Anthony Salter hosts a regular contest on his blog called Name That Game! He posts a screenshot from a game, and people are supposed to post the name of the game and the name of the developer. Well, Name That Game! #33 was a doozy. He posted three screenshots for three different obscure games, and in order to win, you not only needed to give the names of the three games and their developers, but you also had to explain the theme tying the three games together.
Well, no one submitted an email to him at first, so he gave some clues. The first two games were on the Apple 2, and the third game was on the ZX Spectrum. I haven’t seen any of the games, and so a new updated post was created with clue screenshots. The first game looked like a Pong clone and reminded me of Atari Olympics. The hint screenshot was easy for me to identify. I played Bill Budge’s Pinball Construction Set on my Apple 2 c+ for many hours as a child. It was one of the three games I had that made use of the joystick.
Well, I recognized the clue, but how was it supposed to help me identify the game in the 1st screenshot? I don’t know, but now I was in the contest. I did some searching and found that Bill Budge’s first game was a Pong clone called Penny Arcade. While I couldn’t find it in the Moby Games database, I did find an emulator site that offered the game for download. As soon as I got it running, I recognized it. Game #1 was successfully identified.
The other two games were a bit harder. I didn’t recognize either the original screenshots or the clue screenshots. Moby Games helped, but it involved a lot of searching. I eventually found a screenshot of Rings of Zilfin that looked very similar to the one in the contest. Reading about the author of the game, I found that the clue screenshot belonged to the author’s later game, The Magic Candle. In any case, Game #2 was successfully identified.
I found that the clue screenshot for Game #3 belonged to Jet Set Willy. So was the first screenshot Manic Miner? No, it didn’t look the same. For a bit, I couldn’t find any information other than that the author worked on Manic Miner, and so I tried looking up information on other people involved with him. There were a lot of dead ends, but then I found a new bio on the author that mentioned Styx. Sure enough, when I looked up that game, there was the screenshot! Game #3 was successfully identified.
And from all these clues, I found that the theme tying the three games together was that they were all games developed early in the careers of their authors.
I sent in the email, and I received a response that I had won! So what did I win? According to the contest details, I get a copy of Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2 Episode 1…which means I need to install Steam.
So I did. Long ago I said I wouldn’t install Steam because I didn’t like the idea of the so-called digital rights management being used. I’ve decided that I’m going to try Steam out and see how I like it.
Thanks for the challenging contest, Anthony!