Ah, the 90’s. They were a weird time for all of us. Boy bands were a thing. Fanny packs were a legitimate fashion accessory. If you didn’t write it down in a gel pen, did you really write it down at all? And, for gaming, in particular, things got especially weird.
I’m not just talking about the trend of FMV games (that’s an article for another time), or the impossible puzzles presented to us in the ever popular point and click genre (literally how was I supposed to know to pick up this random object hours ago? And why are you punishing me for it now?). Instead, I want to remind you all of Microsoft’s Entertainment Packs.
Microsoft Entertainment Packs?
They were collections of games intended for Windows. Some of them will be intimately familiar to you. Perhaps Golf, Minesweeper or Chip’s Challenge. Others may leave you with horrible nightmares, filled with Yetis chasing you down mountains, knowing you can never escape his cold grasp and in the end your fate is to be eaten alive, horribly, a thought that will linger with you well into your adult years and the reason you never learned to ski, like SkiFree.
So, in their wisdom and with the original Xbox being but a glimmer in their eye, Microsoft decided they wanted to take advantage of the video game craze and release their entertainment pack outside of Windows. Specifically, for Nintendo’s Gameboy Colour. Or, such was the case with the first release, as you’ll soon see.
Two titles were released: The Best of Entertainment Pack, and Microsoft Puzzle Collection. They contained the following:
The Best of Entertainment Pack (2001):
- Life Genesis
- Tut’s Tomb
Microsoft Puzzle Collection (1997):
- Colour Collision
- Finty Flush
- Muddled Casino
- Rat Poker
- Spring Weekend
So, a lot of forgettable games, but a few in there that you might recognize. And what’s particularly interesting, is that despite the first release being in 1997, the second one came in 2001. Which, as I’m sure many of you are aware, is the year the original Xbox was released to the world.
Though one could argue that perhaps it may have been a little more intentional. Given that this was at the end of the Gameboy’s life, with the Gameboy Advance also being released in 2001. Perhaps, Microsoft didn’t want to release a game for something that would offer a little more competition. And, a release on a dying console would draw less attention.
But that also raises the question… Why release it at all?
It will be forever a mystery. But, the pack itself is readily available online if you wanted to purchase a copy and find out for yourself, as well as owning a bizarre little piece of history.
How does it play?
As for how it plays… Surprisingly well! The main menu to select each game is, and I think this is adorable, set out like a Windows 95 style desktop. Nostalgic teal background, start bar, icons for each game, everything. The games themselves play surprisingly well. Perhaps because they’re ports of DOS games, which were just as simple. But, I found myself playing variations of Solitaire and getting frustrated at puzzle games in the same way I did as a kid.
There’s no slowdowns, no awkwardness, the controls are fluid and simple, and at no point did I lament the lack of a mouse or the size of the screen. Which I suppose is a testament to the simpleness of old DOS games. But in saying that, the biggest testament to said old DOS games, is that I played it for about 5 minutes to write this, had my fill, and now I don’t really want to touch it again ever.
Still, it makes for a lot of fun and a good talking point.