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The Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack – Windows

The Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack – Windows

Platform: PC (Windows exclusively)

Developer: Microsoft

Publisher: Microsoft

Release Date (NA): 1995

Genre: Compilation, Casual

Nerd Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Nerdberry

Welcome to the late 1980s / early 1990s. Next level technology was already in everyone’s homes, but on the horizon was something greater: games in full three dimensions with realistic lifelike graphics. We knew it was coming. We saw a glimpse of it in movies like The Lawnmower Man (ugh), but all we could do was dream of the future and live in the here and now. That’s what us gamers did. We bought Sega Genesises and Super Nintendos and maybe a Game Boy! But hey… Let’s be realistic. Video games aren’t for everyone. The depth of immersion into a series like The Legend of Zelda might not appeal to your everyday office man. Surely there is something out there for the desk jockeys who want to casually blow off some steam…

Enter Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows.

Everyone was using a Windows operating system in the average 1989 office workplace. Windows is currently a great operating system for doing ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in 2018, but there was a time when Windows was viewed as a business tool and ONLY a business tool. It didn’t necessarily do much for the home computer owners unless they were using it for work. As story has it, the folks at Microsoft wanted to convince more offices and home computer owners that they had more to offer than the competition. So in 1990, Microsoft began selling their Windows Entertainment Pack which housed the now legendary Minesweeper and the already world-renowned Tetris among others. The casual compilation pack was a runaway success spurring numerous sequels and a “Greatest Hits” disk titled The Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack.

To understand what The Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack is, let’s look back at the original Microsoft Entertainment Pack. This software was unique in that it could operate entirely on Windows instead of needing to run through DOS, ultimately acting as a showcase of Windows’ gaming potential. Over the course of six years, Microsoft would release four total collections and a BEST OF pack with the majority of those games being developed in-house while the others were ported from various other systems such as Atari Lynx, Amiga, Commodore 64, etc. This near-exclusive games offering likely played some small part in Microsoft’s almost complete market dominance throughout much of the 1990s, but maybe that’s just the optimistic-gamer in me!

As I previously mentioned in my opening paragraph, video games aren’t for everyone. If that is true, then why would something like these Entertainment Packs be attractive to said non-gamers? I cannot say for sure, but if I had to guess, Microsoft’s marketing of these “games” clearly helped it feel slightly different from “video games.” Essentially these Entertainment Packs were just collections of digital puzzles and digital card games. After all, what exactly is a jigsaw puzzle? What is Solitaire? These are famously casual forms of passing time and exercising one’s brain muscles…

… sooooo…

…Finally a game for the everyday office man/woman! But wait, it’s more than just one game, it’s a collection of games. So there’s likely at least one game in there that hits your sweet spot. The Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack features 13 games, many of which anybody born in the 1980s or earlier is likely very familiar with. I think a lot of these once popular games have been forgotten / lost to time, but some of us remember. Regardless, you will instantly recognize games like Taipei (Solitaire Mahjong) and Freecell, the latter of which is now one of the world’s most popular games of Solitaire. Notably missing is Minesweeper, but by the time most folks had purchased this Best Of compilation, Minesweeper was actually a free pack-in game pre-loaded on the operating system. THAT is the level of influence these myriad mini-games had on the public.

While every single one of these games has a common thread of being a game in which you work towards a higher score (i.e. Pipe Dream, Rodent’s Revenge, etc) or simply just try to win (i.e. Freecell, Golf, Mahjong, etc), one game stands apart from the rest: Chip’s Challenge. Folks around the Nerd Bacon office will tell you how annoying I am about this game as I nonchalantly squeeze it into many conversations in an effort to spread awareness. Still to this day, my sister and I are the only two people I know who have ever even heard of Chip’s Challenge, much less played it and beaten it. It’s a shame because I just played it a few minutes ago and it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle game.


The Lineup

Chip’s Challenge

Originally released on Atari Lynx, later released on Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4

An absolutely brilliant and brutally challenging tile puzzle game where you must traverse almost 150 levels collecting all of the computer chips and reaching the “finish line.” Yes… 150 levels (149 to be exact). This game was mostly overlooked by the public as its initial development and release was on the ill-fated Atari Lynx. Some levels are a breeze, others will make you question if the game can truly be beaten. Considering the game’s lack of popularity and a lack of internet service in my home growing up, you would be hardpressed to get any cheat codes, walkthroughs, or assistance of any kind. After each level is beaten you are given a short password. My sister and I kept a few pieces of paper in the drawer with ALL the passwords because as a team, we beat this game! And we were so proud of ourselves! Granted my experience is mostly nostalgic, I promise you that Chip’s Challenge is one of the most rewarding games to beat.

Dr. Black Jack

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4

This is simply just a blackjack card game where you play against the computer. But a notable bit of humor is in the Help file for the game it reads, “If your losses stack up in this game, you only need to reset it. If your losses stack up in a casino, you may need to reset your life.” Indeed.

Freecell

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2

Freecell is a form of Solitaire that was often referred to as Microsoft Freecell. Its legacy as an incredible single player card game was so strong that it became a pack-in title pre-loaded for Windows 95 and every Windows iteration since, although currently its availability is through a free download!

Golf

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 1

This is the solitaire card game version, not to be confused with Fuji Golf from Microsoft Entertainment Pack 3.

JezzBall

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4

This game… THIS GAME… Is frustratingly addictive! You’ll want nothing more than to keep playing, no matter how often you die! You have a tiny little screen with these cool balls bouncing around. You must black out 75% of the screen in order to advance to the next level. In order to black out the screen, you must close off certain portions of the screen WITHOUT having a JezzBall in that square. That’s it. Sounds boring, right? But it’s really a lot of fun!

Pipe Dream

Originally released on Amiga, later ported to Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2

A fun game in which you must lay out the pipe pieces as they are presented to you to move the “goo” through a set number of pipes in order to finish the level. It can get maddeningly frantic, but one can easily burn 10 minutes or more in a playthrough while waiting for a meeting or on a short lunchbreak. Worth the chaos. Plus, this ported version is much easier on the eyes (see original below).

original Pipe Dream image

Rodent’s Revenge

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2

A decent time-waster of a game that doesn’t require tons of brain energy. You simply move the blocks around on the screen in order to trap the cats into a single unmovable pattern, trapping them and turning them into cheese. You eat the cheese. More cats appear. Game continues. Nothing crazy but still a fun way to pass time!

SkiFree

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 3

SkiFree is a simple skiing game. There are slolems and jumps and trees and a cute dog and other things, but mainly you just ski freely down the hill for no purpose other than “just for fun.” Many folks out there likely remember SkiFree because of the abominable snow monster that devours you if you stray too far off the path or get too far past the game. In fact, as a child, half the fun was trying to evade the monster!

TaiPei

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 1

TaiPei is a solitaire version of the popular Chinese tile game Mahjong. This game was kind of tough to figure out as a kid, but once you learn it, it’s a “duh, that’s not so hard.” It reminds me of games like Freecell.

TetraVex

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 3

TetraVex is a computer version of the popular Japanese puzzle numbers game Sudoku. It has its own variations but the concept is Sudoku.

Tetris

Originally released on Commodore 64 after being imported from Soviet Russia, ported to the Microsoft Entertainment Pack 1

This game doesn’t really need an introduction. Tetris is possibly the world’s most recognizable video game… EVER MADE. I wrote a nice review early in my game-reviewing career on why the Game Boy version is the definitive version. Check it out here.

TriPeaks

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 3

Another solitaire patience card game like Golf. This game is a well-known solitaire game today even though it was originally created by a Windows software developer FOR the third Entertainment Pack.

Tut’s Tomb

From Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2

And yet another solitaire card game, Tut’s Tomb is more commonly known outside of the Windows world as Pyramid.


JUST FOR FUN

Just for fun let’s tally up the game’s included and see which Microsoft Entertainment Pack featured the most number of inclusions on the BEST OF collection!

Microsoft Entertainment Pack 1: Three games

Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2: Four games

Microsoft Entertainment Pack 3: Three games

Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4: Three games

So clearly they chose to go pretty even across the board with Microsoft Entertainment Pack 2 edging out the competition!

CONCLUSION

While this compilation / collection floppy disk set featured 13 of the best games from the previous four Entertainment Packs, it’s clear that the card games were the heavy favorite with FIVE of the thirteen games being of some card variation. In my opinion, the inclusion of Chip’s Challenge makes this a VERY strong collection, but the inclusion of Fuji Golf would have rounded it out to make The Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack feel just a little more “video gamey.”

 

Many have forgotten about how these classic games came about, but many of us still fondly remember wasting the days away on their family computer as a child trying to beat their sibling’s high score in games like JezzBall, Chip’s Challenge, and Tetris to name a few. As a whole, it is a strong collection, and although these games and the concept of such a compilation is entirely outdated by today’s standards, its place in gaming history – and more specifically in computer history – are notable and respected in its own right. I don’t know how much fun an experienced gamer would have playing a game like SkiFree or toying around with screen savers in Idlewild, but from 1990 to 1995, this was an exciting part of a new and upcoming era in the at-home computer world.

Written by Nerdberry

Nerdberry

What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.

 
 

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