Gaming on the Aero
[ Article by Henry Kong, 13/5/01 ]
I was very happy with the Compaq iPAQ PPC until I realised that I was leaving it on the shelf more often than not. Even when I forced myself to take it to the office and church, it was usually without the compact flash, thus leaving most of my reference material behind. It was then I started looking for a slimmer PPC.
I was unsuccessful in getting hold of the Intermec p70 (see Brighthand's review), so settled for the Aero 1550 PPC. At the time of purchase, I secured a 128 MB CF card, thinking that it would be more than adequate for all my databases and stuff, and a few games. After all, how many games can a puny 70 MHz B&W PPC run?
Boy, was I wrong! It took me no time to get adjusted to a slower speed and B&W screen and, as it goes with me everywhere, I have become very fond of the Aero. Once I became adept to the Aero, I started testing games, games and more games on it for playability, clarity and speed. To my surprise, there are so many games that play perfectly fine that I have now upgraded my 128 MB card to 192 MB.
In the following games that I have installed on my Aero, I have rated them in these areas:
1. Colour - since the Aero is B&W, colour is a very important factor for clear viewing. For example, the Spectrum emulator's colour spoils a lot of good games as it appears dark under the grey scale setting.
2. Playability - again, the Aero keys are sitting prettily in a row, nice for PIM's but not great for gaming. I configure the buttons as directional keys by default.
3. Graphics - this enhances the pleasure of the game if it is done nicely and looks good in grey shades. Unfortunately many games (like Jimmy Software's) will not run because of the video constraints.
4. Sound - what's a game without it?
Please note that this article covers only a partial listing of the many games that are available. There are so many other PPC games that I do not own, do not like nor have not heard of. The codes I use is C-P-G-S. An UPPER CASE C-P-G-S (Colour - Playability - Graphics - Sound) means these features are above average in that game. A lower case c-p-g-s means these features are passable. If any of the C-P-G-S are not even mentioned, don't look for 'em.
If you wonder why most of these games are rated highly, it's because those that do not work, do not look nice, or play well are excluded. Even a great-looking fun game like Pocket Gambler is excluded because it does not run on the Aero. So here's actually a listing of the best that works on the Aero... the benefit of my painstaking tests.
Hasbro's Scrabble (C-P-G-S): what luck it is to find that the Aero can run some Palm-Size games! Scrabble comes with a save feature and is the nicest of its kind I have seen.
[Editor's note: This game is no longer listed on Hasbro's site. You can, however, still buy it from The Biz Nest, as spotted by J in this Brighthand thread.]
Peter's Casino (C-P-G): Video Poker, Blackjack and Roulette. No Sound.
Hearts (C-P-G-S): Both fun and challenging.
Reversi (C-P-G-S): Another game from Microsoft's Entertainment PocketPak. Levels of play.
Chess (C-P-G-S): From Microsoft's Entertainment PocketPak. PalmChess (C-P-G-S): I find this version graphically nicer and plays a faster game.
Gnu Go (C-P-G-S): a GNU freeware.
SichuanSheng Majong (C-P-G-S), NeoTiles (C-P-G-S), Taipei (C-P-g-S) and Pocket Jongg (C-P-G-s) are all Shanghai-type games. NeoTiles is the easiest, Microsoft's Taipei is hard to see which tiles are on top of which, but has a nice fortune cookie if you complete the game. Pocket Jongg has many level, good sounds, nice animation and gets my vote for best of breed.
Crosshands (C-P-G-S): a variation of Poker.
Monopoly by Hasbro (C-P-G-S): one of the best implementations. Save feature, very good, but only for the Aero on the PPC.
[Editor's note: As with the previous Hasbro game, Scrabble, this isn't listed on the Hasbro site anymore, but can be bought from The Biz Nest.]
Here's my list of arcade games for Aero. IMHO, parlor games are best suited for PDA's as they do not require speed, pauses when you want it to and is good for comic relief. Still, for those who wants a quick blast, there are more arcade games for the Aero than you can shake a stick at.
Pow Wow (C-P-G-S): one of the top arcade game for Aero. It plays well, animate nicely and provides great challenge for the reflexes.
Peter's Gamebox (C-P-G-S): an excellent collection on any PDA. Should be on every mobile as well.
Olivier's ActionPack (c-P-G-S): buttons are available for Galaxy and Heaven although the colours get in the way of clarity, making it hard to play. Snow's graphic deserves a C although input is by stylus only.
Tankzone 2000 (c-P-G-S): a nice but challenging game for the Aero with good usage of buttons for gameplay.
ICBM (C-P-G-S) is a more accurate clone than Microsoft's Missile Command clone, Space Defense (C-P-G-S) which is also a good game.
IGolf (c-p-g-S): surprise of surprises, iGolf works great on the Aero! However, gameplay is pretty chancy due to the colours on the swing bar, even at slow options.
Moonlander (C-P-G-S): use buttons and scroller for the game. Voice and sound.
Pac-Man (C-P-G-S): works well although it is a little difficult to navigate with four buttons in a row. Stylus input recommended.
[Editor's note: This was part of the Microsoft Fun Pack, which has unfortunately now been discontinued.]
The Fly (C-P-G-S) and RatSplat (C-P-G-S) are two simple games that runs nicely.
Fun2Link (c-P-G-S) works pretty good although in some instances, colour makes it difficult to see your way around
Puzzle of Pipes (C-P-G-s): This is a fast and furious game that is a lot of fun. Try it.
Battle Ship (C-P-G-S): works nicely like all the games from Microsoft's Entertainment PocketPak.
PegMine (C-S-P) is one of the 10 games in Microsoft's Entertainment Pak that will not work on PPC's, but runs perfectly on the Aero. Hold on the 'up' button and tap to flag a suspected bomb.
Warehouse Guy (c-P-G): both buttons and stylus may be used.
Shuffle (C-P-g-S): a simple but nicely implemented game.
Dots (C-P-g-s), Hangem (C-P-g) and LenseaTacToe (C-P-G) are simple kiddie games that you can play with the PPC.
MasterFind (C-P-g-s): a challenging Master Mind clone.
KSE Entertainment Pack worked great with the Aero - good sound and customizable buttons that works, the way all good games should be created. They are 6 games in the pack:
Backgammon (C-P-G-S): for the life of me, I have never learned how to play it.
Snake (c-P-G-S): the background is rather dark in first few levels.
Cruel (C-P-G-S): a card solitaire.
Yachtzee (C-P-G-S): the best of its bred for the PPC.
Pegs (C-P-G-S): peg solitaire.
Tetris (C-P-G-S): very nice implementation.
This write-up would not be complete without mentioning emulators running in the Aero PPC. You will be forgiven if you are thinking what could a puny 70 MHz B&W PPC emulate. There are in fact a few emulators that will run on the Aero.
The Aemu (Aero Emulator) scores C-P-G. IMHO it runs Space Invaders at its perfect speed. There is no sound but, as you can see from the snapshot above, it runs a good number of arcade ROM's. This emulator is very good. To use the buttons, please disable the buttons option!
Another emulator is the Spectrum emulator (c-p-G-S). Most games are hard to play because the colour makes the background dark and hard to see. Most games require a lot of configuration; these few do not: CardCDs, a card game; Impact, famous breakout game; H.A.T.E., a shooter; and VidPoker.
In summary, the Aero is a pretty good gaming PDA, judging by the number of games that play well on it. Here are some tips:
1. Carry a spare GAPI gx.dll in your compact flash. These suckers have a way of self-destructing thus rendering some perfectly good games incapacitated.
2. Since Aero has only 16mb of RAM, keep it only for essentials like dll's and uninstalls etc. When installing programs, answer 'No' to the default installation, moving all programs to the storage card.
3. It is a good idea to enable game keys all the time. Great for games, good for scrolling down texts and web sites.
Many thanks to Henry Kong for this article. Be sure to check out his excellent website on the 3 C's: Computer, Church & Cuisine. Don't miss his Windows CE section for plenty more Pocket PC related stuff!