Here’s what you’ve got to understand about working with computers in 1995: All we wanted was “multimedia.” Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that all we were supposed to want was “multimedia.” Every television commercial, tech magazine columnist, and Compaq PC brochure told us that the new capabilities of multimedia functionality paradigms would change our lives. Nobody ever told us what “multimedia” meant, mind you. We were left to figure that out for ourselves. In practice, most multimedia experiences involved opening a postage-stamp-sized window to watch a grainy video clip of a white guy in a vest, who would tell you how CD-ROM encyclopedias work. Buying a Sound Blaster Pro card at Electronics Boutique also seemed to be an important part of the process, although nobody knew why. That didn’t matter. You didn’t question multimedia.
This is how so many people ended up playing Hover! (emphasis original) a first-person capture-the-flag game for Windows. See, if you were slavering for a multimedia fix, you were liable to end up rummaging through all the crap that came with your Windows 95 PC. And that’s when you’d come across a humble executable by the name of Hover! (emphasis original). This game placed you in a hovercraft-cum-bumper car and let you roam around an immersive 3D world along the lines the Doom. Indeed, the whole thing was a lot like Doom, minus the violence and excitement. “Is this multimedia?” we would ask ourselves as we examined the evidence. Its visuals were simultaneously futuristic and hideous. It featured an endless loop of awful MIDI music. And most importantly, it was far less fun that it ought to be. Yes, this was multimedia.
I tell you this story because Microsoft has released an updated version of Hover! (emphasis original) that you can play in your browser. Perhaps it’s a bid to make people reminiscent for an era when Microsoft ruled the world, but it’s a neat trick nonetheless, and the game has been updated with careful attention to detail. That doesn’t make it so much more enjoyable to sit there bouncing your nigh-uncontrollable hovercraft around a clunky quasi-maze, but the multimedia era wasn’t about enjoying yourself.