Rex Nebular was one of the first computer games I ever played, along with Space Quest (they stopped making those too, but that is a whole different story.) I went over my cousinís house and when we got tired of running through the woods behind his house or playing basketball, he decided to show me one of the games on his brotherís computer. My earliest memories of the game were of the ship underwater and swimming to the cave and the fat lady who squished Rex and the Twinkie and the hut (hehehe...the hut!). We only played the game a few times and couldnít get past the first part of the game. Then, untimely and unfortunately, his computer crashed, hard. It was old and they decided to get a new one. The new computer was nice, faster, more stuff on it. But it was missing one thing, Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. I though I was about 10 at the time, but my memory must have been permanently altered by too much MTV and Mountain Dew. The game came out in November of 1992, meaning I had to be at least 13. In any case, the memories were there but I had no idea of what game it was that got me started playing graphic adventures. I asked my cousin and after some time he remembered that it was "something...Cosmic Gender Bender". It was a start.
Starting when I was in 10th grade (1994-95), I began looking for it. I didnít even know who made it, or even what the complete title was. I didnít have access to the Internet, but a few of my friends did. Once in a while when I was over on of their houses, I spent some time searching. I quickly found the name of the game...REX NEBULAR and the Cosmic Gender Bender. (after all, not many other things have "cosmic gender bender" associated with them!) The name just oozed coolness. I then searched with the whole title and found numerous walkthroughs, repeated all over the web. I did learn that Microprose released the game. If my memory is correct (remember the MTV and Mountain Dew) that was around the same time that Microprose was going under. I wrote them asking about the game, but the only responses I received were the auto responses beginning, "Thank you for e-mailing Microprose. Your letter is very important to us...blah, blah, blah." After many more hours and nothing new learned, I gave up my search for a while. By this time, my friends were convinced that I was obsessed, and teased me accordingly.
Every couple months I would look again. Nothing new. Microprose eventually did avoid Chapter 13 and has since released many award-winning games. I checked their web site and didnít find a single mention of the game. I did, however, found an old newsletter on the Microprose FTP site. It talked about the game and other that were being developed around that time. (The newsletter is found elsewhere on this site.) I e-mailed Microprose, since I was now absolutely sure they made the game, and all I got back in response was a short letter saying that the game was out dated. I couldnít order it and I found nothing besides walkthroughs on the web. I was out of options, so I have up looking for a while. My senior year in high school (1996-97) I got AOL and I decided to search again. I found a site that offered the Mac version of the game for $10. I was so tempted to get it, even though I couldnít play it, just to say I had it. I ended up not getting the game. I went to Best Buy, Software Etc., and Media Play; all of which advertise searching for and ordering games. None of them found it in their databases. I looked for it whenever I am in a software store, but never found it. My search was over.
I had all but forgotten about the game until I got to college (Michigan Technological University). I searched again and found nothing more than hint files. I frivolously searched Microproseís site over and over again. I guess it is like opening and closing the refrigerator door several times, hoping that something new will appear. Then it gets to a point were you just open the door to see if you can beat the light. Ok, ok, bad example, but you get what I am saying. Then one day I found something, something good, on a site I hadnít seen before. Webmaster Games. It is a company in Florida that sells used games for all types of systems. They listed having one copy of Rex Nebular, so I immediately e-mail them asking if they still had the game. I received a prompt response, we agreed on the price and I sent a check to them. I couldnít believe I had found it, after so many years of searching. I had them send it home, since it was near the end of the school year and I didnít want it to arrive after I had gone home. As it turned out, it arrived at home in about a week, meaning I had to wait a month to play it. I told my mom not to open it and bring it with her when they came and picked me up at the end of the year. Yes, I know I couldnít play a computer game in the car for the 10-hour car trip home, but I still didnít want to wait a second more than I had to. (Note: I didnít want her to send it to me because of MTUís habit of losing my mail, which happened on several occasions last year.)
I was excited to be going home for the summer, having just completed a great freshman year at college and I had forgotten all about the game. When we were on the road, my mom handed me a FedEx package. I ripped the package open, my parents wondering what I had sent away for, since I refused to tell them. I pulled out the game and just sat there and smiled, not even noticing there was dust on the top of the box, which my dad pointed out to me. They asked what it was and I told him the basic premise of the game; that you have to change from male to female and back again and do stuff. They really thought that college screwed me up. My dad saw the cover with Rex being chased by a mob of women and said, "Oh, itís one of those games."
I opened up the box and found a barrage of things. There were 9 disks, labeled A Ė I, an order form for Microprose and Rex Nebular merchandise, an advertisement for Prodigy, a flyer for a hint book, a flyer for replacement disks, and a warranty card. If you notice, there was no manual for the game. I didnít know the game was missing until I installed the game, which I will get to later.
I couldnít believe I had it, and unfortunately I couldnít play it right when I got home, since I was extremely busy. I ended up getting a job at Batten Corp and began my 12 hours, 6pm Ė 6am manufacturing job. I was dead tired during my adjustment to my new schedule, and didnít even install the game for a few weeks. When I finally got around to it on my day off, I was first of all relieved that the disks still worked. I watched the introduction, which amazed me. A game that would run on a 286/16 with 640K of RAM would have a rather lengthy animated introduction with SPEECH. (Note: I later found out that the requirement for speech was 2MB RAM. I had 32MB and was running on a P200, so I was ok as far as system requirements.)
After the intro however, I received some bad news, there was copy protection, and I didnít have the manual it asked for. I tried for a while to guess the question, since it did give the first letter of the word. No luck. I couldnít believe it, I actually bought the game and I had to find a crack for it. I knew that wasnít going to happen, given how much time I had spent searching for anything on the game. There was a solution however. One of my friends had a cracking program for old games, and it worked with Rex Nebular. I had him crack the game while I wrote to Microprose to see if I could get a manual. See my earlier explanation of what happened when I tried to e-mail them. I was able to play the game finally!!!
The game was great. I couldnít believe the high quality. It had so many cool features - voice in the intro, an auto-save option even on crashes, multiple difficulties, optional features like rotating inventory items. The programmers did an excellent job on Rex Nebular. The game never crashed on me, and when I was low on base memory, the game suggested I turned off the optional features to save on memory. There are very few places to get stuck permanently, and when you die, you can redo that scene instead of redoing half the game from the last time you save it. Also, you donít die and the game doesnít crash if you try something you shouldnít. Yes, I am making fun of Sierra and their dumbass approach to game design. If you donít know what I am talking about, play some of their old games.
The game kept me entertained for many hours, and the quotes I found at the end were extremely funny. (Note: It is possible to edit the data file that contains the credits and quotes. I am now the lead designer, producer, QA guy, and wrote several memorable quotes. However, I did not have anything to do with the music, which sounded horrible on my computer. Sorry Jeff.)
I played through the game several times over the summer, until for some reason I had to reenter the copy protection, without any warning at all. I had no clue why or how it got reset, but what was even worse was that the hack for it didnít work. I was done playing the game, since I never did get a copy of the manual.
It was great to present the game to my friends, who were sure I would never find the game, ever. I would say, "Bow down to my greatness!" and pull the game out of my backpack. They were all laughing that I had it, and we impressed that I actually found it.
I got up to school this past September and decided to give the copy protection a try. I guessed it first try, go figure. I decided to make a fan page on the web since in all my searching I never came across on. I suddenly found a good amount of info on the game, including interviews and reviews. I have put everything I have found on the game, except hacks, on the web page. I had no problems capturing images out of the game and selected about 25 good scenes. Recording the sounds was easily accomplished by hooking a line out from my computer into the line in on my roommates. All the images and sounds I have appear on this site. I set up the page and uploaded it, making minor changes. Since this page is still on Tripod, I canít badmouth them about my old name of RexNebular instead of my current RNandtheCGB, but you can ask me about it if you want. My e-mail address is on the main page.
About finding the game, good luck. It is supposedly on "The Best of Microprose", which contains Pirates!, Command HQ, Railroad Tycoon, and Rex Nebular. I have seen it for Mac only, but it has to be out there somewhere.