So, it’s 1995
and you’ve got a new PC
with Windows 95.
You wanna play some games,
but you’re too poor to afford anymore,
or you’re bored of the ones you’ve got.
So you start wandering around the
crap that came with the computer,
and come across the Windows 95 companion CD-ROM.
Browsing the disc files, you see
game demos and some music videos,
and holy crap, a full freaking game
by the name of Hover!,
developed internally at Microsoft
under codename Bambi
and included with every
CD-ROM version of Windows 95.
Sorry, floppy people. You are screwed.
So, Hover! –
and yes, it’s pronounced like that
because of the exclamation point –
was pretty friggin’ awesome to poor kids like me
who didn’t have many games to choose from
and wanted games like Doom,
but couldn’t because, heh, parents.
But, hey, we got Hover!
And it’s awesome because it’s in, like, 3D-ish,
and kind of reminiscent of Doom, sort of.
That means it’s awesome, right?
I played it so much, it has to be awesome.
Yeah, let’s take off the nostalgia goggles and look at it.
So Hover! starts off with
the background of a level that’s
not actually in the main game,
and saying “Press F2 to start a game of Hover!”
Of course, you don’t really wanna do that, necessarily.
You can actually go ahead and
start from any level that you want to,
all the way up to 16.
You can also customize the game a bit
by changing the different sound options,
choosing the different controls.
Simple enough, just some direction
keys and pressing A-S-D for power-ups.
And then customize some details,
like, well, the details of the game,
which makes it run faster or slower,
the maze type maps options,
whether or not you want the mirror to show,
and vehicle difficulty, which
oddly enough pretty much just
affects how fast the turning happens.
So, yeah, I put it on Intermediate
because it’s kind of in the middle, and that’s good
for those of us that like middles,
and have problems committing to extremes.
Start the game, some rad MIDI music starts playing,
and you’re off to collect the flags before your opponent.
You are a hovercraft, the Hover 950,
an you try and collect the different
blue flags before your opponent
can collect the red flags.
And… that’s it.
Man, I… [laughs]
really seemed to have developed
some standards over the years
because as a kid, I played this a LOT.
And for the life of me, I can’t see why.
It’s just capture the flag in pretty sterile environments.
There are three different maze types,
so that does change up things
at least a little bit here and there.
One kind of looks like a medieval castley thing,
and another this… gravy-purple
futuristic flamboyant place.
And the other one is this sort of industrial,
nasty-looking sewage treatment facility
that, honestly, it wouldn’t look out of place
if I saw a Doom monster or two wandering around.
But these same three places
repeat throughout the entire game.
So every few levels, you’ll come across
the same textures, the same music,
the same level layout, the same
spawn locations of the flags.
The only that increases are the
amount of flags that you need to capture
and the opposing drones that are out
there trying capture flags before you.
They also get a little more aggressive
and smarter as the game goes on.
The only other aspect to this are the power-ups,
although, really, they don’t do very much at all.
As you’re wandering the monotonous mazes,
you’ll see different things on the floor
and different things floating in the air, these little orbs
with power-ups or power-downs.
Along the floor you’ve got pads
that will either take your flags,
speed you up in a certain direction or
glue you down to one spot,
and the floating orbs will give you different pickups,
some of which are activated immediately and
some you can activate whenever you want to.
The three that are activated no matter what
are the Map Eraser,
which erases your mini map, of course,
the Speed Up and Speed Down
which, uh… do that
for a temporary amount of time,
and a shield which makes you temporarily invincible
to the other things that are bad.
The three that you can pick up and use at any time
are the spring, the wall and the cloak.
The spring is probably the most useful.
This allows you to jump your hovercraft
over any obstacles
or over opponents or whatever.
Then you’ve got the wall,
which, uh, doesn’t really do much.
In theory, the enemy drones will bump into them
or be blocked from an area,
but they aren’t permanent
and they pretty much will just go around them,
even if you place it right in front of them.
Yeah, they don’t care. They’ll just go around it.
And the last one is the cloak,
which cloaks your Hover 950,
so your opponents can’t see you.
But really, that doesn’t make much of a difference at all
because your opponents don’t seem
to give a crap if they see you. Honestly.
They just don’t.
Like the wall, this seems like it would
make much more sense in multiplayer,
but there is no multiplayer, so who cares?
The enemies aren’t after YOU, they’re after the flags.
So even if you do use it,
it’s not like they’re gonna stop looking for flags.
They’re just gonna continue looking for flags.
The thing about all of these is that once you find out
that really the spring is the only
one that kind of helps here and there,
that and the shield,
then who cares about the other stuff?
You just avoid it when you see it from a distance.
The only thing that you might have a problem with
is if you accidentally get
bumped into one of these things.
But you know, it sucks to get slowed
down or temporarily pulled to the floor.
But it’s all temporary, so… yeah. [laughs]
The game isn’t that hard to begin with
and this just, it doesn’t really make it much harder,
except a very minimal amount.
And that really is it
You try to get the most points, last as long as you can
without the enemies taking the flags before you,
and, uh, there you go.
I have no idea why I played this so much as a kid,
except that I thought it was awesome.
Maybe it was the 3D novelty of the game
when I didn’t have many other 3D games.
Maybe it was Easter eggs like the “IBMAB” cheat,
which allows you to actually
roam around that startup level
and look at the people that designed the game.
Maybe it was that awesome sound
it makes every time you win a match.
And it was a free game,
so you can’t complain about that.
And looking at it through rose-tinted glasses,
yeah, I still think it’s pretty much awesome.
Objectively, I can’t say that there is
anything about this that’s really special.
It’s a super-simple capture
the flag game with hovercrafts,
which, really, that in itself doesn’t
make it very interesting, either.
It just feels like a first-person shooter with
extremely bad physics on an ice skating rink.
But if you wanna relive some nostalgic memories,
it’s still free to download from Microsoft’s FTP.
So go ahead and give it a try,
and if you haven’t tried it before,
well, don’t expect too much.
But, just, uh… look at it
and experience what kids had to deal with
when they didn’t have the option
to get other games back in the day.