Monday, 13 January 2020

Y2K: THE GAME


The year is 1999. A new century is upon us and the new story to scare the masses is the Millennium Bug. Computers will stop working. Electricity will shut down. Mass hysteria! Someone had to capitalise on all of this. Step in Interplay with their prescient point-and-click adventure Y2K: The Game.

The box art consists entirely of dire warnings from Bill Clinton, The Sunday Times and others. There's no information about the game itself. In fact, the pictures that do exist give the impression that this is a somewhat serious survival horror. There's no indication on just how silly it all is.

You play as Buster, a recent lottery winner who's spent his fortune on a hot girlfriend and a high-tech mansion. Every room is decked out with cameras and contraptions while droids spend their time cleaning and guarding them. All of this is controlled by a sarcastic AI central computer. Just before midnight on New Year's Eve, Buster collapses from too much champagne leaving Candise, his buxom other half alone with her book. When you awake, your AI has become sentient, trapping the missus in the dungeon and causing havoc everywhere else.

There are some strange AI characters in the house. Mr. Deer, Mr. Leopard and Colonel Rhino (left)
offer advice while Mr. Recyclone desperate to recycle you (right)

The chaos isn't quite on the level of Gremlins 2, or Disney's Smart House for that matter, so the most trouble you'll encounter is the recycling machine that's been watching Goodfellas too many times. Despite casting the one-and-only Dan Castellaneta (aka Homer Simpson) in the lead role, there's not much that's actually funny. Any attempts at comedy are situational rather than through witty dialogue but the situations you come across are contrived and unimaginative. Talk to the three animal busts in the dining room as a particularly annoying example.

Despite the grey, lumbering protagonist with his bad posture and fashion sense, the graphics do a good job in representing your surroundings. The areas can be scrolled 360° by holding the right mouse button. I have come across other games that utilise wrap-around panoramas where panning requires you to position the mouse pointer to the edge of the screen. Here, you hold the right mouse button giving you more control with where you're looking. I wish other games of the era took this route.

Your inventory is a little more cumbersome. Press the spacebar to bring up your PDA. Here you can select your Inventory or get some info on each area via the Room Link. To use any objects, scroll through them one-by-one and hit select once you've found it (or you can simply back out of the system). Environmental objects that can be used with an item will have their own option when clicking on them; Use Selection. Click on this and you're done.

Your PDA's inventory (left) and Room Link (right). 
One is more useful than the other.

While not a hard game in the least, there is a lack of polish when it comes to game design. Situations that may have been the perfect opportunity for a single screen logic puzzle are simply solved with a click of the mouse button. This means that all puzzles are inventory-based, but there's often little feedback to tell you if you've done anything correctly. Red herring objects, like paintings or suits of armour, all have a generic variation of 'no' while picking up stuff issues no response at all. Considering not everything you can see is clickable, it makes you wonder why those pointless elements that are offer no joke, clue or backstory.

By the time you get to the end, which will likely take no more than 2 hours, you may be wondering what the point of the game was. Other than the opening cinematic that takes place on New Year's Eve, there's no reason why the events of the game needed to be about the Millennium Bug other than for marketing purposes. It's probably because of this and its absolute deadline that the game feels so rushed and unfinished.

Like the bug itself, the promise of Y2K: The Game never materialised. It became irrelevant almost as soon as it was released. Yet, 20 years on from that mad moment of fear-mongering, it has become a weird museum piece; a time capsule of a simpler time. In many ways, I wish a computer bug is all we had to worry about.


To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.

IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.

File Size: 719 Mb.  Install Size: 1.46 Gb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Y2K: The Game is © Interplay Productions
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


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9 comments:

  1. Nice! Thanks for this. I feel the non-existent Y2K bug detracts from today's serious warnings about global warming, etc, but this is an interesting museum piece, as you say. The game works well, although my cursor is a little sticky sometimes. It's not a major problem, though. On another note, even if the Y2K bug was a con, the films of 1999 are outstanding. It may be something to do with the uneasy, doom-laden atmosphere.

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    1. Agree to the films!! Fight Club, The Matrix, American Beauty, Existenz. Comedy was amazing too; Being John Malkovich, Analyse This, EDTv, Bowfinger. Even the teen and romance genres; Blast from the Past, 10 Things, Dick, Go (one of my faves). I was an underage teen working at a cinema back then so I saw them all...

      I did have a few minor issues with Y2K but felt I couldn't pass up the 20 year anniversary. PCEm ran it very poorly and it always crashed outside of emulation. For me, the intro movie on DOSBox was a little laggy but the game itself ran well. I had no mouse problems though.

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  2. I found when the intro video was laggy, quitting and restarting played it smoothly the second time.

    Agree on your films, especially Go, which I actually thought improved on Tarantino. Other great films from 1999: The Talented Mr Ripley, The Iron Giant, Election, The Straight Story, Magnolia, Three Kings, Boys Don't Cry, The Blair Witch Project, All About My Mother, The Sixth Sense, The Insider, Cruel Intentions, Galaxy Quest ... and I've left several good-but-not-quite great ones like Dogma and Sleepy Hollow out!

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    1. I remember entire screens demanding their money back after seeing Blair Witch Project. As inventive and groundbreaking as it was, some audiences wanted more than a 70 minute home movie :)

      Amazing year and thanks to free tickets and the abitility to sneak into 18 movies - I saw them all (that UCI would allow anyway)!

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  3. Audiences are too wise to the found footage genre now, but I must have been a young idiot back then, because I too believed it was a home movie, or some kind of amateur documentary. I was convinced I was watching something real for about three quarters of the movie! I didn't ask for my money back though, because it succeeded in giving me big chills, especially since I forgot my jacket :(

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  4. Just you all remember that the y2k horrors didn't materialise because of the hundreds of millions and says invested to prevent it. It's weird how the fact that it didn't affect us personally means that it didn't exist. Makes me think of how difficult is still to appreciate a smooth go live.

    The game is mega clunky I recall

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    1. It's kind of a middle ground. Lot's of money was spent fixing infastructures on the government, business and banking side, but consumer PCs were never really at any risk. Even DOS PCs from the 80s had adopted the 4-digit year. The media hype reached fever pitch and none of it was really warranted. I doubt anyone would've needed bunkers if dates show year zero for a few days.

      Like the countless Y2K survival books, software and shows, the game was just another piece of media that capitalised on the hype. I found its existence interesting, though the game itself does leave something to be desired.

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  5. Another Weird Thing From Interplay! They really did throw everything and anything at the wall, didn't they? Not everything stuck but the stuff that did was golden.

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  6. It's a buggy adventure.

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