Native Linux Games for an Arcade Cabinet: The Humble Indie Bundles

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I’ve been digging around trying to find some games that run natively on Linux to install on my cocktail cabinet. The search has been a bit difficult. I don’t have a trackball on my cabinet, so any game that requires a mouse is automatically crossed off the list. There are quite a few games that are playable without the mouse… Unfortunately, many of them require a mouse to start a new game or exit the game. I thought Frogatto looked very interesting. You can start a new game without a mouse but you can’t exit without one! Frogatto; is open source, maybe one day I’ll get some gumption and add a quit key to it.

I bought the first Humble Indie Bundle but completely forgot that I had it! When the Humble Indie Bundle 2 went on sale I bought a copy right away. The second bundle has two games that don’t require a mouse; the first bundle has one.

BraidHumble Indie Bundle 2

Braid is an awesome game that only requires the keyboard. It did present a bit of a challenge for me because it doesn’t let you remap the keys. It was easy enough to wrap the game up in a script that does a little xmodmap trickery to remap the keys so I can play from the “Player 3” controller. I ended up doing this for just about every native game I’ve installed so far. Even games that let you redefine keys still require the arrow keys to move around the menus! My “Player 1” controller uses the arrow keys and that position has a vertical screen orientation.

Braid is an awesome game for an arcade cabinet. The night I installed it, two of us were leaning over the arcade table for at least an hour or more trying to get all those puzzle pieces. We completed the first two or three worlds that night. I think the most amazing moment that night was when we figured out how to get the two puzzle pieces that are just past the puzzle assembly screen in the first world.

Braid seems to require a surprisingly heavy-duty machine. It runs at pretty low resolution and at only 20 frames per second on my cabinet. That frame rate doesn’t make for a terribly smooth game, but I stopped noticing it pretty quickly. It doesn’t help that I have to invert the screen to be able to play it.

Cortex CommandHumble Indie Bundle 2

This one looks pretty cool. I’ve only gotten a chance to complete the tutorial mission so far. It seems like a game like this is made for a cocktail cabinet since it is a four-player split-screen game. Unfortunately, like every other split screen game, all the screens point in the same direction. It would be really awesome if I could rotate the screens, or at least get a MAME-style cocktail mode type display out of it.

It would definitely be a great two-player game on an upright cabinet, though.

I used xmodmap trickery for this one as well. I’m pretty sure I needed the arrow keys to move the virtual mouse around the menus.

GishHumble Indie Bundle

Gish is a perfect fit for any arcade cabinet. It is an interesting platformer where you control a blob of tar. I had a bit of difficulty getting the hang of the controls; it took me a while to figure out how to use the Jello-like effect of the blob to jump higher. I did manage to get past a few levels, though.

Once again, I used more xmodmap trickery. Once I created a few mapping files it became easier to change the key layout than it is to try to change the keys inside the games.

My First Failure, AquariaHumble Indie Bundle

Aquaria looks like it might be interesting. The game looks playable without a mouse, but it requires a mouse to change options and to exit the game.

Final Thoughts

I’m glad I bought the first Humble Indie Bundle. I had previously only played World of Goo. I’m glad the arcade table encouraged me to try Gish. The Humble Indie Bundle 2 was worth the money for Braid alone; Cortex Command is a nice bonus. I’m sure I’ll play some of the other games on my laptop. Osmos and Revenge of the Titans both look interesting.