|Summertime isnt traditionally known as a
period when lots of new titles are released, and even though there are a handful of games
the GamesFirst! Staff are playing, isn't it a good time to revisit some trusty faves--only
with a new twist? I mean, how much sun and camping and swimming and fishing can you take
before youre ready to return to bask in the glow of your trusty CRT? How bout
thisplaying your PlayStation titles on your PC? Sound like an emulator proposition?
As an added bonus, if you have a 3D accelerated video card, your PSX titles could
play at a higher res than on your console.
If this sounds tempting then you might be interested in a rather ambitious PSX emulator called bleem! The two-person team of David Herpolsheimer and Randy Linden have put together bleem! with the notion that anybody should be able to play any PSX game on nearly any PC and have the game look better than on the PlayStation. The project began late last year with the intention of releasing a finished product at this years E3. That was when I first encountered the bleem! guys. To be honest, there was significant buzz around them, probably due in no small part to the pressure exerted by officials to have them remove any copyrighted reference to Sony at their booth and the presence of a few first-generation purchasers that were yearning for a finished version.
Though introduced at E3, bleem! really is a summertime happening for two reasons; first, the much-improved version 1.2 was released on June 29th. Secondly, release of the retail version of bleem! was announced on July 1st. So, does bleem! tame the dog days of summer?
The answer iskinda, sorta, um, maybe, well not really.
The first indication that theres something not quite right is the presence of a very public notification for the version 1.3 beta all over the bleem! web site. According to the folks at bleem!, the next version will address the following issues:
Significant Direct3D Speed Optimizations, Significant Direct3D Texture Improvements, Improved Direct3D support for Background Graphics, Improved Direct3D Clipping, Corrected Minor Software Graphics Errors, Improved Sound Effects and Music, Improved CDXA Sound, Improved CD-ROM Support for Multi-Disc games, Overall Speed Improvements, and Configuration Menus.
Thats a bunch of stuff! Also, notice the second-to-last item on the list "Overall Speed Improvements." This is the area of prime concern, as it is the single biggest reason bleem! isnt ready for prime time just yet. The good news is that it does actually make your trusty PlayStation games look markedly better. Fortunately, theres a plethora of control modifications to adjust the look from very coarse to quite beautiful. Sadly, even when I cranked the graphics options down, tweaked my CD-ROM, lowered the sound options, and did everything else the FAQ recommended to enhance performance, games were still nearly as jerky and laggy on my PII 300 w/128MB of RAM and Viper 550 as before. Odd that the stuttering doesnt seem to be directly related to graphics and sound options; bleem! simply appears to lack the ability to effectively emulate the speed of a PlayStation. And if the program doesnt emulate properly then it doesnt matter how pretty things look, people wont fork over the $29.95 suggested price to buy software in a genre that is typically produced independently and released free of charge.
And theres the rubbleem! should not have been rushed to E3 in an alpha version and shouldnt be sold off the shelves as a beta. This thing needs to be in tip-top shape out of the box or word will spread faster than a summer fire that its not finished and sales will suffer a serious drought. That would be a shame as so many elements appear to be thoughtfully designed and implemented; I truly believe theres a market for bleem! if and when its finished. Theres no denying the graphical improvements and proposed future support for features such as multiplayer support (including LAN), force feedback and PlayStation controller adapters, and cheat code implementation all sounds very attractive.
There was such a promising jump from bleem! version 1.1 to 1.2 that I was hopeful I could at least take a look at the beta of 1.3 prior to this reviews publication. However, with the retail sale of version 1.2 and no updated beta yet posted on their site, I'm forced to conclude that, in its current state, bleem! aint no cure for the summertime blues.