Games for Lunch: ROM CHECK FAIL
Release Date: March 25, 2008
ESRB Rating: N/A
Official Web site
0:00 I actually got turned on to this game through a link from Dinosaur Comics, of all places. Retro goodness + wacky, fact-changing gameplay = right up my alley.
0:01 The game appears in a tiny MAME window on my desktop. "RAM CHECK OK! ROM CHECK ... FAIL! SYSTEM ERROR!!!!" flashes across the screen. Uh-oh.
0:02 On the title screen, a bazillion different sprites float by in an epilepsy-inducing haze as snippets of videogame music play in a discordant loop.
0:06 I'm ... having a little trouble trying to put what just happened into words (the fact that there's no pause button for me to make notes doesn't help). So I started as the car from Spy Hunter, with the asteroids from Asteroids bouncing around a background that looked like it came from Bump 'n' Jump (I think), all with Mario music in the background. Within a few seconds, I changed to Link, fighting the bouncing balls from the underappreciated Buster Bros. Then I was Pac-Man running away from Goombas. Ho. Ly. Hell.
0:09 Among the things I never thought I'd see that I have just seen: Mario jumping on a Space Invader; Pac-Man getting eaten by a zombie from Gauntlet. More references! The multicolored line enemies from Qix make an appearance too! I think I'm in love.
0:10 Note to self: Just because the Super Mario Bros. invincibility music is playing does not mean I am, in fact, invincible.
0:13 Mario just jumped on a Goomba in a level with a Mario background. If the music weren't from Bubble Bobble, this would seem completely normal, by sheer coincidence.
0:16 This game really shows how effective classic characters would be in other contexts. Pac-Man is near-useless unless there's a power pellet nearby, and the ship from Space Invaders can't even dodge up and down. Link seems to be the most versatile, appropriately enough.
0:18 A ridiculous number of my deaths come during the transitions, when the screen goes all wobbly. One minute I'm firing at harmless Breakout blocks; the next they're Goombas that fall right on top of me. Note to self: Hide!
0:21 Taking out Breakout blocks with Link's sword is just too easy. If I'm quick, I can take out the whole wave and move on to the next level before the transition. Strategy!
0:24 The ship from Asteroids is much better at killing Space Invaders than the ship from, er, Space Invaders. Sorry, little guy.
0:26 On my third play, I lose my last life on level 19 of 20, where the enemies nearly fill the screen. I only got this far because of the generous extra lives provided at the end of each level. So far, I'm really struck by the accuracy of everything. From the controls to the physics to the sprites to the sound effects, the pixelated characters are believable even in the unbelievable circumstances.
0:28 Man, the Space Invaders ship is awful. All I can do is watch as a Gauntlet zombie slowly approaches me from the right and takes me out. TURN DAMN YOU!
0:32 If I had to pick one overriding theme for this game, it would be this: Link can win at any other videogame.
0:34 I take back the bad things I said about Pac-Man. Once he gets that power pellet, he can clear the room in a flash!
0:36 I love how beating a level during the transition freezes the sprites in a state of unrecognizable flux, like when you didn't blow into an NES cartridge correctly. Like Mom always said: "If you keep making that face, someday it'll freeze that way."
0:36 I die on level 19 AGAIN! Link's only weakness, it seems, are the huge bouncing lines from Qix.
0:40 Characters that are not in this game but I wish were: Tetris blocks, the Joust birds, the Bubble Bobble dinosaurs. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot.
0:45 I finally make it to level of 20 of 20. The stage barely has any floor, meaning the Goombas warp from the bottom directly to the top, achieving terminal Goomba velocity and raining death from above. AIEEEE!
0:49 I just noticed some of these guys can fire through walls if they press right up against them. I don't know if this is a bug or a feature, but I'm using it either way.
0:52 This time around, the Asteroids ship helps me take out a slow-moving wave of Zombies to finally beat level 20. Ending screens from a bunch of different games fly by: Strider, Street Fighter 2, Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat, The Simpsons arcade game, etc.
0:54 "Princess is in a faster castle! Press fire to continue!" I do ... and I'm back at level 1 with zero extra lives remaining. The enemies are faster, but so am I. This makes the control quite a bit touchier and harder to use. I die by level 3. TOUGH!
0:57 Surprisingly, simply jumping on Goombas with Mario is one of the toughest situations in the game. The characters with projectile firepower are much more powerful.
1:02 I got through all 20 levels easily this time. I died a few times, sure, but I never went below one life in reserve. Maybe I just got lucky ... Pac-Man and his power pellets really are powerful.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Seems like a good procrastination tool. Also, I have to show it to some of my retro-loving friends.
This column is based on a free, downloadable copy obtained from the official Web site.
Want to know more about Games for Lunch? Check out the FAQ here.
For more Games for Lunch, visit the official GfL blog.