Saturday, February 13, 2010


I spent the last of the funspot tokens today in a marathon of Venture. I embarrassed myself yet again because ordinarily the place is desolate empty. So I can curse all I want. But today as I reached a critical stage and could not negotiate the hall monsters I was killed by a mere pixel length of a hall monster's leg and I yelled "Fuck!" and almost punched a hole in the cabinet.
of course it is a weekend and the place is filled with 9 year old kids and their parents. They didn't kick me out but they didn't exactly give me free tokens either.

Oddly, the very game where I recorded was the best game I played with at one point I think I had 4 players left and was on the 5th level. Oh, it was so so close to going further. I didn't record the whole thing because that would be too unbearable to watch.
In case you have to know, Banananarama sings "Love in the first degree" the song playing in the background. Great chorus. The soundtrack in the classic arcade area is commercial free 1980s music to completely recreate the ambiance of, say, Dream Machine circa 1984. I heard at least two adults walk by with awed expressions and say, "I'm in heaven." The song that comes on second is...Pac Man Fever by Buckner and Garcia. It's like Country pop. Lord, tell me this as a bad as it gets.

This comes very close to replicating the graduate projects invented by Hermann Hesse in the Glass Bead Game. One of them is something like, "The role of lap dogs in the lives of 14th century courtesans."
The first level can be cleared in about one minute. The game isn't timed but there is a bonus for fast gathering of the treasure. The clock starts at 10. So if you complete the level with a bonus of 8 and you earned 1000 points then you get a bonus of 8000. plus the original 1000 is 9000 for the level. and so on. The highest score ever is 370,000. Now, there are 36 rooms but each level repeats itself three times. There are only 12 unique rooms and 3 unique levels or "floors". So, you go level 1a, level 2a, level 3a....then level 1b, level 2b, level 3b...then level 1c, level 2c level 3c. Each level has 4 rooms. 12 rooms for the first cycle. 12 rooms for the second cycle. 12 rooms for the final cycle. 36 rooms. I just noticed that level is a palindrome. Anyway, the first level usually ends with 12,000. The second level with 40,000. The third level with 80,000 and that's where you get a free winky which you will need to finish the second cycle. Completing level 2b will leave you with about 140K. Completing level 3b will give you about 160K. You can see by the amount of treasure I had that I died with 2 rooms cleared on level 3b.
Thus far I have completed only the first cycle a and then on level 3b I die swiftly and mercilessly. That will get you to 150,000. So on the final cycle, level 1c, 2c, 3c you will earn another 150K + meaning the value of the treasures increases by some factor. This also means that you will earn more free Winky and be able to continue the game because after the first three floors the monsters all move much faster than winky so you have to anticipate where they are going. I'm telling you it's tense. In my memory I never cleared the entire game. What I did was get to level 1c or level 2c in 1982 and 1983 at the Little Store. Remember, this game was one block from my house at a time when arcades were the absolute Valhalla of childhood. This was before Atari, computers, CGI, GPS. Hell, The Terminator didn't even exist. Holy shit, there was no Return of the Jedi. Think about that! And at 12 years old I was among the top 5 players ever in this game, better in fact than I am today.

I think if I were able to open the control stick and clean the carbon off the copper then I'd get better response. I've still got some tricks to learn but when the enemies are working flawlessly and Winky is limping along like a hobo then it won't work. This is really the maximum I can do these days. If absolutely everything went right I could make it to the final cycle of levels, Level 1c, but I know that would be the end. I've got 12 rooms to clear at that point with maybe 2 Winkys. It'll never work with a crappy control stick. Ever!
It seems there are two plateaus for the game. One plateau is 80K. The other plateau is at 150K. The next plateau has only been officially reached by 3 people and it starts at 300K. So either you end your game at 150K or your are one of the elite. That's a huge spread.

The reason I like this game is because it is fast. Each level takes no more than 1:30 to complete. Most can be done in about one minute. Furthermore, you can't take longer! The hall monsters speed up and make it impossible to tarry. You have to complete each level in under 2 minutes or you will lose. A lot of games allow for ways to take breaks. Not Venture. So, maximum 2 minutes multiplied by 3 levels. That's 6 minutes for the first cycle. Then you have to be even faster on the second cycle. But let's say it takes 5 minutes. That's 11 minutes to be among the top 5 players in the world (I am currently #4). The final cycle will take no more than 5 minutes. That's 16 minutes to finish the game. I'm sure the world record holder finished his game in less time. I like it because the longest a game will take is 10 minutes. In fact, by 8 minutes you're either one of the best or your game is over. That's unusual. The thing is that when you die then you lose time and also you start from the original starting spot which screws up the whole pattern that makes winning possible. So, you either don't die or you win. You can't die and also finish fast. It's well designed to make a game fast.
In the second cycle the hall monsters enter the treasure rooms in about 15 seconds. At that point you have about 5 seconds to exit. So, you can't really finish the second cycle in more than 1:30.

I don't know. Star Castle was finally taken off the floor and never returned. That game will have to wait for the summer to conquer.
I feel with my imminent move out of Laconia this was possibly the final chapter on Venture. Or at least the chapter before the final chapter.
I posted my high scores on another site that cares about these things (nerds who support each other's insane regressions) and someone posted "Get your Winky on!" That's commitment, people. Dedication. love. In this world you take it in whatever form you can get it.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.