line for them to follow. The idea is that your characters walk or run around, going from scene to scene, and some kind of story happens:
You could also add speech bubbles with text, if you wanted your characters to talk to each other, and not just stand there until they died. But also – and this was the really exciting bit – if you had a microphone, you could add your own voiceovers!
Now that I think back, I did actually have one friend at the time. She’d come over to my house and we’d mess about with Batman, making shit sweary cartoons. I think one of them was just a hundred Batmans (Batmen?) filling the screen, all shouting “bastard!” and “fuck!” Those were the days.
Casper Brainy Book
I always felt so sorry for Casper. He was just a little boy who wanted some friends. Not only did he not have any friends, he also had to put up with his three gigantic bastard uncles, who these days would be locked up in ghost prison for the way they treated him. I don’t know what ghost prison is exactly, but it’s probably something like this:
Anyway, this was an interactive story book starring Casper. I think it was pretty much just the plot of the movie. There were side games to play; I can’t remember if you had to win at them to continue with the story, but judging by my skill with computer games, it’s probably safe to say you didn’t.
Here’s one of the games – I think the general idea was that the letters fell down, and you had to make words with them. Also you got burned with chillies or something. We both know I’ve only really picked this screenshot because it has the word ‘ass’ in it.
If you win, Casper… dies? doesn’t die? Gets to properly die? I have no fucking idea.
Sammy’s Science House/Trudy’s Time And Place House
Sammy was a snake/worm thing who lived in a house full of science, and Trudy was a crocodile in a frightening pink dress who lived in a house full of geography and time.
I don’t remember too much about every game, but there are a few I remember messing with out of sheer boredom. Firstly, over at Sammy’s, there was a game where you had to assemble things like ships and helicopters that had been split into three parts. If you got it right (and let’s face it, you did), then a bee would come and ride on whatever you’d just built. Anyone who’s played Richard Scarry’s Busytown will be familiar with this concept.
Over at Trudy’s there was a game where you played as an ant, and you moved around a map trying to find jellybeans:
I always found every single jellybean. I was so proud of myself.
Thinkin’ Things 2
I hate to use clichés like “it’s like X on acid”, but this software is like being on acid, while being on more acid. It certainly did make me start ‘thinkin’ things’. I had to check the expiry date on my solpadeine while I was researching this.
First up was a bizarre art/animation studio, where you could control the direction of some kind of worm made of dots. You could change the size, shape and colour of the dots, but essentially it was just a worm guiding game.
Stuck on where to make your worm go? Never fear, there’s plenty of help at hand with the ‘ideas’ bank. Simply click the ‘ideas’ button so see a weird montage of worms in assorted scenarios. Looking back, some of the ideas were actually quite groovy. For example, you could draw a slalom and have your worm ski down it. Or you could have your worm as water dripping from a tap:
Not that I would ever have thought to do stuff like that. I was never artistic. As I said, my thing was writing poetry. Probably with titles like “My family are all bastards”.
Another game was this:
Some type of bird playing a xylophone. Why is he wearing a snorkel.
Of course, if you were tone deaf, there was always another trusty ‘ideas’ button, which would play well known nursery rhymes for you. Or, depending on the instrument, it would play terrifying, unholy and wrong things like this:
Look at him, hitting sheep with a stick like a bastard. He looks so pleased with himself.
Right, I’m off to think about my life choices.