The JBnator Diaries – ScummVM in Review – The Holy Grail of adventure gaming!

Hello again everybody! Once again it’s time for The JBnator Diaries – the guide to all things jailbreaking, Cydia and other tips and tricks! Today I’m following up on the reasons to jailbreak. This time, it is the adventure gaming engine: ScummVM.

For anybody following my pieces here at TMA, it’s no surprise as I’m an adventure game fanatic. And so it may have bugged you why I haven’t done a piece about the Holy Grail of adventure gaming on the iPhone – ScummVM. It is a port of a multiplatform engine, capable of running adventure games using their original files. And no, it is NOT an emulator – it doesn’t do anything so stupid as trying to pose as an x86 processor or anything like that. It is a complete engine that acts in place of the game executable file and only requires the resource files of the games. What does it mean for us? It means that games work reliably and even more importantly: games run with excellent performance!

A little background information to start with. SCUMM stands for Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion and is the engine LucasArts used for all of their 2D adventure games, starting from the decades old Maniac Mansion to the Full Throttle and Curse of the Monkey Island. Many of the older games had problems running on the newer machines and a group of enthusiast have started a project back in 2001 to find a way of playing their favourite classics. To make a long story short, it took them almost 9 years to reach what they feel is worthy of a 1.0.0 version. Over the course of the project the scope expanded to include engines for many many other games with more being added with every release. ScummVM is currently available for almost any platform imaginable: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Sony PSP, MS Windows Mobile and our current victim: the iDevice. There issupport for over 150 games from various manufacturers.

One important thing I would like to note is that ScummVM does NOT contain the games itself, rather it requires the original game files to run. And while several of the games are now available for free to download  (Beneath a Steel Sky, Flight of the Amazon Queen, Lure of the Temptress and Drascula: The Vampire Strikes Back) others require you to obtain the originals yourselves. I would recommend you hit your friends for some old floppies and CDs or hit the retro stores like Good Old Games.

The list of supported titles can’t help but bring awe to any fan of classic adventure games. All 2D LucasArts games are supported, as well as games from Adventuresoft/Horrorsoft, Coktel, Revolution, Sierra AGI and various other individual games including Discworld 1 and 2. You may notice some titles you may have seen in the AppStore in the list and that’s no wonder. You can check out the full list here. While the big boys put some effort into it and do solid remakes such as: The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, Beneath a Steel Sky: Remastered (TMA Review), others such as iPhSoft simply package ScummVM with a title and sell as their own game.

Installing ScummVM for the iPhone is quite simple – just add package source from the More Package Sources in Cydia and you’ll find ScummVM in the games section. Installing the games is a tad more difficult, but only a tad.

Just use iPhone Folders or any other file manager and open /var/mobile. You can make any folder here hold the games, though I created a ScummVM subfolder in /var/mobile/Media. And the final step – boot up ScummVM, press Add game, navigate to the uploaded folder and press Choose. And that’s it folks.

I will not go reviewing the games themselves, it’s out of the scope of this article. Suffice to say that playing them on the iDevice using ScummVM is almost exactly like playing them on the full blown PC. So take your pick and full speed ahead!

So what about the interface? I’m glad to report that it has been excellently done. Kudos to Vinterstum – the author of the iPhone port. First of all, games sense the rotation of the iDevice and work to keep rotation constant. But wait, what about portrait mode, you ask? Quite simple – the game screen fits neatly at the top half and the keyboard is neatly pulled up at the bottom half for all those places where typing is required. I’d like to note that ScummVM has one of the best and quickest rotations implemented that I’ve seen on the iPhone.

In regards to pointer control – ScummVM offers three modes! Yes, three! One is the touch interface, where the place you touch the screen is registered as a click on that place. A right click is made by holding the target spot and tapping anywhere else with another finger. Various other combinations are used for actions such as: escape, the arrow keys, etc.. When you need extra precision, you can toggle the touchpad mode with a hold and swipe from left to right which works as in The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition – where the whole screen becomes a giant touchpad. And last but not least – Click+Drag is toggled by holding down an upward swipe. In this mode, a mouse click is sent immediately when you touch the screen, drags to wherever you slide your finger, and releases where you lift your finger. If you press down a second finger in this mode, you effectively release the left mouse button, and press down the right one. It is for games like Full Throttle and The Curse of Monkey Island where the menu is toggled by clicking-holding then choosing an action.

ScummVM is a haven for all fans of quality adventure games. At this moment it supports almost all noteworthy classic titles and is a must have for any jailbreaker. The author has also been in contact with Apple numerous times in regards to making it available on the AppStore but, unfortunately, as with most other emulators and the like he ran into trouble with the EULA. On the other hand, seeing as how the rules seem to be softening up a bit, I hope that there soon will come a time when even the non-jailbreakers will be able to enjoy the classics without having to wait for the original publishers to stretch their muscles. I know I would gladly pay anywhere up to $20 for this pleasure.

With this I declare ScummVM officially touched!

App Summary
Title: ScummVM Developer: ScummVM Team / Vintersum (iPhone port)
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.0 Min OS Req: 2.0
Price: Free App Size: 15.5 MB
  • Amazing performance
  • Over 150 classic games supported
  • Excellent interface
  • A trip down nostalgia lane
  • Absolutely free
  • Constantly updated with new titles
  • None. Zero. Nil.

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A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well):

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