Monday, May 19, 2014

And That Little Paperboy Grew Up To Be One Of The Guys From Contra

Lately, my coworkers have gotten into playing Paperboy on the original NES one of them brought. We've been keeping track of the high score, since the game doesn't save them after you turn it off. I had it for awhile at 38,000, then one guy pushed it up to 47,000. He went into the kitchen to check on what he was making for the potluck, I sat down and went to 50,000. I didn't even get to tell him, because somebody else just had to rush in and spill the beans. I was accused of being a robot-wizard.

It sat there for about a month, but two nights ago he started in again and pushed it to 53,000. It took me a few tries, but I was able to respond with 56,000 that night. Last night he marched in, declaring he was a little drunk, but going to try again. Then he couldn't even find the game in the box of games. He wasn't looking in the right place, which is hardly an auspicious beginning, but when it was all said and done, he got to 65,000.  I thought I was probably cooked. I was able to beat Paperboy, but that was long ago, and I have no idea what my best score was. Lo and behold, I beat the game and scored a cool 85,000. I had two lives left, so who knows how much higher the score could have gone if the game kept going. I even made it through the training course at the end despite one of my other coworkers accidentally spilling their water down my back. The fact I didn't pause the game or even look back, only jumped from the seat and exclaimed 'What the fuck?!' while continuing to play, greatly amused both of them.

It's probably only a matter of time before he raises the bar again, and then we'll see if I can respond. It's a running joke among them that I'm a machine, just grinding through relentlessly and without emotion. In reality, each time I pick up the controller, I wonder if he's surpassed me. His score on Duck Hunt is already 3 times higher than anything I've been able to manage. Stupid laughing dog.

In spite of my overly competitive nature, it is nice to play Paperboy again. I'm playing Tales of Vesperia at the same time on my 360, and the contrast is striking. There's so many things to do, little quests, weapons to find, people to talk to, skits, a million different things to do. I've been ready to beat the final boss for a couple of weeks, but I just keep screwing around. There's none of that with Paperboy. It's straightforward. You start at one end of the street, and try to make it to the other, delivering papers to your subscriber homes, and feeling free to break anything belong to non-subscribers. Everything else in the world, whether intentionally or not, will try to stop you from completing that task. It's a nice change of pace to play a game where you don't have to worry that you missed an entire subplot or quest, because there's barely a plot, and the only quests would be the ones you make. Break all the windows, get all papers in the mailboxes, smack every one of those stupid dogs in the nose, whatever.

It's a game where you have to plan ahead, because certain obstacles are best avoided in certain ways. At the same time, you can only plan for what you can see on-screen, which equals about 3 seconds ahead. You have to constantly adjust and adapt, sometimes you just wing it and hope for the best. The game does somewhat telegraph what's coming. Either that or I've played the game enough I'm developing that "combat antenna" Sgt. Rock had.

It likes to throw the skateboarders in at times when there's no place to go, because skateboarders take up an extraordinary amount of space on the sidewalk. At one point, I went into the lawn of a house to avoid a guy with a jackhammer and another guy breakdancing on the sidewalk so I could still deliver their paper. Then I see a dog, and if I try to keep it on my right, I'm doomed because you can only throw papers left, and outrunning it is a no-go. So I cut hard into the sidewalk to get the dog on my left, and then here comes Skateboard Joe. I was busy dealing with the mutt, and I died. Afterward, I started keeping an eye out for situations like that and was ready to dive into the street and take my chances with storm drains and automobiles.

There's a limited numbers of threats, and only so many houses to use them around, but the combinations are nearly limitless. It's a game that's predictable in some ways, but still capable of catching me by surprise.

No comments: