Genre: Hac
Year: 1998
Developed by: Moonlite Software
Published by: Apogee
Platforms: MS-DOS, Windows, Linux, Mac OS
Feeling Like: Magic of Freeware

I have a pretty vivid memory of how I received most games in my life. To be fair, up until I was willing to work a real job, it was birthdays and Christmas that were my sole sources. But I’ll always recall how Ian Smith got me Ikaruga for my birthday. Or how Granny Skey (RIP) spoiled me rotten with a Super Nintendo and Donkey Kong Country during one particularly fun summer visit. These kind of memory hangers-on refuse to shove off.

Hocus Pocus? No clue.

I never read anything about it in any gaming magazine. None of my friends knew about it. I was still four years away from my pioneer internet days. Poof. It just appeared one day in the form of a floppy disk. Like magic.

I’m sure my father got it for me, and I’m not saying that because the game was free. I’m saying that because it’s been dawning on me for the last decade that my parents were so unrelentingly kind and supportive. Never mind that they didn’t understand or care for games; they understood that I loved to play them and they cared for me. So, Hocus Pocus it is. Thanks dad.

I don’t know why I was so enamored at the time. Super Mario World was released 4 years earlier and is so superior, they might as well be a different type of entertainment entirely. It’s your standard side scrolling platformer. Go left, up, down and right and shoot your magic little lightning bolts at enemies until they explode. Explore a bit, but not too much.

Here you can see Hocus mid-air-jump-pump

Upon watching replays on Youtube, I realize that I had played through the entire game without any sound. Our little 386 could barely open word documents without some verbal encouragement, I suppose a sound card was out of the question.

It’s not like I was missing much, but it’s fun to see what I engaged in during the dark ages of my gaming career. I wouldn’t let a small detail like lack of audio prevent ME from enjoying myself.  Free PC games were better than nothing, since nothing presented itself quite often. I enjoyed the way Hocus (that’s his name, don’t blame me!) sort of humped the air as he jumped. It controlled just fine, though the concept of gravity was a little muddled. The screen scrolled pretty quickly and Hocus would trot down stairs at a dangerous pace. And there were enough secret rooms and goblets/keys/mcguffins to collect to entertain for more than a few hours.

I have a vague memory of going super saiyan in the last level, getting a power-up that enables you to spam your lightning bolt while flashing white and decimating all the taller wizards in your way. Quite satisfying.

Most flash games today (also free!) far eclipse Hocus Pocus. It won’t live on in infamy, just a quiet reminder that demos and free games used to be as exciting as any paid game because it was there for a ten year old to play through and make tiny trees and bats blow up. Alakazam!

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