Thursday, April 11, 2013
Screen savers are strange, ephemeral things. They show up to guard your monitor from the heartbreak of burn-in while you're away, and then disappear the moment you return. They often provide a little passive amusement too, in the form of fish swimming, stars shooting, toasters flying, or dogs peeing, but some could be coaxed to stick around a bit and provide a little more interactive diversion. Lunatic Fringe is one such diversion. It's a screen saver module bundled with Mac versions of After Dark released in the early 90s. When it starts, it presents a title screen and a high score table. Like any good screensaver, moving the mouse or pressing most keys on the keyboard immediately dismisses it. But hit the caps lock and you're transported to an incredibly adorable battle for galactic dominance.
Admittedly, there's not much depth to Lunatic Fringe. As you progress through the levels, enemies get only slightly less stupid and more numerous. There's no real objective to meet either, beyond the almighty high score, and you might find yourself losing interest in its repetitive gameplay long before you lose all your lives. Still, it always brought a smile to my face when it would pop up after hours spent banging away at whatever school paper I happened to be working on. Spending a little time each night on the Fringe probably helped me graduate high school.
After Dark may be dead and gone, but Lunatic Fringe lives on in the Lunatic Fringe Player available here for Mac OS X. A web-based version is under development here, but it's a work in progress and it's missing most of the original game's features.
at 9:57 PM