Lately I've found myself mildly fascinated by "The Adventures of MicroMan," a shareware game from the Windows 3.1 era written by Brian Goble. There is a (very) basic page on his website on the topic of the game, but otherwise (at the time I originally created this page) I found a dearth of information about MicroMan online. It's a bit of a shame, since I found this to be one of the most intriguing games of its sort I've played.
Perhaps unusually for a piece of Windows 3.x software, MicroMan is a fully-animated platform game complete with sound effects. Back in the pre-OpenGL/DirectX days, developers wishing to make a Windows game had to resort to doing without anything vaguely resembling smooth animation or advanced multimedia while putting up with a haphazard mess of APIs that didn't allow direct access to hardware, or write something from scratch to alleviate the situation. In this case, the developer chose the latter option, using a "Windows Animation Package" for sprite animation that the second half of the "Micro1.txt" file spends trumpeting. The gameplay experience is not dissimilar to a lot of DOS side-scrollers I've played over the years, although in the original version the character walks in very small steps.
Gameplay is easy to figure out: The spacebar allows the character to jump, the arrow keys move him around, and the "Insert" key fires. (I assume that the keystrokes were assigned explicitly with the numeric keypad in mind.) A bar in the upper-left corner of the screen indicates the character's level of health or energy.
The storyline of the game is simple:
"MicroMan is the victim of a top-secret experiment that went terribly wrong. Wearing a special weapons suit, Bob Jones voluntarily stepped into the Molecular Miniaturizer created by Dr. Schnapps. Dr. Schnapps turned on the power and the miniaturization process began. After a few moments of blinding light, Bob Jones was reduced to the size of a few microns. The experiment seemed to be a success but the Molecular Miniaturizer suddenly started smoking and a few seconds later, exploded, killing all those in the lab, including Dr. Schnapps. Bob Jones, now known as MicroMan, was never found after the explosion. However, since the Molecular Miniaturizer and it's creator had both been destroyed, it didn't really matter--there was no hope to return him to his original size. MicroMan now finds himself in a strange and hostile world where he is one of the smallest inhabitants. Now, his mission is personal: to explore and stay alive."
This rather pessimistic tone is reinforced through the actual gameplay: Virtually everything that moves or looks anthropomorphic is harmful to the player. Bullets go straight through walls. The game lacks a structured plot or a specific goal to accomplish, with seemingly no way out of the character's predicament. Nevertheless I find it quite intriguing, in part because of the mystery involved.
The shareware version consists of an "adventure" titled "Crazy Computers;" a second episode ("Savage Stones") and several miscellaneous bonuses are alluded to in a $25 registered version, or at least was in 1993. "Crazy Computers" features a number of rooms for the character to walk through, many of which include interesting objects, hidden platforms, springboards, teleports, or pitfalls. While it is true that a variety of objects pose danger to the player, practically all (including inanimate devices such as magnets) can be defeated with fired shots. In the table below, I've (somewhat arbitrarily) numbered rooms by the order that the player approaches them, more or less. But first, a few comments on "bonus" items:
While the majority of screenshots below were taken from the original 1.0 release of MicroMan, several subsequent versions were released as well. MicroMan 1.5 added background music, save points throughout the game, and several small map changes; the latter two making the game considerably easier to complete. A 32-bit 2.0 version exists as well, with other miscellaneous changes. Both an alternative walkthrough of the game and a download of version 1.5 are available on the Classic DOS Games website. Map changes between the various versions are specified below.
|1||The character starts in this position. I'm not sure how to reach the section with the "G" bonus.|
|2||In this and other levels, the flying saucer will disappear if the character leaves and re-enters the room.|
|4||The leftmost teleport takes the character to the room at upper right; the right teleport takes the character to the room at bottom right. For rooms that the lower-right staircase leads to, skip down to room 5B.|
|5A||The staircase at upper right in room 4 leads here. You can access the upper platform through a sequence of hidden platforms reached by jumping from the top of the stairs.|
|7A||The pit below opens up to room 7AA. Otherwise, the right edge opens up to room 8A.|
|7AA||The gaping pit at the bottom of room 7A, should you fall into it, opens up here. The bottom of it, in turn, opens up to room 7B below.|
|8A||The platform with the "S" bonus can be reached through a hidden elevator along the right edge. I'm not sure how to reach the energy bonus at upper left.|
|9A||The left teleport corresponds to the left room near the top of the screen (which in version 1.0 will leave you trapped); the right teleport leads to the right room. The staircase at lower right continues into room 10 below.
Incidentally, robots such as these are harmful only if the heads or the shots they fire are touched. You can walk past their bodies unscathed.
|5B||The staircase extending downward from room 4 opens up onto this course of platforms.|
|6B||The energy bonus at upper-left can be reached by a hidden elevator.|
|7B||The pit that continues through room 7AA opens up here. The "J" bonus in room 6B can be reached from above by jumping in the direction of and onto the left "island," and then to the main upper platform extending off the left edge of the screen.|
|8B||The third teleport from the left leads to the room at upper right containing bonuses; the others lead to the other three closed rooms that (in version 1.0) will leave you trapped. Also, once you jump into a teleport chamber you cannot get out again, at least without a "J" bonus.|
|9B||Once jumping off the lefthand platform onto the series of "islands" you will not be able to get back there (without a "J" bonus), and you will not be able to jump there if approaching from the opposite direction. Be careful, since the pit below is bottomless and will kill you. The staircase at upper right extends up to room 10 below.|
|10||The staircases at lower-right in room 9A and at upper-right in room 9B lead here. Once falling down from the topmost platform, you will not be able to jump up there again by default.|
|11||The opening along the right edge of room 10 leads here. In versions 1.5 and 2.0, a ledge is present that prevents the character from returning to previous rooms.|
|12||The foe in this room is slightly difficult to defeat, although with a little practice it can be done (I would suggest jumping to the top platform and shooting the treaded monster from behind). If you succeed, the wall at upper right will dissolve, thus allowing the rest of the game to be explored.|
|13||The two energy bonuses at upper right are probably not worth retreiving, since the magnets by them will in all likelihood harm you.|
|14||The platform with bonuses is accessible by an invisible springboard located under the leftmost gap.|
|15||There is an invisible springboard shortly to the left of the two "islands," accessible by jumping from the top one. This should transfer the character to a moving platform at the top of the screen that allows one to reach the stairs down at left. Version 2.0 adds a staircase.|
|16||The teleport transfers you to the room near the bottom of the screen; an invisible guided missile ("G") bonus is accessible at the far left edge of this area.|
|17||The "mirror" room. Aside from the symmetry and repeated image of the playing character, gameplay is otherwise unchanged. The upper-left passage allows access to the energy bonus in room 16.|
|18||Be careful in this room, since another bottomless pit is present here. Do get the "J" (super jump) bonus; this makes traversing the next few rooms much easier.|
|19||The bottom moving platform is activated only when you step on it; likewise, the top platform moves except when it is stepped on. Although it is presumably possible to venture into the small passage at left with a "J" bonus, it is absolutely pointless to do so.|
|21||There is an invisible "stepping stone" in the middle of the shaft that allows the staircase to be accessed from the area at right with the life bonus (which incidentally is accessible by dropping down from room 22 above).|
|21A||The passage extending left from room 21 leads to this area containing a few bonuses, if you have the "J" bonus allowing you to get back up again or don't mind falling into uncertainty in the process. The shaft ultimately leads to the small opening at the left of room 19.|
|22||Be careful around the magnet and when jumping from "island" to "island."|
|23||A good replenishing spot. The energy bonus at upper left reappears whenever you leave and come back to the room.|
|24||An invisible springboard in the left shaft allows the platforms above to be accessed. This room presents the character yet again with a set of two parallel paths to follow. For rooms that the passage at left leads to (the longer and more difficult of the two paths), skip down to room 25B.|
|25A||The staircase extending upwards from room 24 leads here. In version 1.0 the gap across the top may require a few tries to jump across, and the possibility exists of getting trapped in the space left of the "islands." The staircase at upper right continues into room 32 below.|
|25B||The left passage in room 24 leads here. The energy bonus can be accessed by a series of hidden platforms and springboards, starting in the lower right.|
|26B||The pit below opens up into a shaft (rooms 26BA and 26BB) containing ammunition bonuses. Otherwise, the right edge opens up to room 27B.|
|The aforementioned shaft spans two rooms; the first of which contains "islands" with ammunition bonuses and the second of which (shown here) contains a pair of presumably-redundant springboards. This shaft ultimately opens up at the top of room 13, taking the character back to a previously-traveled location again.|
|27B||The teleport takes you to an intermittent "island," allowing access to the platform at top from below.|
|28B||The bottom platform is activated only when you step on it.|
|32||The staircases from rooms 25A and 31B both lead here. The passage at right leads to room 33.|
|33||The ledge here prevents the character from returning to previous rooms.|
|34||The preceding room leads to yet another closed chamber with a treaded monster much like that in room 12, although the lack of springboards and "islands" makes it more difficult to assume the best position. Once the monster is defeated, the wall at upper right will dissolve, again allowing the character to continue beyond in the game.|
|35||The teleport simply leads to the center platform, to the right of an invisible barrier.|
|36||Yet another pit to skirt around. Version 2.0 adds an additional "island."|
|37||In this room, the flying saucer that has taunted the character throughout the game must be defeated. This requires a very large amount of ammunition. Invisible energy bonuses are present in the corners of the room. As before, the wall at upper right will dissolve when the feat is done.|
|39||The winding passage temporarily wraps back into room 38.|
|40||An invisible teleport takes the character to the right side of the screen, with no way back.|
|42||Upon entering the teleport, the player ends the game.|
Fourteen years after MicroMan came out, Brian Goble is still involved in game development. His current company, HipSoft, offers a new MicroMan game with similar but more structured gameplay and snazzier graphics. I haven't tried it out myself as it requires Windows 98 (Boo! Hiss!) to run, but it's worth a look to anyone curious nevertheless.
The redistributable shareware version of MicroMan 1.0, with original documentation.