The Return of Mario and Pac-Man

Shopping for Software in Chennai

Earlier in the year I took a business trip to India. I'd been managing an offshore team there for something like two years but hadn't met most of them. I won't go into details about the trip too much here. I mentioned to them that I wanted to do a little shopping wherever they sold software/electronics. I wasn't looking for anything specific, just curious to see what was out there. They advised against trying "local" places and instead took me to Citi Center mall. It was a bit of a letdown because it was indistinguishable from a mall in the United States.

My favorite store there was one that looked almost exactly like a Barnes & Noble. Once you got past the books there was a huge selection of software & and video games there too. If anyone's curious, as of early 2009 the PlayStation 2 appears to be the dominant system in southern India. Their PC selection was much wider, a mix of legal & bootleg software. Maybe "bootleg" isn't the right term, it's that sort of gray space stuff you see at computer shows or small shops. I didn't have to look at it long before finding something that caught my eye - The Return of Mario and Pac-Man.

Front Cover

Front Cover

Obviously this product wasn't endorsed by Nintendo or Namco, that much isn't gray. It's extremely unlikely it passed the Games for Windows certification either. Still, at the low price of Rs.99 ($2 at the time) I couldn't turn it down.


Back Cover

Back Cover

Looking at the game list on the back it's apparently a collection of shareware games that were scraped off old BBSs or the internet. Depending on the licensing of the games that may or may not be legal. If you're already using trademarks illegally then what's the difference in breaking some shareware licenses?


Unboxing the CD

Unboxing the CD

Here's the no-frills packaging. The artwork on the CD was more than I expected.



Setup

Title screen

Title screen

There's no way I was going to install this on a PC I ever planned to use again. So I cloned an XP virtual machine to try this out. Here's the wacky title screen.


Mario Menu

Mario Menu

The main menu for the Mario games. Clicking on any of these launches the installer for the game.


Pac-Man Menu

Pac-Man Menu

The equally as festive Pac-Man menu.


Wallpaper Menu

Wallpaper Menu

Wallpaper, provided to you by Google image search.


Install Process

Install Process

Looks like they put as little effort as possible into this collection. They're just shelling out to the .exe for each game, the way they're constructing the command is causing it to be caught by the browser.


Virus Scan

Virus Scan

Instead of running each installer from this colorful UI, I copied the entire CD to the virtual hard drive. Before trying anything I ran a virus scan to see what it found. Only one was caught but I had a strong hunch that more were hiding in compressed form just waiting to be installed.



Mario Games

Super Mario All Stars - Title Screen

Super Mario All Stars - Title Screen

Alright, I'm going to look at these games in no particular order. Many of them didn't work so don't expect to see everything from those menus above. I was half-expecting Super Mario All Stars to launch a SNES emulator with the ROM but nope, it's some kind of Russian remake...


Super Mario All Stars - Game Play

Super Mario All Stars - Game Play

...and a very bad one at that.


Dr. Mario 3

Dr. Mario 3

I thought Dr. Mario 3 would be a puzzle game hacked to look like Dr. Mario but I was wrong again. This is a side-scroller that is completely impossible to control.


Lost in Subcon

Lost in Subcon

This looks like an example from a game programming book. Note that the title screen & exe name don't match the text in the window title bar.


Mario

Mario

I think I saw this in the mid-90s, it was a DOS Mario clone that made the rounds on the early web. It was bad then and hasn't aged well.


Mario Battle Title Screen

Mario Battle Title Screen

Now for a game that was written in 15 minutes by a junior high student while bored in his computer class.


Mario Battle Game Play

Mario Battle Game Play

Two sprites enter, one sprite leaves


Mario Games Title Screen

Mario Games Title Screen

Next-up is a collection of random Mario-themed games that may have been written in an old version of Visual Basic... possibly while hunched over a game programming book (which is the case for most of these games).


Mario Games - Toad's Bouncy Adventure

Mario Games - Toad's Bouncy Adventure

I could not bring myself to try everything in this collection. So I went with the one with the best name - Toad's Bouncy Adventure. Based on the title it could have been so much worse or so much better depending on your point of view.


Mario in Worlds Unknown

Mario in Worlds Unknown

This was almost playable, probably the least terrible of anything so far. Don't get me wrong, it was still really terrible.


Mario VGA

Mario VGA

Here's a very old shareware remake of the original Mario Bros. It totally crashed the entire OS.


Mario Maze

Mario Maze

What's that? Another example from a game programming book maybe?


Mario Ping Pong

Mario Ping Pong

I wrote a version of Pong in an afternoon that is considerably better than this one.


Super Mario Epic

Super Mario Epic

A choppy mash-up of various Mario games. This CD would have been so much better if they just went the ROM & emulator route. It would have been the same, or less, effort as what they actually did and the quality would be 100x better.



Pac-Man Games

Pac-Man 3D

Pac-Man 3D

This was alright except the ghosts made absolutely no effort to catch Pac-Man. It feels like something that was a class project.


FS Pac-Man

FS Pac-Man

Another old shareware game, I'd say this is the highest quality game on the entire CD.


Pac-Man in the office

Pac-Man in the office

An interesting little version of Pac-Man that was probably made while someone was blowing-off work. Heck, the boss can't tell difference between the source code to Pac-Man and the source code to the lifeless accounting system you're supposed to be updating.


Pac-Boy

Pac-Boy

Someone was apparently a fan of the Killer Instinct 3D rendered sprite style.


Pac-Mania II Install Screen

Pac-Mania II Install Screen

Another great example of low effort, they included a game that expires after 3 plays.


Pac-Mania II Game Play

Pac-Mania II Game Play

Then again, I challenge anyone to suffer through this game more than twice.


Pac-Quest

Pac-Quest

This is by far the weirdest game on the collection. I don't see even a remote relationship to Pac-Man. Come to think of it, the title screen said "Pack-Quest" with a "k", not "Pac-Quest".


Pac-Man Ryvita Screen Saver

Pac-Man Ryvita Screen Saver

Last up is this blatant piece of spyware. At least it's honest about it.



The Aftermath

All the new desktop icons after installing everything

Desktop Icons

I hate programs that install an icon on the desktop. Any programmer who does this without asking should have their hands cut off. Here's all the clutter that was put on the desktop from these games. Is Lycos still around? I lost track of which web portals went under.


Results of a virus scan after installing everything

Virus Scan

Now for the real moment of truth, running a virus scan after trying everything on the disc. A total of 10 infected files were found although many of the viruses are the same. This is why virtualization is perhaps the greatest advancement in software this decade, no damage whatsoever to an actual PC.


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