Continuation of Part 17: The Llama Master
In writing this series, I spent a lot of time looking on eBay for older Linux games to cover, and one night I stumbled upon a strange sight. Despite being sold for Windows, I found a listing for a physical copy of the free game Circus Linux! as published by Alten8. At first I thought it was just another storage case in my collection with “Linux” written on the cover, but as I examined the disc’s contents, it quickly became apparent just how cheap this retail version was.
All Alten8 seems to have done was pack the source directory with a pre-built Windows binary, with the installation instructions telling you to “copy and paste the CIRCUS folder from the CD” and then clicking on the circuslinux.exe file . With the source code provided, I decided it would be trivial to build the game for Linux as well, and indeed the included INSTALL.txt file tells you how to compile and install the game on Linux using GNU Automake.
You need the relevant SDL development libraries as packaged by your distribution, and unfortunately Alten8 appeared to remove some of the game’s documentation files, meaning the build will initially fail. To get around this, I just used the “touch AUTHORS.txt COPYING.txt CHANGES.txt README-SDL.txt” command to create empty placeholders, but novelty aside, it’s really better to have the source code online yourself to fetch.
Circus Linux! itself is a remake of the older one Circus Atariwhich itself was a home console version of the even older one circus Arcade cabinet by Taito. circus was a block breaker game inspired by Breaking out, with the main change being that the game now simulates a seesaw where the blocks become balloons and your paddle becomes a seesaw. This has a distinct difference in gameplay as you have to make sure your clown lands on the correct end of the seesaw.
Circus Linux! fully dives into the subject in a way the original Atari version never could, with brightly colored animated graphics and fun, upbeat music and sound effects that showcase the power of the then-fresh Simple DirectMedia layer. One annoyance is that the mouse can leave the window when not playing in full-screen mode, but the game does support a number of screen modes, including a lower graphics setting for less powerful computers.
Of course, the game didn’t break my Pentium III 500 Mhz, but I appreciate the option. In addition, the game features a number of gameplay modifiers: “Barriers” that can block your shots, “Bouncy Balloons” that can cause the clown to dash back on contact, and “Clear All” that requires everyone to Popping a balloon on a stage before proceeding to the next screen.
Like most arcade games Circus Linux! is a test of both your skill and endurance, challenging you to last as long as you can while getting the highest possible score. The game also supports local hot-seat multiplayer, either in a cooperative mode where you both get a chance to help each other pop balloons, or in an adversarial mode where you compete for the highest possible score.
Maybe more convincing than Circus Linux! alone is the legacy of its creator Bill Kendrick and his development house New Breed Software, a prolific figure in the free and open source gaming scene. He is best known for starting work on the Platformer SOberTux and creating the drawing program Tux colorhelping to introduce Tux as a gaming icon to others in the Tux4Kids initiative, all along with the work of the likes of Steve Baker and Ingo Ruhnke.
Bill Kendrick has also developed a number of other arcade conversions, edutainment and experimental software toys which he is porting to the widest possible range of platforms, all of which can still be found on New Breed Software’s website. five of them x bomber, Crazy Bomber, 3D pong, ICBM3Dand Gem Drop X, were included 100 Great Linux Games. He even called a chatbot Virtual Kendrickinspired by a comment that it should be ported to the Zaurus handheld.
I’ve avoided it long enough, but I feel the itch to play a first-person shooter again. As has already been made clear, Linux has never been short of them, but some are much harder to find today than others. The next game I’ll be covering is one of the rarest of them all, due to its limited physical distribution and a connection to a Belgian company now better known for maintaining an operating system than for porting games.
Continued in Part 19: Sinsational
Back to Part 1: Dumpster Diving