LGR – Herman and the Falling Rocks – PC Game Review

October 2, 2019

[typing] Back as a kid in the early ’90s, I got this book. “Windows After Hours” by W. Edward Tiley. It was cool because it told you about
all sorts of cool things to do in Windows 3.1. That’s so cool! But the biggest reason I loved it was
because it came with a floppy disk full of shareware and freeware goodies. Since we didn’t have Internet at the time and bothering friends for use of their
BBS connection was time-consuming, having all of this stuff on one disk was fantastic. And one of the games included on the
floppy was made by Carl Bieling in 1991, called Herman and the Falling Rocks, also known simply as “Herman” or “Frocks.” Heh heh. I love that. It’s like a sci-fi curse word, like Herman and the Frocks. How frockin’ awesome is that? Aw, you’re not amused? Well you can… Now at the point in my life when I got this game, all I had ever really played were DOS games. So I wasn’t aware that Herman and the Falling Rocks is a ripoff of Repton, which is a ripoff of Boulder Dash, which is pretty much a ripoff of The Pit, which is somewhat similar to elements of Dig Dug, which is… uh, yeah, you get the idea. Totally original ideas and
video games go hand-in-hand, at least in the realm of excess sarcasm, and Herman is no exception. But I didn’t care what it really was. All I cared about was that
it was on my computer, and that is was a game. I could play it. But is it any good? Well, let’s toss aside those rose-
tinted goggles for a bit and find out. One you install the hard drive-crippling 73 KB game, just open it up and you’ll be greeted with a
good ol’ shareware nag screen, giving three different tiers of payment, depending on how much more
of the game you wanted to get. I’ve never been able to get
the full version of the game, so I’ll just be looking at the
version 1.03 shareware game here. Start it up and you’ll notice that it only
takes up about half the screen space, and unfortunately, you can’t resize anything, so you just deal with it. You’ve got some menus with basic options like starting a new game, saving, loading and getting help with getting help. Seriously, if someone needs help with the help, then they just… need help. Starting a new game drops you in a world… where you are Herman… and rocks are falling… or something. So the objective of the game is very simple: collect all flowers and do not get hit by a rock. Yeah, so that’s actually the official objectives listed in the help menu. You can’t get much more concise than that. Pretty much, it’s just like Boulder Dash. You play a little guy roaming
around a grid-based level, trying to collect something
and not get smashed by… You use the numeric keypad to move, which allows you to move diagonally,
as well as the typical cardinal directions. Just collect all the flowers and make sure not to set a rock loose, since it will murder your face. I mean, you are a face, right? I don’t know what else you are.
You’re just a creepy face. Actually, what the crap? What is Herman? I’ve seen some mock up artwork
on the game creator’s website, and it shows Herman as a little boy. Well, if he’s a little boy, then
why does he look like a face-skull? Face, skull face, disembodied psilocybin trip thing, whatever the case. When a rock crushes your… uh, Herman head, you lose a life and you
have to restart the entire level, just like in Boulder Dash. However, this ends up being a bit
more unforgiving than Boulder Dash. For one thing, the rocks fall instantly, so you don’t have time to
move out of the way if one falls. Although, perhaps to make up for this, if you happen to touch the sides of rocks stacked on top of each other, it won’t set the entire pile loose, like it would in Boulder Dash or other equivalents. But when it comes down to it, that
doesn’t really make things much easier, because the puzzles
themselves are downright brutal. It’s pretty common for these games to have you run into sections of levels that are designed to trap or kill you if you even move one tile incorrectly, But this happens very frequently and almost immediately
once you start playing Herman. It’s a pretty big mind bender
just to get past Level 3, much less getting through all 20-something levels. And then once you do get through all of them, there really isn’t much to keep you coming back. All you might have is the ability to
complete the level faster for a higher score. And there’s a save game feature anyway, so even if you die, you can just start again. From the same level. If you were to buy the full game, or try out the later 2.0 demo version, you can use a level editor
to create your own levels for your freaky shrunken head to get crushed by rocks in. So that’s… something. In fact, there are several new additions
in the later versions of the game, like the aforementioned editor, a new interface, and incredibly obnoxious sound effects that I sincerely hope were a joke. [boing sound effects] So when it comes down to it, is Herman and the Falling
Rocks worth playing again? Well, unless you grew up with
it and want some nostalgia, “Frocks” is pretty frockin’ mediocre. It just doesn’t have the charm, the aesthetics, the physics or the level design that made games like Repton
and Boulder Dash classics. It’s not too bad for an early ’90s
shareware game, I suppose, but I could not imagine paying
more than a dollar or two for it. Much less the impressive $30 the creator of the game
still seems to demand for it. Yeah, apparently it’s still available for purchase through mail order at its 1991 full price, which is just weird. Actually, there’s even a follow up game listed here, Herman’s Second Adventure, but this is the only reference
I can find to it online at all. And there is no link to a demo of any kind, so I don’t even know if it exists. Oh, well. I’m fine with the original
Herman on my Windows 3.1 machines. Even though it’s not that great, it does have that nostalgic value to me because it was the first game
of its type that I ever played. And even though objectively it’s kind of lame, it does function, and it doesn’t
aim to be any more than it is. And it is… frockin’ acceptable. And nothing more. [boing sound effects]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *