Virus: The Game (1997)

Computing has evolved in magnitudes since the dawn of the home-computing revolution. From the command mastery needed back in the early days. For today’s users, there lies a more streamlined approach, much of it abstracted away in the cloud, making knowledge of the inner workings of your devices more of a fascination than a necessity. Wonders remain about what life would be like inside the machine, watching all the calculations calculate, have been a common idea for a while. In 1997, a video game put players inside their computers, to match their wits with the many viruses that lurk within, in Virus: The Game.

Who knows what viruses are lurking in your own system?!

Virus: The Game has an intriguing premise, a virus has infected your computer system. Leaving only you to go and stop it. You fly around levels, going to areas based entirely on your hard drive, and its contents. Do you have any windows open? You can see them from inside the game itself. Your music is used to populate your experience; picture files too, as the locations are populated from familiar folders on your machine. As you deal with 15 levels of increasing complexity, you manage units to gather resources and help you out on the epic battle to retake your system.

There are 15 levels, including some practice and tutorial levels… and even some multiplayer.

The game’s 3.D. representation of your system is Virus’s key selling point. You pass terminals with actual screenshots of your desktop, with windows open too. You hop into folders on your system, so the documents you prepared for the Henderson account could harbour a whole host of nefarious baddies. Likewise, you navigate the world through a ship, and you can traverse through the three dimensions with relative ease. You can also use the tree-folder diagram (familiar to those who spent countless hours navigating the Windows system) to quickly dash around folders. While navigating may not be as intuitive so many years on, you’ll soon pick up a method that suits you.

Yes, that blue square is my desktop (on my virtual machine at least!)

Trying to get this 25-year-old game to run on modern systems might be a bit of a challenge, but if you can find a computer from just after Y2K, you can have a lot of fun. There is an evolving strategy component, especially as you progress among the 15 levels, as you manage underlying units to gather resources and generally help you take back control. Marrying strategy and action is more than intuitive, in a product that is already bursting with ideas, much like the forgotten gem, Urban Assault. While the focus on relying on user content, puts one in mind other trailblazing games, like Audiosurf.

You get a variety of units to help you, some you can control!

Virus is a charming idea, as a fan of games that utilise the player’s content in creative ways, much akin to Audiosurf. Yet, Virus: The Game goes a lot further than resting on the laurels of user-generated content. Calling the idea ambitious is an understatement, as it throws a 3.D. action, and strategy together in a jazz-like fusion. Virus is a trojan horse of deceptive replayability, or just an artefact of an era where computers held wonder, and were not abstracted into unknowable obscurity. For a quick oddity of a bygone era, Virus: The Game might be a handy utility to kill some time.

The Tree-Directory would be a familiar sight for those who had to browse the computers of yesteryear.

If you want more positive reviews delivered to the e-mail box of your choice, you can click on that little text bubble at the bottom of the screen. Do you agree or disagree? or have a suggestion for another pop-culture artefact that needs a positive light shone on it? Leave a comment in the comment box below! But remember to keep it positive!

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