The ISA-Bus

One blog to bind them all.

Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Schenk & Horn Tetris games

Nowadays, Lars Schenk and Frank Horn produce a software that creats and prints barcodes ActiveBarcode. Before 2004, they ran a company called ShareDirect which published shareware. In 2002, there was a school shooting in Erfurt with 17 dead. As a reaction, the German parliament decided, two years later, on tougher laws to prevent access of minors to violent video games (don’t you love politicians’ logic?). Every computer game sold in Germany henceforth had to have an official age rating, a costly process, too costly for a small shareware company. ShareDirect closed down, the domains are for sale, currently they redirect to, one of Lars Schenk’s hobbies.

ShareDirect published many games by Digital Nightmares, but also several programs Lars Schenk and Frank Horn wrote themselves. Among these are four Windows Tetris games with 256-color graphics that are interesting because some of them are variants rarely covered by shareware authors.

ColorStar 2000

ColorStar 2000 is the least unique, it is just Columns, which is not exactly rare, still it is only one of two 256-color Columns for Windows 3.1 that I know (The other is Columns Max, by the author and in the style of Bricklayer).

Magic Words

Magic Words is Wordtris, avery rarely implemented variant on any platform. With the same update I uploaded a demo for a game called Wordtriss, but that demo allows only 45 seconds of gameplay, so it hardly counts.

Pogo's Dreams

Pogo’s Dreams is Puyo Puyo, not something you encounter very often either, though there are some Columns clones (like Gemstorm) with a certain Puyo Puyo feel. This is the real thing—without the competitive aspects of course.


But the most interesting and uncommon is WinBlocker. It is based on Quarth, a 1989 Konami arcade machine only ever ported to Japanese platforms. It combined Tetris with shoot ’em ups: You shoot single squares into the dropping U- and L-shaped pieces, they vanish as soon as a square or rectangle is full. Apart from this unique gameplay Quarth is interesting for having a certain steampunk feel before the word was even invented. The export version, Block Hole, was devoid of the steampunk elements. Quarth never got particularly well known outside Japan.

These games do not need any DLLs. They have two nag screens when you start them and one when you exit. According to the help files there are also some ads during gameplay, but I never encountered them. I uploaded them in the course of a larger update with twelve new Windows 3.1 Tetris games. There are now 40 in total, and I’ve uploaded nearly everything I know about and have on my hard drive.


Dominoes for Windows

I uploaded some domino games today, as well as a puzzle game that uses domino pieces. Here’s a short overview. I have included, as the last item, a game that has been up for a while but fits the category.

Dom31 Dom95

Dom31 and Dom95 by Bud Baker (SpinnerBaker Software) are basically the same game, just one’s the 16-bit and the other the 32-bit version, and the domino graphics available in the shareware versions are different. The background color can be chosen.

The pieces are rather small, which may be annoying on a large screen, but on a 640×480 desktop (which is what the games were designed for) it’s perfect. You will always be able to see all the played pieces, especially since the interface takes up very little space.


Brian Colton’s Dominoes leave less room for the pieces, you may have to scroll to see them all.

Dominoes For Windows

Greg DeBacker’s Dominoes For Windows feature nice large stone graphics and might be a good game for larger monitors—if the window was resizeable or could be maximized. Alas, it can’t.

Other games using domino pieces

Domino Solitaire

Domino Solitaire by Astro Computing is a puzzle game. Place all the domino pieces on the board so that the values match.


Magic by Carlos Fragio is another puzzle game. It challenges you to build a magic squarefrom domino pieces. This is the only one of these games that is not from the USA, it is from the Dominican Republic.

An English love for Patience

At the moment, there are 67 Windows 3.1 card games, and a few more for other platforms—too few perhaps, too early to make any theories based on statistics, still I couldn’t help but notice the relatively high number of games from the UK. Due to the card game uploads, when I reached 1300 downloads a few days ago, the number of Windows 3.1 from the UK games was for the first time higher than those from Germany.

A closer look shows a few more interesting things. First, this is even more true for solitaire (Patience) games. I have, for example, quite a number of card games from Italy. Most of them are Italian national games like Scopa, one is a Bridge program, not a single one solitaire. Of the four German card games, only one is a solitaire.

And nearly all of these UK games are from England, even more specifically, from rural England. Only for one game, HDS Hi-Lo, the author has given an address in Scotland, and this is not a solitaire game. None has given an address in London, or any other large city.

Interesting. I’ll revisit this topic when the sample is larger.

A note to the fans of DOS games

There hasn’t been much for you lately, I know. It’s down to one out of ten or something like this. I just wanted to assure you that I’m not giving them up. The next hundred or two hundred games will probably still be mostly Windows games, since I’m currently uploading at a rate of a dozen a day, that might not take all too long. Then there’s bound to be a DOS flood again.

Lots of new Windows 3.1 card games

I uploaded 26 more Windows 3.1 card games to Download Central in the past few days. The total number is now 67. They are no longer all listed on one page, but by alphabet like most of the other categories.

Due to the high number of updates, I did not tweet or enter them into the newsfeed separately, I wrote two log entries here and here.

The latest surprise: Bow and Arrow

I’ve written before how I’m often completely taken by surprise which games turn out to be popular (that is, downloaded often) and which not. My latest surprise is Bow and Arrow, which I added a bit more than two months ago and which has now risen to quite some popularity. At the moment, it is #8 among the Windows 3.1 games and #6 among the new downloads. And once again, I have no idea why.

500 Windows 3.1 downloads

There are now exactly 500 Windows 3.1 downloads on Download Central, apps and games of all kinds combined. The navigational alphabet of the other games section is now complete as well, every letter index page has one. There are at least three games for each letter. The only one that had still been missing had been U. There are generally few games starting with U, it’s a strange thing.

Acid, smileys, ecstasy: Raver culture in games

In the late 80s there was something—a movement, a fad, a subculture, or whatever—that was known in the UK as the Second Summer of Love. Its music was acid house, or sometimes acid techno (acid in this case referring to anything created with the Roland TB-303). Its drug was ecstasy. Its parties were called raves. Its symbol was the smiley, usually against a black background, sometimes with a bloody streak, possibly as a result of the media hysteria that surrounded it. Okay, so this is probably an over-simplification. But I’ve never been part of it in any way, I’m just interested in its influence on computer gaming.

Read more of this post

Five popular German games

These are just a couple of games from Germany that are downloaded more often than others, not necessarily the five most popular, that changes from month to month anyway. Click on a thumbnail to get to the download page.

Giana Sisters

The Great Giana Sisters was a 1987 Commodore 64 game, soon ported to Amiga, Atari ST, and Amstrad CPC. The graphics, essentially the same on all platforms, were by Manfred Trenz. It was a clone of Super Mario Bros, too close for comfort in the eyes of Nintendo, who pressured the publisher (Rainbow Arts) to withdraw the game from sale. A planned ZX version not even hit the shelves.

Ten years later Rainer Sinsch started remaking the game, which had achieved a sort of cult status, for PC. At the Mekka & Symposium 1998, his remake was the winning entry in the 32k game competition. A larger version with better graphics soon followed. The games use an uncommon 360×240 resolution (the only other game I know to use it is from Germany as well, it’s Albion). In 1999 Rainer Sinsch started working on a Windows game that sticks less strictly to the Commodore 64 original, Giana Worlds

Sokoban 97

This is simply Sokoban, nothing else, and as such it is probably the most beautiful implementation ever written for Windows 3.1. It has a nice and fitting Japanese touch about it. The Window background shows the kanji for Sokoban (倉庫番) and the splash screen shows the release year in Japanese style: 平成九年, year nine of the Heisei period.


It’s a strange thing with Shisen-Sho. It’s a Japanese invention, found first on a Tamtex arcade machine, but nowhere has it been as popular as in Germany. More than two out of three of the implementations I’ve come across so far are from there. Maybe it’s because it fits the concept of the arcade puzzle so well.

This game, simply called Shisen-Sho was written ten years after the original boom (which was mostly an Atari thing) by Martin Fiedler. It’s a 32-bit Windows program, has functional yet beautiful graphics and six board sizes to choose from.


MegaPlex is a remake of Supaplex, the somewhat legendary Boulder Dash in a computer. It uses the graphics of Infotron, an earlier Mac remake or port.

Dave Dude 95

The 95 in Dave Dude 95 refers to the year, not to the operating system: This is a 16-bit Windows game. It is probably the only LucasArts-style graphic adventure game written for that platform, the others I’ve seen so far are more like Mystery House and don’t really use the graphics in gameplay.

From character graphics to Windows

Just a small thought: On the PC, games with character graphics and the early Windows games (3.x era) had a lot in common.

I noticed it again when I got interested in Yahtzee/Yatzy type games. There are quite a number of them for DOS, mainly from the 80s, and only a single one of them is graphic. And of course, this type of game was immensely popular on 16-bit Windows.