a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

i like bad video games

I've made a bit more Ancipital progress. I've completely mapped out the two 4x4 rooms in the beginning, which I'll call Sector A and Sector B.

map

I've marked the location of the white camel key, and I now have a pretty good path for getting through Sector A as painlessly as possible. I've written down all 32 pieces of help text, and unfortunately there aren't many fun surprises that I haven't already seen. Most of them are straightforward instructions for getting through the room. I don't know what to do with it for the moment, so here's a text file with everything I've gotten so far. Spoilers etc.

My save state plan isn't working very well, because as I made my way through sector B and the difficulty started ramping up, it's getting almost impossible to get through any room without suffering extensive damage. I'm sad to say I'm starting to lose interest in the project, because the actual moment-to-moment mechanics are just not any fun.

Jumping around the rooms is fun, and doing the 90-degree gravity shifts is fun once you get the hang of it, but the part where it's a shoot-em-up isn't doing anything for me. You can only aim in three directions, and two of them require aiming while moving (like shooting diagonally in Contra), and there's so much shit on the screen that whether I hit what I'm supposed to be hitting and whether it's possible to dodge what's coming at me often feels completely out of my control. There's no finesse. I mostly feel like I'm just walking back and forth holding down the fire button and hoping for the best. You do encounter rooms where the mechanics change, which is interesting --- one room involves shooting single giant shots at the opposite wall to damage it, which shots explode into shrapnel that you then have to dodge. There's another room where you don't fire at all, you remotely control a shooting object by moving back and forth. I wish there were more rooms like those. For the most part, whether I can get through a room without dying feels like random chance.

Which is a bummer, because I find the premise and spectacle of the game very compelling, but I don't know if I have it in me to endure the combat long enough to explore everything. What I'd like is a version of the game where you're invincible, but so far I haven't been able to find one. It's a little ironic, archives of 80s home computer and Commodore 64 games in particular are so completely lousy with hacked, pirated, "trained" versions of games that it's often hard to find clean original version, but with Ancipital, the unaltered original release is all I got. Maybe the warez scene respected Llamasoft too much to mess with their games, or maybe this one was just not popular enough for them to care.

One theory I had was that the more of the game I map, the easier it'll get, which is true in a sense --- once I know where all the keys and goats of power are, I can plot a course to get them as quickly as possible. But here's the problem: the object of the game isn't "get to the end", the objective is to clear all 100 rooms. No matter how efficient my path is, I'm going to have to backtrack to all the rooms I skipped and clear them eventually. Sure, it'll be easier once I have the goats of power and can open up walls just by standing on them, but I'm still going to have to survive for at least 16 seconds in every room, and that doesn't sound fun to me. I'd be more motivated to continue if I knew there was an ending I was working towards, but I don't think there is. It's a shame.

Another problem is that, while clearing Sector B, at some point I picked up the yellow camel key and the first goat of power, because I had a "G" on my UI and was able to progress to Sector C, but I have no idea when or where it happened. Either they're physical objects I picked up and somehow missed in all the chaos, or they were awarded to me at some point and I didn't notice because I was too focused on clearing rooms and writing down the help text. Either way, I'm going to have to completely explore Sector B again and pay closer attention to figure out how to get them, because I'm going to need that information if I plan to continue. Which at this point I'm not sure I am. Sigh.

Luckily, I remembered another bad game I'm weirdly obsessed with: Quest: Fantasy Challenge for the Game Boy Color. It came out in 1999 and is a spin-off of Quest 64, a bad game which is notable only for being the only RPG on the Nintendo 64.1 Quest: Fantasy Challenge is also bad. Both games were developed by Imagineer, a Japanese company who is described on their wikipedia page thusly:

They are part of the content industry, providing content and services regarding characters, games, education, and more.

Hell yeah they are. QFC is a game that contains content, characters, education, and more. It's educational in the sense that it teaches you how to play Mr. Do. It's a Mr. Do clone.

Mr. Do is an arcade game first released in 1982. Quest: Fantasy Challenge is a product you could buy for your Game Boy Color in 1999. The full playthroughs on youtube are about 16-20 minutes long.

I like it. Mr. Do is a good game, and QFC is a decent version of it. Instead of apples, it has chests with a chance of containing a random power-up. One of the power-ups is a gem that immediately clears the level, which is cool. In case you didn't know it's cool, this is the cutscene the game gives you:

cool

The box and the manual claim that the game has 20 levels, but once you finish level 10, it shows you this screen:

trash

And then proceeds to level 11, which is just level 1 but harder.

The manual for the game is a legendary shitpost of a document. I almost can't believe it's real, it's so bad it feels like it must be a hoax. Please take a look at the PDF (1.7 MB) if you get a chance, but here are some highlights:

  • The manual consistently refers to the player's remaining lives as "machines"
  • On the page explaining the options menu, it helpfully points out "there is no off-on option for BGM or SE". Thank you. What other features doesn't the game have?
  • Around half of the power-ups have the incorrect description text
  • "Target age group: elementary school students of all ages" but the box says E for everyone :(
  • This page:

enemies

Nintendo gave this game their seal of quality. It's right there on page 1 of the manual.

Anyway, Quest: Fantasy Challenge is pretty good. I've gotten okay at it. I've made it to level 20, but didn't have enough lives to defeat the boss. Oh yeah, there's a boss every 5 levels, but their patterns aren't too hard to learn. A little more practice and I should be able to finish it. Here's my high score:

score

The top 10 5 list lets me enter my name properly, so I give it my highest rating: a gold star 🌟


  1. besides Paper Mario and whatever RPGs were exclusive to Japan, if any

#media