Nostalgia Trip [1989]

Everybody 25 or younger raise your hand!

Everybody in the office is now looking at you weirdly because you raised your hand for no reason and myself as well because may have never heard about what I am going to show today. I myself just turned 27 two weeks ago, and it made me look back on my humble beginnings in gaming. Funny thing is, it all started the same year I was born in, back in 1989...

Plays Great - Less Filling

With over one half million units sold the Microsoft Entertainment Packs or MEP are the Gorillas of the Gaming Lite Jungle. You know what we mean: where does a gorilla sit? Wherever he wants to. If theories about large numbers of pirated games are true, the question is: how many copies of MEP are there? Who knows?

What we do know is that Microsoft Entertainment Packs are the leaders in the gaming lite category. The idea behind the MEPs is to provide quick gaming experiences from within the Windows environment for the traditional Microsoft customer. The marketing spiel on each box clearly signifies that Microsoft thinks the target machine for MEPs is the office computer. "No more boring coffee breaks." "You'll never get out of the office."Only a few minutes between meetings?
Get in a quick game of Klotski". Whether played at the office or at home, MEPs provide relaxing short term diversions from whatever it is that's stressing you out, be it boss, spouse or gorilla.

This was the beginning of a review on the Microsoft Entertainment Packs, an article published on page 74 of the Computer Gaming World Magazine from September '92.

Back in the day, the managers at Microsoft were concerned that their operating system’s high hardware requirements meant that people would only see it as a tool for large enterprises. To make Windows more appealing, Microsoft's “Entry Business” team was entrusted with the task of creating a series of games in their spare time. The project had almost no budget, and no major video game publishers got involved because they doubted Windows' legitimacy as a gaming platform. Who would have thought that PC gaming would overtake all other gaming platforms in later years?

The first time I ever came in contact with a video game of any kind was thanks to my dad. One day he took me to his office, where he worked as an architect, showed me around a bit and then sat me in front of his computer. Home personal computers weren't very common by that time, so sitting in front of a PC for the first time around 1993 was pretty awesome, even for a 4 year old. He showed me two floppy disks, the 3½-inch ones with 1.44MB capacity, each with about five to seven games on it.

I never had a keyboard under my fingers, and the first thing I did was to cut a field in half over and over to trap some balls in the smallest space possible, then transforming cats into cheese and trying to avoid a sewer spillage. How amazing is this? This is tons more fun than scribbling on the walls or sticking things up my nose. I needed more. There were four different Microsoft Entertainment Packs and a Best Of compilation, which was even available as a mail-in premium from Kelloggs. Let me show you my favourite games out of all different MEPs, since those are the games that put me on the rails toward years and years of awesome gaming experiences.

Pipe Dream

All sexual connotations aside, this is a game where you, as a plumber, have to lay down the pipe segments shown in the preview window left, so that you avoid the spilling of the green goo. You win the level by either making it as many block long as shown on the top right corner, or connecting the start with the end on higher levels. Every time you put down a pipe section, it costs you points, so you need to think a little bit if you want to reach those high scores, but don't waste too much time, because the pipes start filling after a few seconds. Oh and by the way, this game was designed and programmed by the guys at LucasFilm Games. Let the flow be with you.


After twenty years, this one got me hooked to the screen again instantly. A very simple idea; you have your field with a specific amount of "atoms" bouncing around. Your goal is to "cut off" at least 75% of the surface and trapping the balls in the remaining area, all without them touching the red or blue lines, otherwise you lose a life. The size of the field and the speed of the balls remains the same throughout all the levels, but for each level you get one more ball for you to dodge. This goes up to level 49 where, you guessed it, 50 atoms bounce around the field. I never made it that far, but I remember spending hours on end cutting and cutting and cutting. Simple yet entertaining.

Rodent's Revenge

Once upon a time there was this tiny little mouse, trapped in a hole inside a mountain of bricks, and every night it gets attacked by fierce and hungry cats. No, this isn't a Minecraft mod, this is Rodent's Revenge. Your goal is to trap as many cats as possible by pushing the blocks around them. Once the cat is trapped, it magically transubstantiates into cheese, which you then have to eat to get points. A very easy game that gets harder and harder the more blocks you have moved already, and remember, the cats can move diagonally while you can not, perks of being half cat and half cheese.

Maxwell's Maniac

From the same programmer as JezzBall, here's Maxwell's Maniac, a game for people that have stupidly huge amounts of patience. Every level in this game looks different and has a different amount of atoms, but of course with increasing difficulty. Your goal is to get all the balls from the blue half of the field over to the red side, they have to stay there and for that you need to position the gate accordingly. You can place some bricks randomly around the field as well but I never really understood how they are supposed to be used correctly. Moderately fun game, but that urge you get to still retry that one level you already screwed up 15 times in a row still got me to play it for hours.

Chips Challenge

This game. This is the one game I can call my first one. Chips Challenge is the game that got my dad and I so hooked we even started to map out the levels on paper, and I mean drawing every tile of a map so we would remember how to complete the level if we played at a later date. This is probably the most complex game from any of the Microsoft Entertainment Packs released. Your goal is to collect every gray chip scattered around a total of 149 levels, solving puzzles, gathering boots and different keys to open doors, jumping through teleports or over water traps and all that while evading a ton of monsters scattered throughout the maps.

I remember digging into the files of this game and finding all the unlock codes for every one of the levels so I wrote them down. I showed my dad all the codes and he was blow away because he never made it past level forty-something. Good times, good times. That's probably why this picture below exists. The German caption says: "The favourite toy of today's kids...!?". This was around 1995.

My dad knew what was going on, and now look at this blog, he wasn't wrong even in the slightest. So there's the proof, little DHR shaved and with hair playing Chips Challenge in front of our family's first home computer, an Olivetti PCS 386SX. This machine released back in 1991 had a whooping 40MB HDD of storage capacity, worked with two whole Megabytes of RAM and run on a pantie dropping 16Mhz Processor. That beast was worth over $2,500.- (M&Ms not included) and was probably running Windows NT 3.1 if not already Windows 95.

I can still remember the first piece of art I ever made in MS Paint, I have the picture burned into my retina, and how it took like two whole minutes to print in colour on our HP Deskjet, emptying half of the ink containers of course. I can also remember every game I've played ever since and how it changed my perception of gaming over time, made me like what I like today. Every game leaves a mark, every story, every funny moment you had with your friends and will have in the future, all began with this pack of games, and I think it's worth remembering. Game on!




  1. Correction:

    That Olivetti PCS 386SX including the VGA Monitor was worth 4.000.000 Italian Lira back in 1992 which, accounting for inflation, would be $5.000 USD in 2017.



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