front cover

Platform: PC

Region: NTSC-U

Country: United States of America

Developer(s): Berkeley Systems, Inc.

Publishers(s): Sierra Online

ReleaseDate: 1998-01-01

Players: 1

Co-op: No

After Dark Games

Save our screen! A common nineties computing myth is that if you don't protect your monitor with a screensaver that activates after 30 seconds of no computer usage, then you will suffer irreparable damages to your screen. Those damages most likely amounting to a haunting image of your Windows desktop permanently embedded into your display. Well, this is, in fact, complete nonsense. Unless you have a monitor that's manufacturing date reaches back into the mid-eighties (and if it's still functioning, then congratulations because you own a freak of technology), it's unlikely that your screen would ever have images burnt into the glass without serious, intentional abuse. However, this doesn't mean screensavers are useless - on the contrary, they can not only be wonderfully stimulating entertainment, but they also serve an even greater purpose. They are an endless distraction to the work you should be doing (always a good thing, no?). At least, some are, anyway. The After Dark series became known for being a leader in the field of the screensaver 'art,' producing many variety of fun and humorous modules, introducing original characters in often zany situations, and generally just being downright more amusing than a bunch of flying Windows logos (damn, I still see those things in my sleep... chasing me... hunting my very soul... oh, ahem, anyway...!). And hey, isn't that worth the $50-80 price tag that used to accompany them? Game time Well, guess what? After Dark Games - "it's not just a screen-saver anymore!" - is a collection of "challenging and addicting" games, many featuring the characters that screensaver freaks will have come to know and love by now from the After Dark series. In actuality, what we have here is a bunch of 'time-filler' games that are obvious alternatives to Microsoft's own procrastination-encouragers, Solitaire and Minesweeper. Although, oddly, one of the 11 games included in this package is Solitaire, albeit Berkeley Systems' own variation of it. The games span a small range of genres including arcade, trivia, word games and puzzles, with the common factor between them being anybody - and we are talking absolutely anybody here - can play them. Not everyone will be able to compete at the same level, of course, but they will at least be able to participate. Arcade action The 4 arcade games in After Dark Games are, as expected, nothing to write home about. Each of these games will very likely have a different effect on a vast spectrum of people - following closely with the ancient analogy, "one man's meat is another man's poison" (not politically-correct for the vegetarians out there, I know). Personally, I enjoy two of them enough to play for at least 10 minutes or so at a time, and do keep returning, while the other two I've not loaded since the moment I felt I'd played them enough to evaluate fairly for review. My personal favorite is Mowin' Maniac which bears undeniable similarities to the all-time classic Pac-Man as you ride your mower around hazard-filled gardens, frantically avoiding angry gardeners and zombies (!) - that is, of course, until you get yourself a power-pill (gas can), at which point, your mower enters turbo mode and you're able to run down and bag the misanthropes for a short period of time. The other arcade games consist of (with brief descriptions): Hula Girl, use left/right cursor key to get Hula Girl to drop and land on as many platforms as possible without hitting the 'icky' stuff or being too slow and losing one of her hula hoops to a case of scroll-off-screen-itis; Rodger Dodger, a real retro throwback to the age of "try to move your colored dot around the screen skillfully enough to collect the green swirly things, while at the same time, avoiding the nasty fast-moving dots that ultimately are locked into a pre-defined movement pattern"; Toaster Run, the most surreal of the lot - maneuver a flying toaster around the household, avoiding the dangerous everyday appliances. Word games Those who relish in solving the daily newspaper's crossword teasers will enjoy the word games included in After Dark Games. Fish Shtick takes place under the sea. A group of fishes swim by from left to right with a big white letter plastered onto their scales. The letters appear in random order, and it's up to you to solve the anagram by unjumbling the letters to make a word. The time limit you have for each word is denoted by how long the fishes take to swim from one edge to the other. Bad Dog 911 is a Boggle-style word game where you're given 6 random letters, and you have to come up with as many legitimate words as you can within a given time period (words have to consist of 3 letters or more). The computer determines every possible word (in its American dictionary anyway) you can make, so it is plausible that there's a real word which it won't accept, but unlikely. Puzzle After Dark Solitaire is, let's face it, rather pointless. I played with it for a few minutes to make sure there's no extra special secret ingredient that makes it more of a Super Solitaire, but found nothing. This is solitaire through and through ("Patiences" in the UK), differing from Microsoft's free offering with some slightly prettier graphics and a few sound effects. Foggy Boxes is a computerized version of one of the most popular paper and pencil past-times for students in a boring High School class - Tic-Tac-Toe probably being the number one work-dodger (known as "Naughts and Crosses" in the UK - talk about a divide between a common language). A two-player turn-based game, you start with a grid of dots, and on your turn, you have to connect a line between two of the dots. The idea is to make a square, and the player with the most squares at the end wins. Sadly, as with all of the After Dark Games, you can only play this alone vs. the computer, but he makes a worthy opponent on the hardest difficulty level. He also makes you want to throw your shoe through the screen when he starts taunting you to go if you take too long to make your move. Mooshu Tiles is the age-old children's match-the-tile game originating from China, Mushu. Little tiles with a variety of patterns on them are stacked together in varying formations, and your task is to remove them all. But you can only remove tiles that match and have no tile on either their left, right or both. Classic, addictive, and you even get a little fortune cookie proverb at the end if you complete the game successfully. And finally in the puzzles category - Roof Rats. This match-em-up style game's objective is to remove stories from a building until each of the little characters on the roof are low enough to jump to the ground and enjoy their freedom. Another mentally-challenging game that requires you to think ahead. Trivia The one trivia game in the pack is Zapper!. General trivia questions requiring either a yes or no answer are thrown at you, and the objective is to answer as many as you can correctly within the allotted time. If you answer three in a row correctly, you get bonus points and extended time. This is great for quick breaks throughout the day, and you even learn something new every time you play. You'll find the trick to getting the highest score most of the time is always choosing the answer that seems the most absurd. Say, did you know that the Internet now delivers more mail than the US Postal Service? Just don't answer "yes" to the "does the average American woman weigh over 140 pounds?" question with your wife nearby! Bonuses Along with the suite of eleven games, After Dark Games also includes a screensaver (could it call itself "After Dark" without one!) which is basically a continuous running demo of each of the games. The neat thing is, however, at ALL times, whether playing one of the games or having the screensaver activated, there's always a toolbar running along the bottom that allows you to toggle the screensaver on and off, and launch any game you desire. So if you left your computer alone for a few minutes, it's very likely the screensaver will pop on and in a not-so-subtle manner persuade you to play a game. ADG is also fully set up to allow for multiple users, and keeps track of high scores in each of the games, so you can easily compete with anyone else that uses your PC. And the interface couldn't be simpler, with rules provided online for each of the titles, in case you're not sure what to do. My only complaint concerning the game engine is that there's no real provision for people who run their system at higher resolutions - the screensaver and game windows all fit tightly against a 640x480 screen, but then on a 1024x768 desktop or higher, you may find yourself squinting at the action. It would have been nice to provide a "zoom" mode that allows you to stretch everything into a larger window. Conclusion All in all, After Dark Games is a very competent addition to the "misc" category of PC games, and while a few of the games are somewhat under par, most are actually just as the packaging advertises - "challenging and addicting." $30 is fair, though I'd shop around to see if you can pick it up slightly cheaper than retail. The "gimmick" of the included screensaver works well, and has actually been my pick of screensavers for a while now. Brett recently reviewed Smart Games 3, which may prove better value if you're more inclined towards puzzle and word games (plus, that package includes twenty different titles over ADG's eleven). If, however, you would prefer a more varied selection that crosses into the simple arcade and trivia genres, then check this one out. Review By GamesDomain

ESRB Rating: Not Rated

Genre(s): Action | Puzzle | Strategy

Other Graphic(s)

No fanarts/screenshots/banners found, be the 1st to add them.