MS-DOS and Undead Systems — A 2018 Review of Beetlejuice: Skeletons in the Closet (1990)
In Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988), there is a town in an attic. In this town, you can view a place at perfect scale from the outside looking in. You’re not in the town, but you’re somewhere close.
For video games, emulation is like this model town, giving us the chance to experience media in a space outside its original hardware or software environment. At the Internet Archive, the MS-DOS Software Library creates a landscape of 4000+ such towns. Today we’re going to talk about one of them — Beetlejuice: Skeletons in the Closet (1990).
In 1990, Riedel Software Software Productions, Inc., created a game based on Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988). This game manifests the true metaphysical energy of a lecherous ghost bound to the soul of a computer with limited processing power, here only to torment and entertain you. Developed for a system that fell out of favor with the rise of the Windows 95’, Beetlejuice: Skeletons in the Closet is emulated in-browser by the Internet Archive with EM-DOSBOX.
Beetlejuice: Skeletons in the Closet begins with a midi rendition of Harry Belafonte’s Jump in the Line. The basic mechanics of this game as follows: 1) Beetlejuice must defeat skeletons and 2) companion Lydia must remove the remains in completion before advancing to the next level — each a supercharged version of the prior chapter with minor variation. The completion of each level is toasted with landscapes comparable to imagery shown in MS Paint Adventures (2016) in mind-bending lines and colors.
Playing Beetlejuice: Skeletons in the Closet (1990) in 2018 creates an experience not unlike entering a Chuck E Cheese ball pit of imitation human bones, and builds background to the current game landscape heavily shaped by works like Undertale (2015) that prove fertile ground for 2D skeleton based media.
The MS-DOS Software Library shows us thousands of spaces and stories. For this story, Beetlejuice: Skeletons in the Closet shows us, in content and systems, a walk between this world and the next.