Hover!, you were kind of silly and pointless back in 1995: a capture the flag, bumper car hybrid tech demo bundled with the CD version of Windows 95 that proved a point — 3D gaming in Windows! — without scoring much of one. You were crude and tedious and mechanically uninteresting. I played you a little, then moved on.
These were Doom days. Ultima Underworld and Flight Unlimited days. Tie Fighter and System Shock and Star Wars: Dark Forces days. Those games, sporting newfangled 3D-polygonal environments, had been out for months and ran beautifully under DOS/4G, the 32-bit DOS extender. No one minded typing command line executables to get them up and purring, or tweaking config.sys and autoexec.bat startup files to eek out an extra few kilobytes of conventional or extended memory.
Tooling around in Windows 95 with a shabby, throwback arcade game by comparison felt coarse and gimmicky. And since this was 1995, the notion of multiplayer gaming still embryonic — all you could do in Hover! was challenge anemic computer opponents.
Welcome to 1995 by way of 2013: Microsoft just rereleased Hover! for any WebGL-enabled browser (Internet Explorer 11 being the designated driver, though any should do – I’ve been noodling with the game in Chrome). It remains the same old bumper-the-flag game you knew decades ago, where you’re arrow-keying around maze-like 2.5D arenas, fighting inertia and ricocheting off walls and fiddling your speed gauge to roll over power-ups and random-spawned flags, racing to scoop up three before your opponent does, at which point the next level loads and you do it all over again. The whole thing amounts to three levels, after which you’re ejected to the startup screen.
The new multiplayer mode, by contrast, adds a welcome competitive twist, though you play your own matchmaker: once you’ve picked two, four, six or eight players (whatever the number, you divide into two teams), you have to pass along a custom link to fold them in — jump in with fewer players than your max and the game spawns dimwitted bots. Against human players, it’s a more satisfying tussle, but it’s a shame Microsoft didn’t put time into souping up the visuals, improving the solo-play A.I., adding inline matchmaking and basically making Hover! a worthwhile diversion.
If you have a tablet, you can play the game using a touchscreen, though you’ll need a tablet browser that supports WebGL, which at the moment looks to be Internet Explorer 11 (it may be possible to enable WebGL support in mobile browsers like Chrome). On the desktop side, Chrome and Internet Explorer 11 support WebGL natively, and it looks like you can enable it in Safari or Firefox.
Oh, and if you’re super-nostalgic, you can summon the original game by typing “bambi” at the load screen, which brings up a faux-Windows 95 shell. If you’ve been waiting for Win95 versions of Twitter or Facebook, box meet checked.