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Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Packard Bell/Windows 95 software bundle - hang on to your hats, it's a wild ride!

Since I wrote THIS post, I find myself becoming a bit obsessed with my old Packard Bell computer; more specifically, the software bundle it came with. So I did a bit of digging, and I think I have enough memories to write a post, with a bit of help from Google.
Since my mind is now so old and flea bitten, I’ll probably miss out huge pieces of these games, like how to actually play them. Just try and humour me – I’m doing the best I can.
As I mentioned in the earlier post, I spent a huge amount of time as a teenager 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 a life. We had roughly a dozen free CDs - some of them were shit and uninteresting to me, like Elle 2000 Recipes and Telepower Pro, but some of them became my very best friends. Admittedly, I think these games were mostly for five year olds, but when you’re a sad lonely 13 year old and you have no money, car or boyfriend, you must improvise in order 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. I bet you can’t wait to get started.

1. Batman Cartoon Maker -

This was weird, and I never really got the hang of using it properly, so all my cartoons were odd, disjointed affairs with tinny, distorted voiceovers and about 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 that would contain text, if you wanted your characters to talk to each other, and not just stand there. But also – and this was the really exciting bit – if you had your own 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 incredibly rude, 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.

2. Casper Brainy Book

I always felt so sorry for Casper. He was just a little boy who wanted some friends. Not only did he have to put up with everyone running from him in horror, 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

This was an interactive story book starring – yep, you guessed it – Casper the friendly ghost. I think it was pretty much just the plot of the movie, only in cartoon form. Embedded within the story were side games; 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 is one of the mini 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.

3. Sammy's Science House/Trudy's Time and Place House

These were perfect for my mental age at the time – that is to say they were aimed at ages 3 – 7. Sammy was a snake/worm thing who lived in a house full of science -

While 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 about 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, and I felt so accomplished.

4. Thinkin' Things 2

This was the previously mentioned “pre-school collection of weird interactive games” from my last computer post. Normally, I hate to use such clichés as “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'.
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 is plenty of help at hand with the ‘ideas’ bank. Simply click the ‘ideas’ button so see a weird montage of assorted 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 –

I never really noticed before, but it looks like the artist spent about eight seconds drawing that sink in MS Paint.
Accompanying every clip was a different piece of music, ranging from cheery doo-wop sung by electronic voices, to sad pan pipe music that could be used in a Princess Diana memorial video.

Another ‘game’ was this –

Some type of bird playing a xylophone. Or should I say, you are the bird playing the xylophone. 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 –

Creepyness aside, this set up was always great fun-

Well, that’s the last of the tat for this post. I might write more as I dredge up more memories of old software. Or I might spend my time investigating my ‘Price-Drop TV are trying to kill me’ theory.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you posted this!
    I had this bundle as a kid, I'm 20 now and have been trying to find these games by typing in small things that I remember from the games because I didn't know names etcetc, I managed to find Thinkin' Things and the Trudys and Sammys playhouse games over the course of a few months, but I had never been able to find the Casper game until now. I'd downloaded several Casper games in vain last year!
    Thanks! (pathetically cries nostalgic 90s tears)