Palm OS Gaming
“where handheld gaming is serious business”
“a brief moment between Game Boy and iPhone”
(promo shot; screens are pretty good at normal viewing angles)
The Operating System
Palm OS originally ran on low-power variants of the Motorola 68000 (the full-sized version of which powered the Atari ST, Amiga, Mega Drive, Macintosh, Sharp X68000, etc). From OS 5.0 onwards Palm OS ran on ARM hardware with older M68K apps running under emulation that was invisible to the user.
Palm were the original and main manufacturer of Palm OS-based devices. Later, due to business pressures/difficulties, they allowed hardware to be produced by licencees.
Sony were the biggest additional hardware producer, and they went all-in for quite a few years with their Clié product line. Sony were the first to offer Palm devices with high (2x) resolution displays, and they also featured Sony’s then “omnipresent” jog dial navigator (as seen on portable MiniDisc players), as well as more esoteric add-ons such as physical keyboards (from blackberry-size to full-size) and even a gamepad accessory (GC10).
Other well known hardware manufacturers included Garmin, Handspring (owned by ousted Palm founders), IBM, Kyocera, Samsung and Tapwave (whose Zodiac was a bonafide gaming platform running an custom version of Palm OS 5).
Remember, these devices are old - there were released after GBC but before DS and PSP - so their screens are much worse than we have today. Be sure to set your expectations accordingly.
A few later Palm OS devices had Wi-Fi, some Bluetooth and others only IrDA. If you had no WiFi you might be lucky to have a Memory Stick Wi-Fi adapter that was able to be used in some Sony Clié models. Some other models had WiFi adapters of different form factors. Palm OS-based phones have better wireless options. Wiimote may be supported on Bluetooth capable devices.
- Colour or Monochrome?
- Palm OS 4.x or 5.x?
- Clié or not?
- Clié GC10 gamepad compatibility?
- 5-way or Jog dial?
- Speaker or beeper?
- Stereo or mono?
- Headphone output or not?
- Memory card or not?
- Bluetooth or not?
- Wi-Fi or not?
- Sync cradle or cable?
- PDA or phone?
- Flip covers (gets in the way)
- Clamshell hardware (ditto, cumbersome)
- Flat/recessed/pointy buttons (uncomfortable)
- Proprietary connectors (awkward)
- Lifedrive (spinning drive that is prone to failure)
Games were distributed mostly digitally and are installed by downloading to a computer and then either syncing (over wire or wireless) to the Palm OS device or copying them from memory card to internal storage. Paid apps were mostly unlocked using registration codes (serial numbers) that were sometimes locked to your username (HotSync ID). A select few games received physical boxed releases with files included on a CD, and the Tapwave Zodiac even had games released on SD cards. There were many compilation CD-ROMs featuring free and trial software. Magazine cover CDs frequently distributed Palm software.
- 3.5 (Handera): added non-standard QVGA hi-res greyscale support
- 3.5: added colour support
- 4.0 (Sony): added hi-res colour support
- 5.0: added hi-res colour support for non-Sony devices
Some games/apps require certain versions of Palm OS (usually 3.5, 4.0 or 5.0). A few apps are optimised for specific hardware (eg. Clié). Few apps require specific hardware.
- Little John Palm “LJP” (NES/SNES/GB/GBC/MD/SMS/GG/WS/NGPC/2600)
- GuineaPig (MD/SMS/GG/TG16/2600)
- Dream Engine (PCE/TG16)
- GBulator (GB/GBC)
- Gizmo Ultra (SMS/GG)
- Liberty (GB)
- NesEm (NES)
- Activision Anthology
- Atari Retro
- Midway Arcade Classics
- Bejeweled 1&2
- Columns (bundled with Sony Clié GC10 gamepad)
- Dig Dug
- Donkey Kong Jr (as DKungJr)
- Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Game Gear)
- The Incredible Machine
- Krypton Egg
- Lode Runner
- Line Rider
- Mabwar (as Star Attack and PalmWars)
- Madden NFL
- Ms Pac-Man
- Nicky Boom
- Puyo Pop Fever
- Puzzle Bobble
- Sega Classics
- Sega Swirl
- Serious Sam
- Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya (Game Gear)
- Shinobi (Game Gear)
- Sonic The Hedgehog (Game Gear)
- Spy Hunter
- Star Soldier
- Super Columns (Game Gear)
- Super Pac-Man
- Worms (as Snails
- Zanac (reimplementation using NES version graphics)
- Borkov (original game by SEGA)
- Raging Thunder
- Snails (Worms clone)
- Triangle Magic (original game by SEGA)
- Wimbledon PDAce