PDA Quest Part II: A Pyrrhic Victory

Serious Sam came in the mail. Everything was going smoothly. The game files can be grabbed right from the disc without bothering with any dated PC software, so that's good. But the PC emulator refused to work. It's just too damn fast. When the back of the box said "Pentium 233MHz or better", I don't think a 5th gen i5 is what they had in mind.

So, it was time to get creative.

limiting POSE's cpu usage

My first though was that I could force the program to slow down. There are a few programs that can do this, most notably "Battle Encoder Shirase" which has a pretty funny name. Unfortunately, BES couldn't properly hook the executable, so it was completely useless. There are a few other options, like CpuKill, which attempts to slow down programs by running a literal fork bomb. I wasn't going to do that.

running POSE in its native habitat

According to the readme file, the version of POSE I found was released in 2001. Of course, it does not officially support Windows 7. XP compatibility mode didn't do anything, so my next step was to install a full Windows XP virtual machine to run POSE in. It may have worked once, but generally speaking, it was still way too fast. And way too black and white.

running POSE in its native habitat with some extras

Even limiting the VM's cpu usage until it was so slow that the Windows XP UI lagged (as if that's hard) did not stop POSE. This emulator sucks.

Installing Windows ME on an old laptop, or buying a PDA, or something

Thank god I didn't have to go through with this, because then I remembered something completely different: PHEM.


As it turns out, some other sad soul out there cares about the state of Palm OS emulation, and he ported POSE to Android. His port's called PHEM, and it was last updated in 2014, which makes it 13 years more recent than POSE. That's great, because it means I don't have to fiddle with any more old hardware. Assuming the underlying POSE code doesn't ruin everything, that is.

I'm not going to pretend PHEM is something it isn't: the Android code is trash and the interface sucks. Roms have to be placed in an obscure place on the device and it's still way too fast, depending on your phone hardware.

That being said, it works! PHEM runs the color version of the game with no errors, aside from the speed issue. The next problem is to find a way to mirror my phone's screen to a PC so I can record gameplay footage, but that is an entirely separate nightmare. In the meantime, here are some screenshots.

Screenshot 1 Screenshot 2

Screenshot 3 Screenshot 4

So, with all that work done, how's the game? It's garbage. Completely awful. The controls are unresponsive in ways I never thought possible and the level design sucks. But honestly, who cares? The levels are vague facsimiles of the ones in the PC version which is pretty cool to see, and it's one hell of a novelty. At least, it was before I dumped it online. Now it's just another shitty PDA game.

You can download Serious Sam TFE, as well as the necessary OS files, a copy of POSE to play around with, and some other files I mentioned earlier here. You can download PHEM to play it here, but it'll cost a dollar.