ScummVM - Beneath a Steel Sky

After all the comments from a recent post suggesting I should try ScummVM for my gaming pleasures, I finally got around to doing it late last week.

For those who don't know (and that included me two weeks ago),

ScummVM is a program which allows you to run certain classic graphical point-and-click adventure games, provided you already have their data files. The clever part about this: ScummVM just replaces the executables shipped with the game, allowing you to play them on systems for which they were never designed!

It's also regularly one of the top 25 projects on SourceForge.

Sounds great! It'll mean I can finally get rid of that old Windows 98 machine we have. I want it !

Now with Windows and Mac OS X, I've become used to going to a web site, downloading the binary file, then double clicking on the small icon in the browser's download manager to Open it, typically in an install wizard. Click on "Next", a few times, wait for the slidey thing to stop moving (stop me if I'm getting too technical) and you're done. The software is installed.

Ubuntu makes this even easier. I've now trained myself to click on System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager, and look in there first. This is the GUI front-end to the apt packaging system. Currently there are 19424 packages available to me, and so far, I've installed 1171 of them (or they were already installed as part of the initial O/S installation).

I clicked on the "Search" button and typed in "ScummVM". It returned three hits; one for the ScummVM game engine and the other two for a couple of freely available games that use the engine. One of these was for "Beneath a Steel Sky", a game that was recommended in the comments on my previous post.

I selected that one, marked it for installation. It asked me if I'd like to also install its dependencies (like the ScummVM game engine). I said yes by clicking on the "Mark" button. I then hit the "Apply" button. About a minute later everything was installed. It's hard to see how it could be easier.

I now have two new entries under my Applications->Games menu. Being the bold reckless daredevil that I am, I just clicked on the "Beneath a Steel Sky" entry and was immediately into the game.

Oh, the chunky graphics! Note that this is an old game which expects to run at 640x480 resolution. I adjusted to full-screen mode and the graphics got even chunkier. No matter. The game is still fun.

There is about a ten minute opening sequence which gives a good introduction to the game, and then you're into the action. Cool. I love the point-click-move interaction style that I'd used in Curse of Monkey Island

I then went over to another computer, found a decent FAQ and Walkthough and started playing for real. Whereas I don't mind stumbling around trying everything, Duncan, our eight year old son gets bored and needs to keep moving.

(Who'd have thought that F5 would bring up the menu where you can save or quit the game? This must be from the days before they "standardized" on Esc or F1).

When we have finished Grim Fandango, we'll really get into this one.

I've also got Monkey Island I and II on CDROM (for Windows). It'll be interesting to try to "just replace the executables shipped with the game" and get those up'n'running too.

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