Monday 4 January 2010

Dr. Rudy

It's a brand new year and a brand new decade, but that's not going to stop me from finding decaying old programs from the early 1990s that nobody has played in years!

Presenting "Dr. Rudy", a DOS game initially released in 1991 and is quite clearly a Dr. Mario clone. NES emulation through DOS wouldn't really kick-off until 1997 and it would take even longer for other Nintendo systems to be supported, so for many years this was one of the only ways you could play Dr. Mario on your IBM compatible PC.

It's notable for two reasons... or maybe three. One, it's yet another example of a very early Mario fangame... sort of (nineteen years old and still beating modern attempts!), two it'll run on even the most insanely underpowered PCs and three because I still claim Dr. Hello is worth caring about and this shares a similar concept.

As you can probably imagine, the game attempts to re-create Nintendo's 1990 classic, Dr. Mario. It's a very basic interpretation - there's no music, what little sounds exist come from the internal PC speaker and all gameplay controls are mapped to the directional keys. It supports VGA, CGA and... uh... "terrible/non-existant" graphics cards and the game will fit comfortably on most types of floppy disk due to its <32kb of file size. In other words, it was covering all bases in the DOS market.
The graphics are so-so. The replacement for Dr. Mario, "Dr. Rudy" is an ugly thing, but the rest is passable. It doesn't really push a 256 colour palette to its limits but it does manage to hold its own fairly well with good old 4 colour CGA, even if it does cut the animation for some reason. The most interesting mode however is the text-based version of the game, which will ensure it's playable on even the most laughable of 80s DOS set-ups.

Dr. Mario in this form is fairly difficult to play (though probably less so with different text sizes), but this is the first time I've seen a Mario clone for computers that couldn't even render graphics.

Dr. Rudy managed to get itself a sequel cleverly titled "Dr. Rudy 2", but that's not so much a Dr. Mario clone as it is a completely different game with the same sprites. Amazingly Kevin North was charging the public $10 for this game all the way up to 1998 - it's an odd way to make a living and seeing as it's taken me nearly two decades to find it (and I was half-looking), I don't expect he earned that much.

But nevertheless a great bit of unofficial Mario history that Nintendo would want covering up.

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