A look back at some older 16-bit shareware games for Windows

I went looking for some information on the old Balistic.exe (for some reason the spelling is incorrect for the executable) game for Windows the other day, and couldn’t find any information online. So instead I decided to do some digging and document some information on older 16-bit Windows games here for posterity. In cases where the games were published as shareware, I have uploaded them to the Internet Archive, and linked to them here.

These games do not run on 64-bit versions of Windows, since the 16-bit emulation layer to run them is only available on 32-bit versions. They do run fine in Wine on Linux though.

Ballistic (1994)

Ballistic is an Arkanoid-style breakout game. It seems it was released in 1994, with the option of receiving upgrades if you paid $15 to the Canadian developer, Glenn Nissen.

Get the shareware copy on the Internet Archive.

The executable for my copy is incorrectly spelled Balistic.exe (perhaps due to the 8.3 filename limit?), and the file utility output and hash are as follows:

$ file balistic.exe
balistic.exe: MS-DOS executable, NE for MS Windows 3.x (EXE)
$ md5sum balistic.exe
580aaaf6bf679b22aed7051b219df43d  balistic.exe

The three screens available to the player aside from the main gameplay screen are as follows:

The main screen
The info screen
The demo screen plays the first level automatically

It is not possible to resize the window. The paddle is moved by moving the mouse, and right-clicking pauses the game.

Here’s a short video showing the first level (the game seems to run at around 30 FPS, the video is 60 FPS):

Quirks when running in Wine: It’s not possible to access the game’s level selection menu, since that is displayed only when right-clicking the icon in the title bar, and Wine uses a native title bar to render the window. I’ll update this post if I find a solution.

Same Game (1993)

Same Game was developed by Ikuo Hirohata ‘Grow’, and was released in 1993. The objective of the game is to eliminate groups of coloured blocks to improve the continuity of other groups. Groups with more blocks grant considerably higher scores when they are eliminated compared to smaller groups. Apart from minor draw issues (such as the background colour of the status bar – although it could have been intentional) the game runs fine in Wine.

The file utility output and hash for the executable are as follows:

$ file same.exe
same.exe: MS-DOS executable, NE for MS Windows 3.x (EXE)
$ md5sum same.exe
0ab18dc8fc8d273b343f10a7bc179fde  same.exe

This game does not display a shareware license, and my copy does not include the help file, so I could not upload this game to the Internet Archive. If anyone can find and confirm the license as shareware I can upload it.

The main gameplay screen (displayed at launch)
The information screen, giving the player the colour distribution of the current game
The about screen

Here’s a short video showing the gameplay (unfortunately the end screen did not record properly – it shows a text box to enter the player’s name, and then displays the list of high scores):

Bow and Arrow (1992)

Bow and Arrow was developed by John Di Troia and released in 1992. I have the abridged version, for which a donation fee of $5 was requested. The unabridged version required a $12 donation. Because a fee is involved and no shareware license is indicated I cannot upload the game to the Internet Archive. The game only runs partially in Wine, displaying draw errors during gameplay and erratic behaviour with the controls concerning the drawstring and arrow release, making the game largely unplayable.

The file utility output and hash for the executable are as follows:

$ file B\&ARROW.EXE
B&ARROW.EXE: MS-DOS executable, NE for MS Windows 3.x (EXE)
$ md5sum B\&ARROW.EXE
d01c7525ced5865fa8746e3e7865fe47  B&ARROW.EXE

The game supported resolutions of 600×400, 640×480 and 800×600. Games could be saved and restored.

Here’s some screenshots:

The main screen displayed to the player on launch
The quick help screen
The about screen
The gameplay screen, displaying draw errors in Wine

Hangman (1991)

Hangman was developed by Charles Timmerman and released in 1991. The game’s about screen (shown below) states that it was released as part of the Symantec Game Pack. The game runs without any issues in Wine. The game is copyrighted and as such I cannot upload it to the Internet Archive.

The file utility output and MD5 hash are as follows:

$ file hangman.exe 
hangman.exe: MS-DOS executable, NE for MS Windows 3.x (EXE)
$ md5sum hangman.exe
add774a088f33479da0d089261f297be  hangman.exe

Here are some screenshots of the game (the game automatically launches in full screen, and cannot be resized – it’s running at 4k in these screenshots):

The about screen
The gameplay screen showing a randomly loaded word, with the letters ready to be guessed (see the list of characters at the very top of the screen)
The category selection screen
Interestingly on one of the plays this prompt came up – which leads to a curious result after a search for the name (likely just a famous company at the time, listed among the “Computer Industry” category entries?)
The game over screen

Here’s a video of one game:

Updates

I’ll update this post if I come across Wine fixes or copyright information for any of the games listed. Any future games will be posted separately.