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Mitch Meyran [games]

Free software games, the return [gnu/linux] [games]

All my previous posts were pretty much technical in essence, and several were related to my work habits: 3D desktop productivity enhancements, virtual machines, etc.

This time, I’ll go back to something else entirely: GAMES!


You miss the mustachied plumber? Why not get a penguin or a blob instead? They can jump too, you know.


SuperTux is a run’n’jump game that initially wanted to imitate an early incarnation of Super Mario Bros. Milestone 1 was actually a nice attempt at recreating the experience of the first NES opus: it handled sweet, was actually fast and smooth, difficulty was scaling nicely, and the bonus islands’ levels were here for those aficionados that like it hard.

Milestone 2 isn’t out yet; 1.9 is, though, and it adds some stuff to SuperTux: level bosses, multi-directional scrolling, extra moves (they are here, but have no real effect yet), better interaction with environment (building blocks, wind, switches, springs, slopes...) will provide you with a few more hours of fun. It also makes use of a joypad, and it is actually better for this kind of game. Still, there are a few bugs: strange slowdowns can REALLY throw your timing out of whack... Still, it means hours of fun and level stats add a nice replay factor.

Milestone 1 was either SDL or OpenGL for graphics; further versions will require OpenGL. However, on fast systems Mesa should be able to handle it even without 3D hardware.

Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid

Blob Wars: Metal Blob Solid takes place in a very... interesting world: suffice to say, you end up as Bob, a spherical, yellow, blob killing-machine (with the obligatory red bandanna). It plays pretty much like, say, Coolspot coupled with Duke Nukem 2, with simplistic animation and graphics but multiple targets, a large array of varied weapons, complex environments, and a large replay factor (if only to increase your max combo—heh).

What to say... I started playing it recently, and as such I haven’t conducted a very thorough test. It is, however, complete and now only open to bug fixing. Rejoice though, since Blob Wars 2: Blob and Conquer is reaching late beta stage and adds 3D, auto target, several new enemies and much more action. I haven’t tested it yet, but screenshots show it to look quite nice.

Metal Blob Solid can be played on pretty much any system; Blob and Conquer will require 3D hardware.

Gentlemen, start! Your! Engines!

Yeah, what he said. Squeeze that gas pedal dudes and dudettes!


A retake and improvement upon TuxKart, SuperTuxKart features characters from the platform game SuperTux and many more tracks than its predecessor. All in mapped 3D, it implements weapons, different capabilities for each driver, power-ups and gotchas. It is best played with analog joysticks, you can do wheelies, tracks go up and down... Mariokart on steroids.

It is, however, not perfect: sometimes the kart will be completely out of control, you can see the track “build” in front of you at some angles, the karts drivers are completely static, and physics are not perfect (it sometimes takes ages to fall down to the track and recover either acceleration or steering—or both—after a wheelie or a bump).

3D hardware required.

TORCS (The Open Racing Car Simulator)

Torcs is a highly realistic racing game with very nice graphics, nice sounds, very complete physics and programmable AI. It is somewhere between Need For Speed and Colin McRae Rally, as it is fun, but highly realistic—which can be a bit daunting for gamers who don’t know how to handle a “real” car. At first, you will crash... a lot. You’d better get your steering wheel out of the mothballs—you’ll actually drive better with it!

Requires not too old 3D hardware.

PlanetPenguin Racer

Started as TuxRacer (which then tried to turn commercial and subsequently disappeared into oblivion), PlanetPenguin Racer pushes Tux on snowy slopes; gather herrings and gain momentum, and beat your best score—or at least, manage to finish the level...

No engine here, but it doesn’t mean Tux can’t go fast (200kmph isn’t too bad for a penguin, is it?).

3D hardware required for enjoyable play.


Do you miss Tetris? Well here, you’ll get the latest in puzzle and reflex games. And let’s get started with the all-time free software winner, I name...

Frozen Bubble!

I don’t need to introduce it. It’s been the most played game on free software systems. Winner of most (if not all) free software oriented magazines’ best game awards since it came out in 2002, it has very nice music, very funny graphics, redefines “addiction” and even caters to colour blind people.

For those of you living under a rock: Frozen Bubble is basically a reimplementation of the 1994 Taito hit Puzzle Bobble, where two cute dinosaurs sent coloured bubbles onto the screen and you had to match colours so as to clean up the screen. Here it’s a goofy penguin, but it’s still fun.

Frozen Bubble 2 is out. Freeze your opponents over a network, enjoy remastered music, 3D generated graphisms (from the very same Ayo73 who created the first opus’ pictures), new transition effects. Frozen Bubble, impeding productivity since 2002, will now saturate your network too.

And yes, you’ll still love the pathetic “No!” the penguin makes when you lose.


Remember Marble Madness? What would it look like in 3D? Here’s the answer: Neverball. Relaxing music, pure 3D graphics, ultimate difficulty. You use the mouse to tilt the board, and make the ball roll. Too slow, you may not jump some chasms; too fast you may go overboard. Frustrating as hell and incredibly addictive, you’d better have an “ultimate frag” mouse (or at least, a well cleaned and calibrated one) to play this delicate game.


Still looking for the amulet of Yendor? Other challenges await you sire. Choose your Quest.

Battle for Wesnoth

Turn-based strategy game taking place in the fantasy world of Wesnoth—meaning you’ll get elves, sorcerers, undead and other such pleasant things, you can increase your stats on ALL the characters (if they don’t get killed too soon) over the course of your missions. Reasonably difficult with a nice tutorial, nice music and nice graphics, it has reached final some time ago (meaning it’s stable). Further versions add missions, characters and some engine refinements.

You don’t need special hardware to run it, but still you may prefer a large screen and a hefty processor—and lots of free time.

Final Fantasy: Endless Nova

That one actually runs on Windows using RPG Maker 2000, a well-known resource set and engine for 2D adventure games. If you like Final Fantasy 1 to 6 by Square, you’ll enjoy Endless Nova too—graphically it’s a bit poor, but the story and battle system are innovative enough that you’ll find it interesting. Music is a medley of nice MIDI retakes of various FF game musics plus a few extras.

Sadly, I haven’t yet found a way to make it run under GNU/Linux...

Please note that I haven’t tried to find the amulet of Yendor yet, as such I’ll only mention the various Net Hack incarnations in passing—here, done :P

Mindless fraggin’

Grunt. Aim. Fire. Heh.


You liked id Software’s Doom? You’ll love Cube. Using a souped-up Doom-like engine (adding slopes and 3D props), it just frags. No, seriously! Best enjoyed in multiplayer, several missions are tough enough due to tricky AI and puzzling level design that you can frag alone or in groups.

Cube likes 3D hardware; it may run in software emulation mode, but I won’t guarantee it.

Sauerbraten uses the Cube2 engine, which is closer to the Quake engine—on steroids too: High-range Dynamic Lighting, all 3D, pixel-shaded water effects... Some screenshots are just plain breathtaking.

The Cube engines allow in-game level editing—as such many levels look real nice due to their modifications being done in “real time” with instant testing being possible. Edit, save, frag.

Of course, for that, Cube2 requires a recent 3D card able to handle pixel shading.

Chromium B.S.U

Stressed out? In need for an adrenaline rush? Play Chromium BSU! It’s a simple, OpenGL-accelerated vertical space scroller with a few twists that make it quite unique. It never ends: the single music track is brutal; graphisms are simple and efficient; it requires 3D acceleration; enemy types are few but pretty much cover the spectrum of space shooters in all its NeoGeo-like greatness.

What’s so unique about it? For starters, limited ammo; only the pea-shooter (largely insufficient past level 2) is unlimited. You must not let an enemy past you (you lose a life if you do). You don’t have “super” weapons, but you can self destruct (and wipe the screen clean). It is sometimes better than to waste ammo, can you imagine?

Resolutely innovating in those aspects, the game can be played again and again—even though you always eventually die.

It is recommended to play it at the end of the day after a stressful work day. Having a kitten to cuddle afterward gets rid of side effects (twitchy fingers and shaking knees notably).


One of my first articles in FSM was about GNU/Linux and games. You know what? Free gamin’ keeps gettin’ better.


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