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Video Game / Through the Looking-Glass

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Apple spared no expense in packaging its first-party launch title. Then they delayed and buried its release, terrified that the Mac would be mistaken for a gaming console.

Through the Looking Glass, also known as Alice and AliceX, is the earliest known game developed for the Macintosh computer. Inspired by the books of Lewis Carroll, it pits Alice against a full set of pieces in a fast-action Human Chess match.

Apple's Steve Capps created the game in 1982, when the Mac was still over a year from shipping. Despite interest from Trip Hawkins, who'd left the company to found Electronic Arts, Steve Jobs was determined that Apple publish it in-house. Jobs promised Capps a first-rate package design, which he got, and marketing to match, which he didn't. (Apple was fighting corporate perception that the whimsical Mac interface of a "mouse" that pointed at "icons" was a toy unfit for offices, and had withdrawn support from game developers—in this case, even itself.) Through the Looking Glass was released silently, some months after the computer made its debut.


The disk included two of Capps' other programs as B-Sides: a Maze Game called Amazing, and a Clock screensaver with morphing digits.

Tropes in Through the Looking Glass

  • Art Imitates Art — The cover and title screen are based on a 1474 woodcut (with the addition of a hidden Dead Kennedys logo).
  • Book Safe — The packaging.
  • Canon Illustrations — Alice appears just as Sir John Tenniel drew her.
  • Disney Owns This Trope:
    • The Working Title Alice had to be dropped as it already belonged to a database product. (It still appears in much larger print than the title, as the first word of the instructions.)
    • Apple itself oddly denied Capps the title Alice for his iPhone port, so he settled for AliceX.
  • Flawless Victory — The game challenges you to achieve a perfect score of 999, which means letting every pawn become a queen while never being captured yourself.
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  • Game Mod — The sprites are kept in MacPaint files, which are easily edited—and include a message encouraging you to do just that.
  • Gravity Screw — One of the Easter Eggs turns the world upside down.
  • Nintendo Hard — Capps repeatedly increased the difficulty at the request of an addicted co-worker, but never dialed it back for publication.
    Making the original Alice insanely hard to play wasn't too great for sales.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale — By invoking an easter egg that makes the chess pieces randomly shapeshift, you can reach scores above 999—but only the last three digits are visible on the scoreboard.
  • Silliness Switch — The iPhone port lets you transform the chess set into a hip hop group or the George W. Bush administration (with Alice replaced by Barack Obama).
    I was going to have the Queen in the Bush set be Laura Bush but Cheney is way better.
  • Temporary PlatformA rabbit hole randomly wanders the empty squares; it can't be jumped over but can be jumped into. Chess pieces will be swallowed up, but Alice will be safely deposited on a board where all her opponents are frozen until she moves again.
  • Themed Cursor — A three-dimensional "X" that matches the board's perspective. At the suggestion of Steve Wozniak, it gets smaller when moved into the distance.

Tropes in Amazing

Tropes in Clock