30 September 2011

One Down, 39 To Go!

Well, I was intending to record all my achievements and upload them to YouTube, but this one just kind of happened! The first game to be checked off the list is Konami’s Shao-lin’s Road with a score of 126,400. I’d played a few games and got scores around 60-70k as you can see from the photo below, but suddenly everything seemed to click and I racked up nearly 90,000 points before losing a life. From there reaching my target score was inevitable.

Clearly this isn’t the most challenging of games to get 100k on since it only took a few attempts, but if you’re looking for gameplay tips then the best advice I can give is that eliminating enemies with a flying kick gives 500 points rather than the 200 you get for a standing kick. You can also rack up more points for killing multiple enemies with one hit. On the later stages I found it easier if you head to the top level of the screen - these areas are usually smaller and less enemies spawn there, plus you only have to worry about them jumping up to that level rather than landing on you from above.

27 September 2011

Amidar Analysis

Over the last couple of days I’ve been working on boosting my score on Amidar. If you’re not familiar with the game then there’s an amusing write-up of it at Classic Gaming that is well worth a read.

One of the best ways to improve your score on this game is via the bonus stages. After each level there is the opportunity to earn 5,000 points by guiding a pig down the correct path from the top of the screen to get to the bananas at the bottom. Yes, I know how silly that sounds! Anyway, correctly guessing the path in real time is nigh-on impossible as you only get a short amount of time before the pig starts it’s way down the maze automatically.

After having a few plays of the game and taking photos of each bonus maze I discovered that each layout remains static from game to game. By backtracking from the bottom of the maze to the top it is possible to work out the correct path for each bonus round, so I did this for the first three bonus rounds and now have a small ‘cheat sheet’ handy whilst playing the game!

The other way to significantly boost your score is to fill in all four corners of each maze, which allows you to temporarily catch the enemies much like collecting a power pill in Pac-Man. Just like Pac-Man each enemy caught increases a multiplier, with 200 points for the first, 400 for the second and so on. With at least five enemies on each screen, that’s a lot of points to be had. Unlike Pac-Man however, the enemies don’t run away from you when you turn the tables on them. Instead they carry on the same path as normal. Since both the player and enemies move at the same speed, chasing after them is futile, so the best approach is to fill the fourth corner in just as the majority of your foes are approaching you. They will carry on heading towards you and effectively become lambs to the slaughter!

Putting these tactics into practice has already seen a massive improvement in my score as you can see below, and I expect to reach 100,000 points within my next few attempts...

Plugging a Pal

Just a quick note of thanks to one of my good friends in the retro gaming community, Jdanddiet, who has mentioned my challenge on his own blog. JD ‘s blog covers a variety of retro gaming topics as well as classic movies, and he has some great nostalgic reviews of some classic arcade games, so check it out!

26 September 2011

Week 1 Summary

Well, one week into my challenge and it’s been great fun! Here’s a summary of my progress so far:

I decided to focus on boosting some of the lower scores, hence the number of games moved from red to orange status. Significant improvements over the last few days include boosts of over 20,000 points on the likes of Amidar, Circus Charlie and Pac-Land, and a vast improvement on BurgerTime that does give me some hope that 100k is actually reachable. The best achievement of the week however happened late last night. After numerous failed attempts to boost my score beyond 30k on Pac-Man, suddenly everything clicked and I logged an unprecedented score of 49,750!

The full list of my latest scores is shown below along with selected photographic evidence of some of my highlights. This week my aim is to reach 100k on a couple of games, though I haven’t yet decided which ones.

23 September 2011

Kong Goes Yellow

Quite a significant score improvement on one of the most difficult games in my challenge, the legendary Donkey Kong. My latest attempt saw my score jump by nearly 8,000 points to 75,100, changing the colour on my spreadsheet from orange to yellow. Frustratingly I actually struggled to get past the first two rivet levels, finishing the first with only 600 points bonus remaining, and the second with just 100 points left! Had I completed these quicker then I’d probably have passed 80k. I also lost a cheap life due to a mistimed jump on the second elevator level. My big problem with Kong is that occasionally I will log a good score, but more often than not I struggle to even get 50k. Those damned unpredictable barrel levels mean consistency is very hard to come by!

22 September 2011

Sport Out, Pigs In!

I’ve decided to make a minor change to the line-up of games in my challenge. While I really enjoy playing Konami’s Track & Field, I have never got to grips with the high jump stage. So since it will take numerous button-smashing attempts before I even get to that stage, I’ve decided to drop the game from my list for the sake of my MAME cab control panel… In its place I have chosen another game developed by Konami - Pooyan. I have never really played the game before but the world record is over 1.6 million points so I figure 100k shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve!

20 September 2011

Baseline Scores

Having decided on my list of games, I thought I better start by setting some baseline scores on the games I hadn’t previously recorded ones on. Here’s my updated log:

Based on one or two attempts, it shouldn’t be too challenging to reach 100k on the likes of Contra and Dragon Spirit, but for Phoenix and BurgerTime I’m already thinking of renaming this blog The 10k Challenge! Pitfall II also looks like it will be hard work, but the 10k score was set on my second go after getting less than 3,000 on the first, so it looks like it will just be a matter of learning the layout of each screen to make reasonable progress.

So there we have it, the scale of this challenge is now fully laid out. Now I need to decide whether to try and go for ‘quick wins’ on the games that I’m already fairly close to the target score, or start plugging away at some of those lower scores to get them out of the red…

19 September 2011

The Machines

My challenge will take place on my two upright MAME arcade cabinets. The first was converted from a JAMMA cabinet in 2007 and features a two player, six button control panel and a horizontally-aligned monitor. The second is a conversion of a DECO Cassette System cab and is designed for old school gameplay with a vertical monitor and single player control panel with a four-way joystick and just two buttons.

I love these machines but they often don’t get the attention they deserve, so one of the primary reasons for this challenge is to make the most of my cabs and learn the nuances of the games I have chosen.

The Games

I’m tracking my progress on each game via an Excel spreadsheet. A snapshot of the first version is shown below. I’ve created some fairly arbitrary colour-coded levels to show my progress on each game – RED means I’m under 35% of the way to achieving 100k, ORANGE means I’m under 75% and YELLOW means I’m on the ‘home straight’ so to speak.

The games include some of the most beloved arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Centipede, Phoenix and Mr Do! There are also a few personal favourites in the form of Dig Dug, Zoo Keeper and Mario Bros, and finally a few games that I’ve rarely invested any time into such as Contra, Pitfall II and Dragon Spirit – I truly have no idea how easy or hard it will be to achieve my target score on these games!

The Challenge

100,000 points. In the world of gaming it doesn’t sound like a lot does it? However if you look at the Golden Age of arcade gaming from the late 70’s to the mid-80’s, a score of over 100k on most games was quite a challenge. It’s rarely a record-breaking score, but for an average gamer like myself a score of this magnitude on games like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man would represent a significant achievement. While not showing a mastery of the games, it will show an understanding of the game mechanics beyond the ability of a casual player.

So the challenge I’ve set myself is to focus on 40 games, a mixture of bona fide arcade classics, personal favourites and a few more leftfield choices. The aim is to gradually improve at these titles until I can achieve the magic 6-figure high score. I’ll be sharing my progress here with pictures, gameplay videos, tips for fellow gamers and occasional diversions on to related (and unrelated) topics.