Tom Hooper aka Atomp
I’ve decided to take a break from reviews this week and instead write a little list based upon prior reviews following one central theme; toaster compatibility. This article will consist of a short list of games that I’ve looked at or know of that are appropriate for those running legacy or underpowered hardware, i.e. toasters. Whether you’re restricted to low-end hardware by financial restrictions or you want some things to play on that work laptop with integrated graphics my aim is provide you with at least something to play and sink some hours into. I’m going to be classifying games by hardware requirements by splitting them into three subsets: Single-slot Travel Toaster, Twin-slot Domestic Toaster 3000 and the Quad-slot Toastermatic 4000. The Single-slot Travel Toaster corresponds to the very lowest of hardware, in some cases not even requiring a graphical interface but in many cases requiring the absolute minimum hardware. I’m thinking old laptops with an Intel GMA iGPU on an old Core2 CPU, the kind that will handle desktop display and not much more. The Twin-slot Domestic Toaster 3000 references machines with a little bit more grunt, covering the early i-series of Intel processors and their HD3000 iGPU. Finally we come to the Quad-slot Toastermatic 4000 which generally corresponds to most modern laptops with a newer i-series Intel CPU and an HD4000 iGPU. These specs are the kind of thing a ‘gamer’ would cringe at and probably disregard as useless, however with the right games even a weak little Single-slot Travel Toaster can bring many many hours of gaming enjoyment without even an xserver getting in the way.
In addition to looking at hardware requirements I will also be discussing operating system compatibility as older hardware is often far better utilised by a Linux distribution than it is by an aging, bloated or redundant install of Windows XP or an inappropriate-but-installed-because-of-MS-licensing stripped down Windows 7 Home Edition install. As a general word of warning, you shouldn’t be using Windows XP as a daily driver anymore anyway, whilst it’s not going to be too bad for a while, the lack of support from MS means that as exploits are found they will become open security holes into your system so shift to Linux or a newer Windows version as your daily driver.
This list is far from exhaustive, but even so I will have to divide it between two articles in order to avoid it becoming too unwieldy. This week I’ll be looking at the real low end of the hardware scale by starting with the Single-slot Travel Toaster section, these’ll be games that you are pretty much guaranteed to work on a wide range of hardware and in some cases you could probably give them a shot on something as low-end as the Raspberry Pi provided you can get the ARM binaries.
Single-slot Travel Toaster:
I’ve reviewed CataclysmDDA before and found it to be a great deal of fun whilst also being challenging and complex. CataclysmDDA is a text-based top-down zombie survival game with features including but not limited to resources, lighting, sound, temperature, crafting, character levelling and combat. The scenario isn’t strictly pure-zombie either as there are enemies that often resemble specialists from Left 4 Dead meaning that there’s a reasonable level of enemy variety making the game seem a tad more like a text-based STALKER-like than a pure zombie game like Project Zomboid. The game is text-based however tilesets are available and it is most certainly worth mentioning that even with just ASCII the game is immensely fun and accessible. This is of course the Toaster Tally and CataclysmDDA rightfully deserves its most honourable placement in the Single-slot Travel Toaster section. This game doesn’t even require an xserver to run, hell you don’t need a monitor necessarily as it would be perfectly playable over SSH from a headless server, thats the level we’re talking here and it’s magnificent. CataclysmDDA is available free of charge and it’s open source too.
Next up is my most recently reviewed game; SanctuaryRPG (SRPG). Since I submitted my review the game has actually gone gold with the version 1.0 release marking the end of the beta period. SRPG is a text-based fantasy RPG with a turn-based combat system that borrows from JRPGs and a whole variety of story elements, loot systems, crafting and more. There’s a lot of content to sink your teeth into with SRPG and and has great potential to fill some significant time with role playing goodness as you tear through waves of baddies, or alternatively get squished very quickly by that boss you thought was a good idea but turned out to be the proud owner of 200x your HP. In terms of the Toaster TallySRPG comes out pretty well as it is text-based and requires very little hardware to run on. It’s not quite as portable as the likes of CataclysmDDA due to it currently being Windows and Wine only however a native Linux version is planned so this could well be another full on ASCII treat. SRPG is also available on a pay-what-you-want pricing model meaning that it’s essentially free to try out.
- Knights of Pen and Paper
Knights of Pen and Paper (KoPaP) is a game that I reviewed a while ago and is actually not too far removed from SRPG in how it plays, but looks significantly different. Originally I played KoPaP on Android and then moved over to playing it on PC after a while and the move was generally positive. KoPaP is a fun little casual game that’s pretty much ideal as a small windowed distraction. This is also the element that allows it to sit pretty in the Single-slot Travel Toaster section as in addition to the game being PC, Mac, Linux and Android it’s not particularly taxing on hardware. It’s not quite as fundamental as the last two entries and on Linux you’re going to need an xserver however the appealing 2D graphics are not going to strain any computer too significantly. KoPaP in its full formis available from Steam for about £10 which is quite pricey so maybe wait for a sale, but either way it’s a fun little game which would be ideal for some casual down-time from work or study on an underpowered laptop.
Luftrausers is another recently reviewed game and I have had an absolute blast with it. The game is a low-fi 2D side-on shooter, the player flies a Rauser which is some cross between rocket and plane with the objective of shooting a variety of enemies to build combos and ultimately, score. Completing objectives will allow you to unlock new parts which in turn can be combined into new Rausers with different handling, weapon and speed characteristics. There’s not really much else to it, the handling is really neat as throwing the Rauser around on often ballistic trajectories whilst throwing in sudden turns, flips and the like is very very satisfying. Toaster wise Luftrausers is a on par with the likes of KoPaP as compatibility is good across the board and hardware strain is kept to an absolute minimum thanks to this being a relatively simple 2D game. Luftrausers is available for around $10 which is near enough £6. Single-slot Travel Toaster owners need fear not as there is action to be had beyond menus, as this proves.
- Papers, Please
It’s actually been a while since I last played Papers, Please as recently the mindset that I need to be in to go back to it, to play and enjoy it has been distinctly lacking however that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a fantastic game and is very easy on hardware requirements. Papers, Please is a dystopian document thriller in which the primary game mechanic doesn’t seem to be conducive to an interesting game until you try it. Papers, Please drives home some interesting points, it forces the player to make decisions in the moment and weigh up the value of strangers and family. This is an award winning game and rightly so, it’s also easy to run on older hardware which is why it’s sitting pretty in the Single-slot Travel Toaster section. If you’ve not played Papers, Please then I would highly recommend doing so at the next available opportunity. The pricing comes in at around $10, so again about £6 through the Humble widget and the price may come down in sales. Chances are you’ll be able to run Papers, Please and chances are you probably should.