There was a time before Facebook and Google, where Microsoft was seen as the omnipotently evil organisation. Rising to market dominance in the 90s, but this reputation was built on a pit of litigation and questionable business practices. Becoming the focus of both envy and concern. In 1998, Parroty’s final parody would be on the Microsoft machine itself. In a twisted take on the tech titan, called Microshaft Winblows 98.
Returning more to their roots, Parroty Interactive gave this game a bit of a story. You meet two lowly Microsoft employees, Graham a friendly janitor, and Meg, Bill Gates’s assistant’s assistant. These two are the masterminds behind this software, and a letting you into the gag. As you delve deeper into the software, you will unlock secrets that head office doesn’t want you to uncover.
The game interface is a distorted depiction on the then-new Operating System, with hidden gag animations and distorted looks throughout. The run command just sends the icon running, and you can get lost in the ever-expanding start menus. Regards to actual games: There’s a Billagotchi (not as related but Tamagotchi were big at the time). You can also win Bill Gate’s money, play a Bill Gates themed pinball, and many other minigames that feel like the pre-installed offerings on the actual Windows 98. Meg and Graham also break into an almost vaudevillian double-act routine, as well as giving the player some advice. The actors do a fine job of making us empathise with them and seeing the FM video pop on this desktop feels eerily close to modern video communication.
Like the vault system in Star Warped, the content is mainly locked behind passwords. It helps give the experience a sense of progression, though, like in Star Warped, you get given the password after so many failed attempts… and they are mainly puns. As you progress, you also unlock segments of Gate’s diary, schedule, and e-mail. These come with impersonations of Bill Gates, that can be muted if desired, along with discarded product concepts that never made it to the shelves. You also unlock a collection of animated T.V. show parodies, ones that combine the show with tech. These include more impersonations. Interacting is how you get the next clue and ultimately move forward.
As swansongs come and swansongs go, it’s hard to think of one as more fitting than Winblows 98, a last _ gasp against a scary, yet exciting, new frontier. Microsoft, Bill Gates, and computers themselves have all evolved, yet this C.D. manages to capture a time before that. There are many references to the world of tech in ’98, and the unfortunate curse of topical satire is that sometimes the jokes do seem a little dated, but like other attempts, they manage to capture a heady era before the dot-com crash. It’s like catching an old sitcom, it’s nostalgic and for a time, you would wonder why we ever upgraded?
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