We hope you heeded our advice yesterday, because Apple has pulled iDOS from the App Store a second time. We don’t yet know the reason why just yet (it might have to do with the freeware games offered for download, but we can’t be sure). We hope it once again makes a return to the App Store soon, and with enough functionality to still be worthwhile.
That’s the first thing I typed once I had iDOS all set up the way I wanted. And the results were beautiful. Regardless of your knowledge of DOS, if you have an affection for old games that may never see the light of day on iOS, you need to get this app pronto. Go download it and then finish reading this review. It’s that good.
As hardware progresses and games become more and more beautiful and complex, we nevertheless have a tendency to yearn for the days of yore. The Wii and DS systems have the Virtual Console. The PS3 and PSP have the PlayStation Network. The Xbox 360 has Xbox Live Arcade. And now, the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch have iDOS. Let me explain.
Play the original first person shooter. For free.
iDOS was released a few months ago, but was quickly pulled by Apple once they realized the mistake they’d made. The app gave root access to your iOS device, meaning you could run basically anything you wanted. People even have archaic versions of Windows running on it. If you managed to snag it before it got yanked, don’t do a thing. Keep it. Don’t update the app. You have a real gem, an app granting you almost unlimited power (for good or evil).
To get the app back in the App Store, the developers had to make some drastic changes, the least of which was removing that root access. In its place, they did clean up the app quite a bit and provide you with six free games to download (with more coming down the line, we’re sure). In the package now you can find freeware versions of Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem I and II, Major Striker, SuperNova, and Kingdom of Kroz II. The first couple of those are great to have in your library, but the fun doesn’t have to stop there.
it’s a small library to start with, but expect more games to be added soon.
You see, you can still load whatever DOS software you want if you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty. Free software called iPhone Explorer will let you dump whatever files you want onto your iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch, for that matter). The software gives you access to all the media and app files, so you just need to located the iDOS folder, go into the Documents subfolder, and drop your DOS game files in manually. Unplug your iDevice, reboot iDOS (close it manually from the multitasking bar), and load them up. Easy as pie.
Granted, you’re going to need to have some information on hand to get them up and running, such as DOS prompt commands and the file names of the game’s or software’s executables, but it’s not that difficult.
For example, I wanted to run LucasArts’ Day of the Tentacle. I transferred the files over, turned on iDOS, typed in the commands I listed at the top of this review, and the game started running. And it ran great. Now I can play one of my favorite games of all time on the iPad, something LucasArts might never rerelease.
The control options are varied and work great.
So even though the latest version of the app (2.0.1) is stripped down, with a little elbow grease, you can still make it do what you want. That effort is completely worthwhile if you are a hardcore gamer. It helps, too, that the app is beautifully designed, making it unnecessarily easy to do what you want at every turn. Besides the visual interface for games the app officially supports and the DOS command prompt access, you also get (at least on the iPad) goodies like command prompt history. Thus, once you’ve gotten a game to run once, you can just select those commands again from the history, rather than having to type them out again.
In general, we prefer the iPad version of the app. It just has more polish (as there is more room to display nifty things). The virtual PC keyboard, for instance, looks and works better on the iPad. The app does give you shortcuts for the ESC and F1 buttons, which you’ll use a lot in these older games, but you’ll also frequently rely on other keys, such as Y and N to answer questions.
Full screen view on the iPad looks tremendous.
You also get other control layouts, such as joystick or D-pad, and full mouse support is built in, including adjusting the movement speed. We were very surprised at just how responsive using your finger to control the cursor was. Playing point-and-click adventures like Day of the Tentacle was a breeze, even rivaling the great control schemes supported in games like the Monkey Island special editions.
You can tweak other settings, such as the floating gamepad when playing in full screen mode (horizontal position), force a 4:3 display ratio (great for the iPad), and keep a dock of handy features pinned to the top of the screen (for quick switching between keyboard, gamepad, and so forth).
I can’t praise this app enough. Yes, DOS games are often wonky, and some games I wanted to load (such as The Dig) encountered errors. These games run better on software like ScummVM, which emulates the software better than DOS can, but seeing as I don’t want to jailbreak my devices, iDOS is still a more than viable option. Don’t be afraid to visit tech forums for help, brush up your DOS commands, and break out your old games. For classic gamers like myself, this app is a dream come true. Oh, and in case you didn’t notice, the latest version is free. Get it now in case Apple decides to pull it yet again.