Wednesday, 8 June 2011

PC (DOS) - Pyro ][ - World Terrorism

Pyro ][ - World Terrorism
OK, you’re going to have to bear with me on this one. At least, I assume you will.

Whenever the topic of “Best game ever” comes around, there’s one or two games that you can guarantee are mentioned, mainly (it seems) Nintendo games. But there’s always a few “outsiders” who get their names out there, for example the Sim City games (in particular Sim City 2000), or World of Warcraft might get a nod or two.

Then there’s the obtuse games that one or two people will shout out for, but no-one else has ever heard of, or at least can’t remember.

For me, there’s a game that falls into this category. If given the chance to name my “top 3 games EVAAAAR”, this one always sneaks its way onto the list.
I’m pretty sure it was a freebie, too, back when PD (Public Domain) Freeare & Shareware games and demos were distributed from PD Libraries rather than simply flung up to the internet. Pyro ][, whose prequel I’ve never played, was discovered by me in the relatively early days of CD-ROM technology, on a CD called “Hot Sound & Vision 2”, which was essentially a collection of PD software, add-ons and images, put together to save you having to download it all.

The game itself boils down to a simple puzzle game, but requires speed and forethought to complete to the best of your ability.

Forgive the primitive “Worse than an 8-bit” graphics, they’re not important. What matters (and always has mattered) is the gameplay.

The basic objective, then, is to burn down various famous buildings. You start out on the top floor of each one, and must work your way down. You drag a fuse along behind you, which usually takes around 15 seconds to start burning. Most walls are flammable, with the exception of the corners. To reach the walls though, you must either go past petrol cans, or you can spill a can on the floor if you prefer, creating a pool of petrol, which will also light. Then you must escape down the stairs to the next level without setting yourself on fire.

Repeat this for the hundreds of levels that face you. Easy!

Except it really isn’t. It’s FIENDISHLY difficult to make any real distance into the game. Pass your fuse by a petrol can and it will explode, spreading the fire around. Cause too big a chain reaction and you’ll end up having your fire catch up with you. Set fire to the stairs and you cut off your only escape route. Whilst you might think you can just escape without doing too much damage, there's the temptation to burn all the walls down after you’ve left, as you’ll earn a generous “Completion” bonus.

Y’know, writing this, I don’t feel I’m doing the game any justice. Maybe it’s just me (it usually is), but this game had that “one more go” factor. Back in the nineties, when all I had to worry about was school and my weekends consisted of almost all the free time I could desire, much of it was spent trying to progress through this game. I was never good enough to beat it, never good enough to make significant progress, but I couldn’t tear myself away.
It’s a sign of a great game, and if you can put up with the DOS graphics, you might well lose an afternoon to it too.

It looks like it’s still freely available on the internet through the usual abandonware/old DOS games sites, so you shouldn’t find it too hard to unearth, dust off, and set fire to it. BURN BABY BURN!


  1. I remember this game very well and love it. I'm trying to play it right now and I can't recall all the commands.... It's:
    arrows to move
    Shift to grab gas cans
    z to leave gas cans or deposit/drop gas cans
    What is the "speed up" key??

    Rock on.

  2. Hi, Lee, thanks for the comments! Glad it jogged someone's memory.

    I could be wrong, but I *THINK* it was the backslash key to speed up, the one next to Z, or the key between Tab and Escape, whatever that's called. Let me know if I'm right or wrong!

  3. Ha! I found the instructions! If Pyro thinks it's the first time you're running the program it lets you see them. You can see them again by running "pyro.exe -i".

    Arrows: walk
    Shift: pick up cans
    Space: spread a can you're holding
    Enter or z: set a can down / spill it
    + or x: use a potion if you are carrying one
    caps lock + arrow: when you are a super-pyro: throw a gas can in the direction of the arrow pressed

    before play begins:
    Alt-S toggle sound
    Alt-Q quit to DOS

    during play:
    Alt-S toggle sound
    Alt-Q quit game
    Alt-D shell to DOS
    Scroll Lock Hold down to speed up entire game

    useful command line options (case sensitive)
    -i display instructions
    -D run in window under DesqView 2.x (this seems to run the best on my Windows XP computer)
    -W2 run under Windows 2.x
    -W3 run under Windows 3.x

  4. Amusingly enough, I found this post while hunting Pyro 2 as part of a trip down computer game memory-lane with my mother (we both used to play it fifteen years ago). Perplexingly enough, I can't seem to find the version we played! Finishing the regular game ("World Terrorism") used to happen with the nuclear reactor on the last (unknown number) floor of Vladivostock. The versions I found online have a recurring blank-walled last floor instead. A bit of a sour note in the nostalgia-fest, but still a ridiculously playable game.