Macdows 95 by Yunis Ayyildiz
Macdows 95 is a cryptic puzzle game set within the ever-nostalgic borders of a pseudo-operating system. Providing little in the way of guidance or tutorial, Macdows drop players in at the deep end and expects them to figure out a puzzle at the bottom of the pool. Loaded with cleverly hidden challenges, Macdows plays like a user-interface crossed with an escape room.
Installation Failed, Please Check User Documentation
Before I could even play Macdows 95, I had to earn my way in by working through a simple shape-matching puzzle built around numerical digits. With this done, I was faced with a desktop of sorts, coupled with many of the usual things you’d expect to see on a freshly set-up computer.
Almost immediately, I was told to charge the battery. All of this felt very esoteric but, rather cleverly, the game was already subtly tutoring me on its mechanics.
Charging the battery involves a simple-ball bouncing game that has that addictive quality found in so many reaction-based games. With a few percentage points of battery gained, I moved onto the rest of the interface.
Most noticeably, this features a large network of interconnected orbs on the screen. They, it turns out, are a kind of over-world for various puzzles that have to be solved in order to turn red dots green and work across the grid. Each dot can be expanded to reveal a basic hint, and additional hints can be purchased by spending battery power (hence the well-disguised tutorial nudging the player in that direction before all else).
System Maintenance Required
Each puzzle is sequestered in a particular part of the operating system, whether it be the game’s stand-in for the venerable Paint program or simply the trash bin. From retro OS games to a strange desktop clean-up program, there’s a lot of clever crossover between puzzling and nostalgia for older operating systems here.
It reminds me of Emily is Away at times, although this isn’t the kind of narrative-driven emotional roller-coaster that can be found there. Macdows 95, instead, settles for providing some clever puzzles with the occasional nod towards OS nostalgia.
Visually Macdows does what it sets out to do; this is a basic user-interface featuring elements of both of its supposed parent operating systems. The programs, desktop and other aesthetics are all handled well, and it is rarely unpleasant to look at.
The audio side is unsurprisingly bare-bones, but the key-press sound effects coupled with various other sounds helps to create a great sense of immersion.
Look for Answers in the Help Menu
Macdows 95 is a well-crafted set of puzzles nested in an even more impressive maze of desktop icons, settings menus and callbacks to operating systems of yore. The game is a little obtuse to begin with, but even as it feels opaque, the game quietly teaches you the basics.
There are a few small niggles; the hints and instructions can sometimes seem poorly written – and it’s sometimes tricky to separate this from deliberately cryptic text – but for the most part this is an enjoyable puzzler with a superb sense of immersion.
I would like to see more puzzle games using this kind of setting for their brain-teasers.
Macdows 95 is available via Steam.
Watch the official Macdows 95 trailer below: