Who needs a pill to become invisible? Ė an article by Pooka

 

invisible1

 

So Iím sitting in my room at University. Itís Sunday afternoon (being a student I didnít get up until 3pm, of course) and, predictably, I have absolutely nothing to do. Evening entertainment doesnít start until a few hoursí time, all my friends are watching 8 Mile on DVD in the room next door, Nottingham city centre is at least half an hourís bus-ride away, I canít afford to go and buy a meal, and my girlfriend is in Somerset, so I canít just randomly go and visit her.

 

My computer is switched on anyway, so I decide to go on the internet and randomly browse around. This is, of course, a mistake. Iíve got limited internet access in my room but itís costing me a penny a minute and as soon as my £10 is up I need to go and fork out more money. Iím checking my emails quickly and chatting to a couple of old friends (MSN helpfully shutting itself down every two minutes or so), when somehow I end up at sfrog.cjb.net.

The answer to my boredom troubles hits me quickly: Superfrog. Of course. Itís infuriating and difficult, yes, but itís addictive and fun to play Ė just the thing to while away those evening hours. So I download my ďSuperfrog Demo for Windows XPĒ pack and activate it.

 

It doesnít work, of course. I neglected to take into account the fact that my PC doesnít actually have a built-in floppy disk drive, and boot disks donít work with external plug-in drives. So thatís that idea out of the window. I sit for a minute, racking my brains, and the answer lands on emulation. So I donít like it, but it might just do the trick. I re-load Windows XP and drag up WinUAE from the depths of my hard drive. I load the ďSuperfrog in a windowĒ config, stick the kick.rom and ADFs in the right places, and start the emulation.

 

Once again, this doesnít work. The familiar loading screens work fine, and even skip at the click of one mouse button, but the minute I get to the Superfrog title screen, Iím stuck. I try pressing CTRL, followed by ALT, neither of which work. A little less confidently, I click the mouse again Ė nothing. Eventually Iím left to press every key I can. I try every input config that comes with WinUAE, including compatibility mode. I also try every key on the keyboard Ė I even whack Shift five times, but that just turns on StickyKeys. Hmmm. And after ten minutes of frustrating re-configuration, Iím still foolishly sitting in front of a laptop, while a frog and potato blink at me from the screen, completely nonplussed.

 

Iím on the verge of deciding between bursting into tears and suicide when it hits me that WinUAE isnít actually the only emulator capable of running Superfrog. Hell, if Mortuus47 can manage to get Superfrog emulated in Debian then surely I should be able to with Windows XP. So itís back onto the internet, this time to download a copy of FELLOW.

 

As expected, this also doesnít work. At first, FELLOW, being DOS-based, looks retro, perhaps giving me the (false) impression that FELLOW and Superfrog are kindred spirits. In essence, it actually works fine, me having stuck the same ADFs and kick.rom into the config. It runs quickly Ė and I mean quickly. If anyone ever feels the need to see the Superfrog introductory sequence run through in about 15 seconds then FELLOW is what you needÖ but I actually wanted to play the game. And yet again, there was no getting past the intro screen. According to the config, all I need to do is press Fire 1. This should correspond to Right-CTRL.

 

There isnít one.

There isnít a Right-CTRL.

This PC has an Intel Pentium 4 processor, 512 MB of DDR RAM and a 30 GB hard disk, and yet there isnít a Right-CTRL key.

Interesting.

 

So I hit F12 (literally hit, this is beginning to get me down a bit) and try every config that FELLOW has to offer andÖ It. Doesnít. Work. Once again, Iím forced to sit there and watch Spud blinking at me, and heís beginning to look rather stupid by this point.

 

Back onto the internet, this time aiming to find any other emulator that I can Ė and then yet another thought strikes me Ė WinFellow. The most simplistic port-of-the-mainframe Amiga emulator that there is, and yet it might work. Even idiots like me might be able to get it working. It takes me a few minutes to actually navigate the WinFellow site to find a UK-based download server, but eventually I get 98_73_54_x2_winfellow_esther_stickysurfaces_347_toolong.zip (it has a long name, okay?) onto my hard drive. Erasing all other emulators in a fit of pique, I extract all the files into a fresh new ĎWinFellowí folder and, really not getting my hopes up, stick the kick.rom and ADFs into the config, and hit ďStart EmulationĒ with a deliberately contemptuous gesture, not expecting much.

 

Intro screens boasting ďwow, look at us, we know how to crack Amiga gamesĒ flash by, although in a somewhat slower manner than usual. A click of the mouse button skips them, which is a promising sign, followed by the Accessing Disk sign. Of course, the game takes so long to Ďaccess diskí that I could go to make a cup of tea and hope that by the time I get back a couple of bytes of data might have forced their way through. 512 MB of DDR RAM, my arse! However, there is something that I wasnít expecting here Ė the intro music. This hadnít played on either of the other two Ė it might have had something do with the ďdisable soundĒ thing Iíd clicked on both configs. But the intro music, hardly calming, gives me a slight air of confidence, so I strike Left-CTRL, fully expecting Superfrog and Spud to blink in their ďdid something just happen?Ē fashion.

 

But a miracle occurs.

 

The menu actually appears! Iím seriously considering jumping out of my chair and out of the window Ė but as Iím on the top floor, maybe that isnít the best idea. But it works, and it works like a dream! R is up, F is down, and D and G are left and right, while Left-CTRL must be action! Whoopee, Iím going to play Superfrog! And so the game loads, and up come the Magic Forest. Itís just like I remember it should be Ė the wasps, the blobs, the trees, the spikesÖ

Öwait a minute.

 

No Superfrog.

 

If I remember correctly, and I should do, because I last played this game, what Ė under a week ago? Ė that there is actually a frog in this game. But there isnít. Well, at least there isnít one on the screen. So hopefully I touch G, and the screen moves right. D, and it moves left. R, and the screen bumps itself up a bit. This is also interesting. So I am, in fact, playing a frog-less version of Superfrog Ė well, presumably, there is a frog there, he just canít be seen. Right, here goes with Invisible Superfrog Ė I got through 1-1 with my eyes closed a couple of weeks back, so this should be no problem. And it isnít, really. Using the rough estimate that Mr. Invisible Frog is in the middle of the screen, I race through 1-1 with very little difficulty. Hurrah! Yet Iím bored of this level by now Ė even if he is invisible, this is Superfrog, and that means a challenge. So I turn on unlimited lives, and skip straight to 4-1.

 

This is where the game gets tricky, never mind the frog being invisible. Thus commences the trickiest Superfrog experience of my life. Iím using Spud to determine the frogís position every few seconds, and relying on blind leaps of faith to get over those devilish gaps with spikes filling up the bottom. Of course, some of these work Ė some donít. For five minutes Iím stuck jumping over one single gap, and once I do actually make it, and in my surprise jog a key which sends Invisible Frog hurtling back into the pit!

 

The cold facts are these: I managed to get Frog With A Mission by completing the first three levels of World 4, completely by accident discovering all of the secret areas, somebody obviously being on my side since most of my leaps of faith worked after about ten tries. Itís not hard to judge where Superfrog is, as heís mostly in the exact middle of the screen, and the scrolling helps with that, and the game is still infuriatingly addictive. So addictive, in fact, that itís more compelling than the game while he actually is visible! And three whole hours after I first accessed the internet to get the means to play a game Ė any game at all Ė Iím carefully pressing keys to guide a completely invisible frog through some ice caverns, while penguins throw snowballs and Sonic the Hedgehog runs past in the background.

 

And if thatís not bizarre, I donít know what is.

 

 

 

20 September 2003