After dinner tonight, I stopped by the Fry's in Sunnyvale to waste some time before heading back to the hotel. I was pretty bored, so I went looking through the aisle of bad software. This is where all the games that didn't sell well go to take up space in jewel cases and digipacks, looking for someone to buy them for a few bucks. Lots of the titles were $5 or $10 and unworthy of my attention, but I finally stopped when I found EA's "Adventure Pinball" for 90 cents. I like pinball games, and I've paid far more than that for worse titles, so I decided to pick it up, and a few minutes later, I checked out, giving the cashier a dollar bill and getting three cents and a chuckle back.
So, what can go wrong with a $1 game?
Two things: first, I try to install it on my laptop, and it asks for a serial number that's on the back of the CD case. Except, the serial number isn't on the back of the 90 cent version. It's not in the skinny install manual. It's not on the registration card. It's not on the CD. Maybe that's why it's so cheap -- you can't actually install it! I don't remember seeing a code on any of the other copies, but I really didn't look closely.
OK, Google's my friend, and after a few searches, I find a serial number list with a code that lets me install my legitimate copy. Now, the game starts up, and it looks nice, but I notice that the intro is a little fast. Since it's a 3D game using the Unreal engine, I boost the graphics to their highest level. However, the game programmers didn't actually try to put delays in their engine, making the game completely unplayable on the laptop because it just runs too fast. You launch a ball, it bounces off a few things and then drains before you can even figure out where the flippers are. I guess they didn't have computers fast enough to stress the game when they developed it, so there was no reason to put in limiters on how fast things ran.
Yes, I know there are apps like "moslo" that will slow down my system, but I've already invested too much time into this $1 diversion. Still, I probably got more than a dollar worth of amusement just ranting about my problems with the software, so I guess the purchase was justified. It might be funny to try to return it to Fry's since it couldn't be installed "out-of-the-box", but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.