Let the Games Begin!

If you're ready for some serious fun, out of the hundreds of games you can play on the HP Palmtop, here's the run down on some of best.

By Capers Jones

Game of GO: Graphic

 The Hewlett-Packard HP 100/200LX Palmtop computers were not designed as game machines but they do an acceptable job in this role. There are probably over 100 games available that will work on the HP 100/ 200LX computers, including adventure games, board games, card games, sports simulations, and games developed for the computer environment only, like Tetris , Space Invaders and the like. I prefer classic board games such as checkers, chess, and backgammon or card games such as gin rummy, solitaire, and poker.

 To run on the 100/200LX a program needs to support CGA graphics (or use Monochrome text), an 8086 CPU (not 286, 386 or 486) and 640K (or less) system memory. Flight simulators and the like requiring too much in the way of really quick keyboard action are difficult to play.

Since the HP 100/200LX computers only weigh 11 ounces, and I don't like to add to that weight, I don't install games that have copy protection schemes requiring the user to carry around a manual or coding device for access codes.

Sources of games for the HP Palmtop computers

 One of the unexpected advantages of the 100/200LX's somewhat limited graphics support (CGA only) is that many interesting games can be found in the sale and close out bins, and shareware sections of toy stores, department stores, and computer stores. I've bought more than a dozen excellent games for between $5 and $10 that were originally priced at $25 to $50 when they first came out.

 Another good source of games are the library sections of various on-line information services such as America On-Line, CompuServe, Prodigy, the Internet, and various local bulletin boards. For example, the HP Handheld forum on CompuServe has at least 15 games available that are already tested for the HP Palmtops. Some of these are shareware, requiring registration and payment of a fee, but some are freeware and can be used with out any cost.

 Also, the IBM user forum on CompuServe has more than 250 games in their libraries, categorized into meaningful sections such as card games, word games, sports simulations and the like. Many of these games won't work on the HP Palmtops because they are too large, need VGA graphics, or have some other features that are incompatible. However, even if only 10% of the games work that is still a pretty rich source of entertainment.

 There are also a number of games available from companies that specialize in products for the Hewlett- Packard handhelds, such as EduCALC and Ace Technologies. In addition, many shareware and freeware games re-offered on The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK and The HP Palmtop Paper Subscriber's PowerDisk. Some of these games are available in PCMCIA card format, and plug directly into the HP's PCMCIA slot. most are available on disk.

 Installing games

 Many of the games found on-line or on shareware disks are distributed in compressed files. Most often they will be in a .ZIP file. You will have to use one of the utility programs, like UNZIP to extract the files from this compressed format. In this article, I assume you already know how to do this.

 My approach is to download the games to my home desktop computer, then check the downloaded material for possible viruses. You cannot be too careful about virus protection. I normally use the HP Connectivity Pack for transferring games from my desktop PC to the HP 100/200LX. The HP Connectivity Pack is sluggish for large files, but easy to operate.

 I've found that roughly a third of the games I look at won't install properly on the Palmtop for various reasons. For example, sometimes I'll install a game on my desktop PC and copy the installed files over to the Palmtop. The initial installation process configures the game for the computer they are first installed on. When the game is copied to the Palmtop, the configuration is no longer valid and the game fails. If a game does not install properly after a few tries, I give it away or scrap it.

 Board games

 The HP Palmtop computers do an excellent job on board games. This is because many board games use only two colors, so black and white monochrome displays are fine. In addition, many board games have simple movement patterns, so the key strokes needed for movement are straightforward.

I prefer graphics-based board games because the display looks better than those using character graphics. Here are some examples that work fine with the HP screen:


 Many backgammon games are available from bulletin boards and other sources. One such program is BACKGM.ZIP . Another program that looks very good on the HP 100/ 200LX screen is PC-Gammon from Micro Star's Casino Games disk. This is a standard backgammon game that uses a fairly convenient set of keyboard commands for movement. It is not terribly sophisticated in terms of playing skill, but then neither am I. The executable file and user guide total to about 125K of storage.


 For some reason there are not as many computer-based checkers games as there are chess games. CHKRS95.EXE , a checkers game made for the 95LX, works on the 100/200LX. In addition, there is a graphics-based checkers game called Lets Play Checkers by Don Lundman that works very well on the 100/200LX screen. The graphics are very clear on the Palmtop screen, and the movements by keyboard are very easy to learn. This game has multiple skill levels, and can play either like a novice or a pretty good player. The executable file and user document for this shareware total to about 105K.


 Here too there are several choices available, EdChess, in EDCV23.ZIP , among many others. One that does a good job on the HP 100/200LX is Powerchess , a shareware program by Wild H. Heiss. The graphics are fine (once you get used to the fact that the board is a rectangle and not a square).

The movement keys are very natural and easy to get used to. This game offers multiple skill levels, and can even solve chess problems. I'm not a ranked chess player so I don't know how well Powerchess plays at the higher skill levels except that it can often defeat me. For a casual game on an airplane, the skill levels are fine. Executable files, documents, and game files total to about 150K.

 Chinese Chess

Chinese Chess: Graphic

 The HPHAND forum on CompuServe has two versions of Chinese Chess available, in CCHESS.ZIP . One runs on the HP 100/200LX and the other on a desktop PC. The rules and the board are rather different from normal Western chess, but enthusiasts claim that it is a faster moving game that is very enjoyable.

 I don't know the rules well enough to play a full game. However, I downloaded and ran the HP Palmtop version. It seemed to work fine and its executable files and user documents total about 100K.


 Scrabble, from Virgin Interactive Entertainment, plays very well on the HP 100/200LX, and the graphics are quite good. I found this game in a department store close-out bin for less than $10. The only problem with this game is that movements using the keyboard are a little cumbersome since the game was created primarily for use with a mouse. This is a big game and all of the various files total to roughly 300K. If you store the whole dictionary with definitions, then that would add about another 400K. It's not necessary to use the dictionary with the Palmtop since the definitions are terse and the game plays fine without the meanings.

 Other Board Games

 A number of other board games are available that will probably work on the HP Palmtops, but which I have not personally tried. Some of the board game titles I've seen on shareware disks and in forum libraries include Chinese checkers, Go, Monopoly , Parchisi, Othello (Reversi ), Shogi or Japanese chess, and Trivial Pursuit.

 Card games

 The HP 100/200LX are very good computers for card games, and quite a few are available. It's important to consider whether the designer created the game to be played primarily using keyboard commands (good for Palmtop users) or a mouse (not as good). Following are some of the card game programs that I've seen and tried:


 Blackjack is a fairly easy game to simulate, and there are perhaps a dozen or more shareware versions available. Some of the more sophisticated versions also include various counting systems, tutorials, and aids for becoming a better blackjack player. To me, blackjack on a computer has very little appeal. I've tried out quite a few versions but only to see if they can be downloaded and work successfully which most have done. The storage ranged from about 25K to more than 50K. [Editor's Note: We've included on The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK, BJ.EXM, a 95LX system Manager version of blackjack which installs in the Application Manager on the 100/200LX and requires 12K.]


 Although I don't play bridge myself, I've seen a number of bridge simulations available. For example, the HP Handheld forum on CompuServe has a bridge simulation called BridgePal in its library, which can be played by one or two players and takes about 250K of storage.


 Different versions of Cribbage are available, including CRIB.ZIP from the HP Handheld forum on CompuServe.

Another version of Cribbage, Cribbage King, is available on the Software Toolworks (now Mindscape, Inc.) CD Game Pack I, which also includes gin rummy. Note that only the CD ROM version of Toolworks lets you downloaded these games to the HP Palmtop. The disk-based versions were all copy protected.

Once loaded, the cards of the Toolworks version display nicely and the keyboard movements are straight forward. Storage for the necessary files runs to about 175K.

 Gin Rummy

 There are perhaps half a dozen gin rummy games available as shareware or down loadable from forum libraries and bulletin boards. Software Toolworks' CD ROM version has a gin rummy game, Gin King, that works well on the HP Palmtop, but remember that only the CD ROM version will download to the Palmtop. File storage for this version runs to about 180K.


 There are several very good shareware and commercial poker games available that work very well on the HP 100/200LX machines. One that plays well is a shareware game called Vegas Johnny's Draw Poker by Micro Star. This is a very good rendition of a traditional draw poker game, which includes very realistic sound effects (which can be turned off during business events). The key stroke movements for functions such as calling, raising, etc., are intuitive and very natural on the HP keyboard. The game can also be invoked in monochrome mode, which works better than the CGA color version and is quite clear (if small) on the HP screens. File storage for the necessary files is about 155K.

Also available is a similar game called Amarillo Slim's 7 Card Stud by John Comeau from Villa Crespo Software. This is a good rendition of stud poker. Although the cards are slightly smaller than in Vegas Johnny's Draw Poker, the overall screens and the movement commands are essentially identical. File storage runs a bit over 200K, but more than 50K are devoted to the sound effects files.

 There are a number of "video poker" games, like TAHOE5.ZIP , that simulate the kinds of pseudo poker found on commercial slot machines. I've tried a number of these games on the HP Palmtops, but I don't find this form of poker to be very entertaining.


 I've gotten more than a dozen different solitaire games to work on the HP 100/200LX. Two of my favorites are the commercial games of Solitaire Royale by Spectrum Holobyte and Hoyle's Book of Games Vol.II: Solitaire by Sierra-On-Line games.

 The Solitaire Royale disk offers a dozen common flavors of solitaire including klondike, pyramid, and golf. It also has a suite of simple children's games such as Concentration. The colors are a bit tricky on the Palmtop screen, but the cards are visible even using the overhead lights on commercial airliners. The keyboard movements for these games are fairly intuitive and quick, so you can play any of the games very quickly. File storage runs to about 90K.

 The Hoyle's Book of Games II solitaire suite is much more ponderous, but has many different games and multiple levels of difficulty. This game uses about 600K of system RAM to operate, so you must leave System Manager (Press (&...) Applications Terminate all...) and start the program at the DOS prompt. When playing, the keyboard movements are straight forward, but quite a lot of keystrokes are needed. Since, the play is also very slow, I tend to use this game only when flying on long trips. The cards show up quite well on the HP 100/200LX screen, and the "colors," shown as shades of black and white, can be adjusted for the dim lights of airlines and hotel rooms. This is a very large game, and takes over 300K to store all of the files.

 Other Card Games

 There are too many kinds of card games available to deal with all of them. Some of the other games I've seen on forums and bulletin boards include canasta, fish, hearts, Japanese card games using flower decks, old maid, pinochle, spades, various Tarot implementations, and whist.

 Gambling Games

 Most forms of gambling have game versions available. Some of the games I've seen in computer stores and forum libraries include Baccarat, Keno, Craps, Roulette, Slot machines of various kinds, and even oriental gambling games such as Mah Jong.

 Sports simulations

 On the whole I have not been satisfied with sports simulations on the HP 100/200LX. Often the colors are difficult to distinguish, or the keyboard movements tend to need such frantic finger work that it is difficult to keep pace. Here are a few that seem to work:


 Since I enjoy real golf, I've tried at least half a dozen commercial and shareware golf games, and have not found any that I really like. My preference is for graphics-based golf games that give a sense of truly playing the game. I've tried character-based golf games that simply use statistics or random factors to simulate the results from hole to hole, and find them boring.

 From the shareware world, a golf game called Caddiehack CGA Tour from one of Micro Star's disks plays fairly well. The registered version is definitely better than the demo version, since it allows you to turn off the very leisurely introductory screen, includes more courses, and allows multiple players. The one-course, one-player version takes about 100K and the multi-course, multi-player game goes over 150K.

 From the commercial world, a golf game called California Pro from Virgin Interactive Entertainment, has fairly good graphics and plays well, although this game locked up my Palmtop from time to time.

Although this program is no longer available from the publisher, I found this program in the sale bin in the software section of a local department store for $5.00. File storage is about 150K for this game.


 There are a number of shareware football simulations that work on the HP 100/200LX computers, and I've tried perhaps half a dozen without finding any that held my interest for more than a few minutes. However, I'm only a casual football fan.

One that I have not tried, an old version of a commercial football simulation, NFL Challenge by Xor, reportedly works very well on the HP 100/200LX.

 Other Sports Simulations

 Many other sports have CGA games that can be played on the HP 100/ 200LX computers. I found an interesting martial arts simulator called Budokan from Electronic Arts that worked, although I had to carry the users guide around with me to get the passwords necessary to access some of its features.

I have seen, but not yet tried out other CGA games for baseball, billiards, miniature golf, tennis, soccer, and various summer and winter Olympic games.

 Computer-based games

 The games we've looked at so far are adaptations of games that exist outside of the computer environment (i.e. chess, solitaire). But the advent and growing popularity of computers has ushered in the development of new and unique software games created only for computers (i.e. Tetris and many of the electronic "arcade" games). In fact, this new software game business is now far larger than any of the older traditional game businesses and is one of the fastest growing industries in both the United States and in Japan.

The software game business is also very interesting to those in the computer industry itself. The major game companies are industry leaders in the development of software tools and methodologies.

 Here are some examples from a few of the many categories of these specialized games that work on the HP 100/200LX computers.

 Adventure Games

Pharaoh's Tomb: Graphic

 The use of computers for interactive adventure gaming has spawned a significant sub-industry in its own right. As of 1995, a total of more than 100 adventure games are on the commercial market or can be downloaded from various libraries and bulletin boards. In addition there are probably 20 text-based adventure games and perhaps a dozen graphics-based computer games that work fairly well on the Palmtops, including Quest , ADV100.ZIP , COLOSS.ZIP , ADV95 .ZIP , DUNGEO.ZIP , TREK1.ZIP , PDTREK.ZIP , Pharoah's Tomb (see graphic above), and others.

One of the classic adventure games of all time, Rogue , is now available for the 100/200LX. About 10 years ago the game of Rogue, by Michael Toy and Kenneth Arnold, had the same kind of popularity that "Doom" is achieving today. Rogue and Doom have similar concepts; players move through gloomy dungeons and kill various monsters. As you proceed and pick up various objects and gain experience your strength goes up -- and the monsters get tougher. Rogue is a character-based program that takes only about 99K of storage.

 Military Games

 The use of computers to simulate military campaigns at both the strategic and tactical level is also a significant sub-industry. Both commercial games and shareware games are now available that deal with every kind of warfare known to the human species: infantry combat, armor combat, air combat, naval engagements, submarine warfare, and missile combat. Every historical era from the ancient world through space warfare have multiple games available. One such military game that works on HP 100/200LX is SEAHUNT.ZIP , a variation of battleship.

Seahunt Game: Graphics

 Flight and Driving Simulators

 There are many different kinds of vehicle simulations that work on the HP Palmtops, including the older versions of the classic Microsoft Flight Simulator. Within this same class of games can be found automobile racing games, various space flight simulators, and a few simulators of other kinds of vehicles such as sail boats. There are even several air traffic control games reported to work on the 100/200LX.

 Specialized Puzzle and Movement Games

 The Russian game "Tetris" spawned a whole new class of computerized games that is still growing rather rapidly. Several Tetris clones and Tetris itself are available in versions that run on HP 100/200LX computers, TT95.ZIP . A new version of Tetris was recently released for the HP 100/200LX you hold the Palmtop sidewise to play (TETRIS.ZIP).

A game in the same family, but with a different playing style, is the popular Sokoban game. In this maze game, the pieces are motionless and the player tries to push them out of the way without getting them stuck against walls or each other.

 Because time is not a factor, this game does not require frantic keyboard movements and has a more leisurely style. It is fairly compact, and takes about 20K of storage.

The HP 200LX comes with a built-in Lair of Squid game (also available for the 100LX as MAZEUS.ZIP ). In Squid, you move around inside a 3-D graphics maze, avoiding the squid. It takes up about 30K. A newer version of Hearts & Bones is built into the 200LX and is also available for the HP 100LX (HBUS.ZIP). International versions of Squid and Hearts & Bones are available on CompuServe for French, German and Spanish language 100LX's.

 Children's Games

 Here too a host of available games can be played on the HP Palmtops. Some of these games fit into the computer-based category, such as the adventure game Commander Keen. Others are computer versions of old favorite games like Boggle, Concentration , Yahtzee ), Old Maid. There are also educational games, such as ones designed to help with math skills, reading skills, and the like.

 Summary and conclusions

 To those of us who travel a great deal by airplane, a good game can be very relaxing after a tough business trip. The HP 100/200LX computers were not designed as game machines, but in fact do creditable jobs for many different kinds of games. They are particularly good for playing card games and playing classic board games such as chess and checkers that don't require fast keyboard responses. The HP Palmtops are less effective on games that require very fast keyboard actions such as sport simulations. However, an 11 ounce computer that can play standard CGA graphics games is a considerable accomplishment.