Lately I’ve been on a kick of looking at old DOS game show games. There were a lot of official game show games of the 80s, from the greats like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune to lesser-known classics like Now You See It, Fun House and Remote Control. But what I was really interested in were the game show games made by hobby programmers.
I was looking for Wheel of Fortune clones, but I could only find two. VGAWHEEL (aka EGAWHEEL, I’ve seen both names online) is a no-frills version of Wheel that has probably the prettiest wheel made for DOS. Oh, and it has a cute little theme that plays on the PC speaker. Alas, there isn’t much to say about VGAWHEEL, other than Russell Mueller made a pretty good Wheel clone for DOS.
However, the other one I found is most intriguing: Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune.
Tommy’s Toys was a garage developer who made games “designed by aliens from outer space.” They made a lot of games throughout the ’80s and ’90s. We’re talking about hundreds of them released over ten years. Tommy’s Toys pretty much disappeared by the time Windows became super popular, and the designer stopped making games to write books. At least that’s what Mobygames says, anyway.
So let’s dive into this alien-made Wheel of Fortune clone, shall we?
Off the bat, there are a few changes from the classic game show. You can have anywhere from 2-6 players, more than the three from the actual show. The manual states you can play against the computer but I’m not sure how. After that, it’s standard Wheel of Fortune, except with a few twists.
You can see that the Wheel is not a fixed pattern. It has the common Bankrupt, Lose a Turn and Free Spin spaces that you’d associate with Wheel of Fortune, but they’re shuffled around the board at random each round, making the wheel more devious at times. Second, you can turn off the used letter board if you want a real challenge. (By default it’s on, because according to Tommy, “MOST PLAYERS CHEAT.”) Third, calling a wrong letter actually loses you money.
Other than that, the game is similar to the Wheel people know and love. There’s several rounds of play, you can turn on the speed round at any time, you can change puzzles if you don’t like the current one, and if you hate Tommy’s deranged sadistic Wheel of Fortune, you can change it to resemble the original TV show by typing in a command in DOS before starting the game.
The only other major difference is the bonus round. Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune goes by the original bonus round rules of five consonants and one vowel. Turning on Wheel of Fortune mode makes it resemble the current bonus round, where RSTLNE are given for free and you ask for 3 additional consonants and one vowel. The original way makes certain puzzles really difficult unless you go for RSTLNE. If you win, $25,000 in fake dollars is yours.
There are about 1,100 puzzles in the version of Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune that I have, but if you thought that wasn’t enough puzzles, you could send those aliens $24.95 for an additional 15,000 puzzles based on various subjects like the King James Bible, including a way to create your own puzzles. But wait, there’s more! If you thought Wheel of Misfortune wasn’t crazy enough, you could try Tommy’s Wheel of Confusion!
Wheel of Confusion is similar to Wheel of Misfortune, except truly more sadistic. Instead of blank spaces, there are bogus letters in the puzzle. Your goal is to match the fake letter with the real letter, much like a cryptogram. There’s another mode where you choose the letter that’s on the board and guess what letter it really is. This makes it the hardest Wheel of Fortune game around. The first round took me several minutes until I figured out the puzzle, and like hell did I know who Roger Brooke Taney was. These are definitely not puzzles you’d see on the real Wheel of Fortune, that’s for sure.
Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune and Tommy’s Wheel of Confusion are fascinating little DOS games. Fairly simple, nothing complex, but interesting to see someone’s unique twist on the classic game show, compared to EGAWHEEL which tried to emulate the show without having to pay $30-40 for the official ones GameTek were selling around the same time. If you wanna play these, you can freely do so as they’re abandonware. I won’t link to any abandonware sites to avoid getting in trouble, but if you type Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune in a Google search you’ll probably find it with ease.
One of these days, I’m gonna tackle more DOS trivia and game show games, because there were a lot of them and some of them were interesting to look at. Like a trivia game by a certain Apogee Software…