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Helious

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In the early 1990's a game for the DOS system was released by a developer named Sean Puckett. It went by the name Helious. The game was shareware and was not very well known. There was another game very similar to Helious known as Helious 2. Despite Helious 2 sounding like a sequel, it very much wasn't, and what Sean did was split the original Helious in two and sell the latter half as Helious 2 for 24.99 in USD. Oddly, both games work just fine for a Windows 32-bit system.

Not much is known about Sean Puckett himself. The only thing known on him online is his very outdated company, Albino Frog Software, and his website. The company itself was originally known as Night Sky, before being inexplicably renamed to Albino Frog Software.

The game, Helious, is... odd. If a player were to start up the game, the first screen would be a text story about the backstory of the game. The backstory is as follows.


Helious—How to Produce a Game in Eight Days.

First off, I know you won't believe my story. That's alright. You don't have to believe it. I know it happened, and that's good enough for me. Besides, Helious is fun whether or not you believe how it came to be.

I'm not the sort of person who likes UFO stories, and I used to scoff at them all. "Whitley Streiber—now there's a nutcase," I'd think to myself. I used to watch "Project Blue Book" when I was a kid, but that was just TV. I watched "Star Trek" too. So on May 5th, 1993, UFO's were the farthest thing from my mind. But, of course, when you're least expecting it, wham—your life gets turned upside down.

I usually get to bed around three in the morning. That night was a little stormy, unusual for Florida in May, especially 1993. A bit of lightning kicking off now and then, and the steady hiss of the rain, gurgle of the gutters, occasional car going past slinging yellowed headlight beams through my bedroom window.

I had just closed my eyes when a low, dull hum started up. Very faint, far away. We live near a small airport, so the throaty growl of a private plane is something we're used to, and rarely take notice of. Even the eerie drone of the blimps also moored nearby is common enough not to warrant a look. But this was unusual. Private planes, as a rule of thumb, don't fly during storms, or at three in the morning. The blimps were certainly well tied down against the gusty wind. So what was this noise, this hum, that was growing louder? Police helicopter, maybe. They always seem to conduct late night reconnaissance missions in my neighborhood just when I'm dropping off to sleep. Mayor's dog has probably gotten loose again. The light flicking in my windows seemed to confirm this. A strong searchlight beam, apparently, taking inventory of my front yard. Nothing there, fellas! No dogs, no escaped convicts!

It was at this point that fear struck me. The light, I just realized, was green. The most brilliant green I had ever seen. No headlight was ever that color. No searchlight would ever be green, and so steady... The hum, having gradually gotten louder over the past minute seemed constant in volume now, but the tone was changing. Instead of its initial droning pitch, it seemed to be modulating, varying in pitch slightly. There I was, standing near my window, bathed in bright green light, listening to an otherworldly hum coming apparently from right overhead. What would you do?

I'll tell you what I did. I ran like a man possessed, nearly killing myself tripping over a stack of phonebooks in my mad rush to get to the other side of the house—to the door, outside, to safety. No way am I going to be trapped in this house with who knows what weirdness, be it spacemen, the CIA, or maybe the Illuminati. I flung open the door, and outside, where the garbage cans should have been, was a bright shaft of greenish light. Standing in the light, swathed in mist, was a perfect copy of myself with its hand outstretched as if to open the door to get out.

In the movies, the hero would now do a Groucho Marx routine and see if the image moved the same way he did, then he would make friends, learn a new alien language, draw up a treaty, all that stuff. I instead fainted, and fell flat on my face into the weeds. My last thought was, "There go the movie rights."

I don't know how long I was out—who ever does? But it was dark when I woke up. No green light, no mirror image, no burbling hum. The door was still open. The garbage cans were back where they belonged. The rain had lessened to a light drizzle. The full moon was peeking through the thinning clouds. I stumbled around the soggy yard, in a daze. I had a vague suspicion that there would be some sort of alien thing waiting for me in the house, so I didn't really want to go back inside. But the eventual realization that I was wandering around my front yard in the wee hours of the morning under a full moon with only my skivvies on made a certain impression on me, so rather than make a big scene waking the neighbors up and trying to sound less like a deranged lunatic (which I probably was), and more like a damp, frightened victim of UFO harassment (in his skivvies), I peered in all the windows, looking for suspicious green glows.

I didn't see anything strange inside, so I crept back to the door, and made my way in, slowly, listening, carefully. I fired up all the lights at once, with the light-control system. Nothing amiss. Checked the closets—no alien ambassadors. Looked in the shower—no mutants. Opened all the kitchen cabinets—no extraterrestrial slime molds, no super space roaches, nothing. Everywhere I looked, zip. I was beginning to relax. Checked the computer room, turned on the computers, made sure all the drives were okay. Perfect. The data, my latest projects, were safe.

Much more relaxed now, delayed stress syndrome kicked in—and I got a sudden, incredible case of the shakes. My heart started to pound, my knees got all weak, and I sank into the chair. And instantly right out of it I leapt, like an eight-hundred volt cat. I always leave my chair tucked under the desk, but it had been in the middle of the room when I came in!

I grabbed up the nearest blunt object, my VCR remote, and scanned the room intently. I don't know what I planned to do with the remote, but there it was, and whatever happened to me, I wanted to die with a weapon in my hand. I kicked the chair away, and it whirled into a corner. I stood still for many moments, listening, looking. But nothing moved, nothing happened. The bright eye of my computer monitor patiently glared at me, almost seeming to say, "What are you up to?"

I warily wandered over to the cabinets and, hooking my foot under the door, opened each one. Junk, just like I left it. The shelves of books appeared to be undisturbed. My desk drawers I opened with a back scratcher at three paces. A mishmash of printouts and faxes. Nothing. Looked under the desk. Dust bunnies.

Hell. I felt like an idiot. All this paranoia because I left my chair out for once in my life. I sat heavily into it, and wheeled up to the computer keyboard. In the cracks between the keys were traces of green fluid. On the disk drive handle, more. I bolted to my feet once more, and searched the whole house again with a flashlight, this time checking each and every cranny. Nothing, nowhere. Just traces of green slime on the keyboard, and the disk drive.

Okay. So this UFO roared up to my house at three in the morning in the middle of a thunderstorm, scares me till I faint, and the only evidence I have of it is some rapidly evaporating green glop on my computer. And.... what's this? A new directory on the hard drive. A collection of files in it. Right. Sure. Aliens brought me some files. Probably interstellar shareware, right?

I copied the files onto a disk, deleted them from the hard drive, and did a complete systems check, virus check, disk integrity check, everything. Nothing was wrong. I go over to the testing machine, and punch up the files on the disk. No READ.ME. Why am I not surprised. But there is a bunch of source files, and one EXE file. I don't mind running strange things on the test machine, that's what it's for. So I fire it up.

What I got then is very similar to what you now have before you in Helious. An incredibly strange, surreal game. No scoring, no words, just some weird symbols. I showed it to some friends and told them where I got it. They quite disbelieved my story, but they did like the game, and had never seen it, or anything like it, before. Someone suggested I upload it to a board, so I decided to, but not until I tacked on the title screen and some good-old-fashioned- American entrepreneurial spirit. I divided the game into two segments, and now you have the first half! You can order the second half directly from me, the address is in the order form.

And that's how you got your copy of Helious. I made up the name—and the title screen. It's a van Gogh, of course, and seemed appropriate...


When the player would continue, the next screen would be of a tentacle, made of decreasingly smaller cyan spheres on top of a interlaced web of something grey. Surrounding the tentacle would be a color wheel made of spheres in a polygonal pattern of nine colors—red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, cyan, blue, purple and pink. Surrounding the spheres would be nine inexplicable symbols, each to their respective color sphere. Each symbol is different, making a total of nine different symbols. In the background of the spheres would be descending rings, almost like a surface mine.

The player would control the tentacle, moving it around as if the biggest cyan sphere were pinned to the web. If the player moves the tip of the tentacle in the directions of one of the colored spheres with a mouse. If the player clicks in the direction of the spheres, the symbol near the sphere changes, turning into the symbol of the sphere to the clockwise direction of it. It turns out that this "menu" is actually a screen to enter a code, the spheres themselves being a level select.

To unlock the web of spheres, you must play the game. To select a level, the player must point the tentacle toward one of the colored spheres, and hit enter. The screen would then change to that of one centered on an almost balloon like sphere, The player would then use the arrow keys to "propel" the balloon forward. The method of propulsion is almost as if it's a rocket in space, the balloon blows out some sort of white gas to push it. The physics are very much like space as well, using the laws of inertia, meaning that if you propel the ball "forward", then it won't stop until it hits something, and in fact then it only just bounces off of it.

Each level is different. Some are simple mazes. Others are areas filled with enemies that either stick to the wall and shoot some sort of object at you, or are things that float around and target you. One thing that is similar between these levels however, is the extreme tiling, as in the same object or background is repeated again and again. These tiles make up the walls and floors of the level.

The objective of the game is to go around each level and collect some sort of blue gems. When the player collects all of the gems, a small flag with the level's symbol appears. The player then moves over to the flag, and when they go over it with the balloon, it turns it into one of the symbols from the main menu. This symbol is part of the sequence on the web of spheres, and when you enter it into its colored sphere, and the rest from the completed levels, the final screen appears.

And well... the screen is indescribable, so the only way this can be shown is through a photo format.

Indescribable

The screen isn't still. Usually a small, almost sinister sounding alien drone sounds through the background, while the small cyan balls float toward the center.

This is Helios. No one knows whether Aliens actually made this game or not. No one knows what any of this is supposed to mean. The only person who has a clue about the game is Sean Puckett, but no one knows this guy or even if he still exists. Any way of contacting him is extremely out of date, whether through the game's addresses or the Albino Frog's outdated website. However there is one question.

Are we alone?

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