More lightweight diversions

I have spent the past few days poking around the Internet, looking for console-based diversions. I have little to report that isn’t common knowledge, really. NetHack is still “the” answer to any sort of recreation at the terminal, probably because it has such a long history, and probably because it’s just a good game.

On the other hand, there are some very good games that don’t require as much thought — like I showed you with MyMan — but between those two, they are probably among the best I’ve seen. I tried quite a lot, but usually they fell short of my personal standards for mentioning them here. Interpret that as you will. 😐

Before I go any further, it’s probably important to mention that, supposedly, reputedly, allegedly, you can play Quake, Quake 2, Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, and probably others, in textmode, via aalib.

Does that mean you can play Unreal Tournament on your 750Mhz Celeron inside dvtm? I don’t know. I’m only half-enthused by the idea, and setting it up strikes me as infinitely more work than I would glean in the currency of enjoyment. But perhaps, for you, the proportion of effort-expended-versus-pleasure-gained will be adequate to warrant an attempt. Let me know how it goes.

Aside from those, here are a few actual console-based games that proved worthy. This is one of the better ones — nInvaders.


If you remember arcade games from the early 80s, and if you squint really hard at the screen, you’ll recognize this as a textmode rendition of Space Invaders. Gameplay is straightforward — shoot, and don’t get shot. Score points. Brag to your friends.

It’s easy enough to play and the action is quick enough that it will keep you interested for a short period of time. Graphically speaking it’s nothing to swoon over, but that will probably be the case with any text-based game, unless you’re using some exotic font that the rest of us don’t know about.

Keeping with the 80s-arcade theme, this is Moon Buggy, which aimed to transfer Moon Patrol to the console.


Again, graphically speaking it’s nothing to crow about, but gameplay is more or less faithful to the original, the premise is simple enough that there’s no learning curve to speak of, and the challenge will keep you trying for a short, but acceptable period of time.

If shooting aliens or jumping moon rocks isn’t your thing, here’s a puzzle of sorts: Greed.

Greed is unusual; the idea is that movement in any direction will begin with a number, and that number is what determines how many spaces forward you travel. In that sense, I don’t know how deeply you can strategize, considering there are enough options to overwhelm the human brain. But perhaps if you have sharing time on a Cray, you can find out the optimum solution for any given combination. Good luck with that.

On the other hand, there are no explosions, there are no guns, no blood and no violence — aside from the act of pulling your own hair out, trying to get your best score.

Also nonviolent, and also a mind-boggler, is Bastet.


Bastet promises to be a difficult Tetris game, and it delivers. As I understand it, the game is programmed to give you the least-useful piece at any given time. In other words, that old trick of stacking up levels and leaving out a long, four-block piece and then collecting a quadruple-bonus … those days are gone.

But it’s good fun, and definitely the best-looking console Tetris clone out there. There are others, but their choice of “graphical elements” was difficult to see, and therefore unattractive to me.

(As a side note to Crux users, Bastet relies on boost to compile. Which is normally not a big deal, but I don’t otherwise use boost on my system, and it takes around four hours to compile at 1Ghz. And then 25 seconds to build Bastet. Grr. 👿 )

A couple more, that deviate slightly. Terminal-based entertainment, short of watching movies piped through aalib, could always take the obvious route and remain text-based, as it was a long time ago. To that end it’s still possible to play some telnet games, including Space Tyrant, which is still maintained too.

I haven’t had the chance to delve into this too deeply, but it appears to be a rather complex game with a considerable amount of strategy involved. At the times I have tried it, I seemed to be the only person playing, so it may be worth your while to arrange a game with a friend or two, and not feel lonesome.

(And yes, of course, I said the word “telnet,” so I have to add the obligatory nod to ASCII Star Wars at Happy? 😉 )

One more thing, although it’s not really a game, it does qualify as a worthy visual distraction. If you install the cacalib libraries, there is a demo/screensaver/troubleshooting utility called “cacafire,” which … which … well, it does this:

cacafire is a colorized rendition of aafire, which appears with the aalib packages. I don’t think there’s much in the way of function to cacafire, but it would be fun to tamper with it a little bit — maybe tie network access speeds to the height and intensity of the flames. Otherwise, you could just stare into the lights, and let your brain relax.

That’s about all I have. Like I mentioned before, there are more out there but they didn’t enthuse me, or wouldn’t build, or just weren’t fun. If I missed one, please sound off.


14 thoughts on “More lightweight diversions

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      I’m a little surprised; not so much at bastet but at greed. Is there some sort of appeal I’m overlooking? I’ll be honest and say while it seemed like a challenge, it also seemed somewhat … impossible. 😐

      1. colonelcrayon

        Greed is an interesting game. It has no graphics, no time pressure, little strategy, and zero chance to build on your successes. Then why is it so addictive?! I think it ultimately comes down to variety. Every game of greed is totally different, and it can be really cool to see the patterns developed by each game.

        Obviously, it also depends on personal preference. I personally find nInvaders mindnumbingly dull. Shooting little pixels over and over bores me to death.

  1. Sean Streeter

    I know you might have looked at it but vitetris is my console based Tetris choice. It’s both feature packed and dependency light. And it has multiplayer (what kind of console app has that). If you don’t like their choice of “graphical elements” you can choose from a few different options too.

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  3. Nobody Important

    I’d suggest any roguelike if you like Nethack (like ADOM, Angband, etc.) and Interactive Fiction, which is fairly light and often well made.

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  9. LM

    Decided to go through my console based menu (created from dialog and bash shell script) of games on my FreeBSD machine and mention what I have. Since they’re console based, they should probably build on Linux as well if they’re not already in a particular distribution’s repository. Should also be more details on these (and links to source) if you look them up at FreeBSD ports (

    I have astrolog, which is more of an astrology program than a game, but it’s interesting and can be entertaining. I also have block, blue (blue moon), braincurses (mastermind), bs (battleship), eights, enygma, freesweep, lexter, mancala, seabattle, starlanes, yahtzee. I also saw mention of rfksay on the INX distribution’s site and decided to try it out. It’s not exactly a game, but it could be interesting to look at.

    I had a ton of BASIC games that worked well on my early computers and many of them would translate to console mode. However, I’d have to find a good implementation of a somewhat compatible BASIC that would work in console or rewrite everything in C/C++ with a GUI library built on pdcurses and/or ncurses.

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