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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Nice Game, Shame About The Name

I spent little time in the local arcades when I was a kid, even though I loved arcade games. My meagre pocket money wouldn’t have lasted long, and they tended to contain mildly menacing kids I’d want to avoid.

Slap FightThen the new video rental shop at the top of my road got in a few machines: driving game Out Run, platformer Pac-Land, and the vertically-scrolling, daftly-named shooter Slap Fight. The first two got most money and attention initially, but some of us eventually ended up focusing on Slap Fight, occasionally competing for the high score.

Two big gameplay annoyances kept it from being a truly great game with lasting appeal: the homing missiles are way too useful compared with other weapons, and throughout most of the game it’s incredibly difficult to progress any further once you lose your speed & weaponry by losing a life (a common flaw in shoot-’em-ups).

The game contains a hidden ‘cheat’ involving starting the game and not shooting anything. If you can survive as far as the pool, you reappear far further on in the game with extra weaponry, an extra life and a hefty bonus. After a bit of practice it’s not too difficult.

Slap Fight screenshots
(A note for younger readers: yes, these screenshots really are at the actual full resolution of the game. People in their 30s are still struggling to get used to pixels being smaller than grains of rice.)

Looking back, I’m wondering how on earth a friend of mine knew about that and other details; it must’ve spread by word of mouth from someone who’d either discovered it by accident or read an obscure article.

Anyway, I’m rambling on about it now because I recently had another play via MAME out of curiosity. Partly curiosity about the game, but also about how my scores would compare with the ones I got 20 years ago. I’ve always been fairly rubbish at arcade games, but wondered if I’m even worse nowadays due to slower reactions and weaker enthusiasm, or better from greater experience.

I reckon, from what I can remember, my current modern-day score of 325730 probably just about beats what I achieved back in the video rental shop. Allowing for the clearer display I now have, more relaxed surroundings and using keyboard rather than a worn-out joystick (I’m quicker with the right keyboard controls for this kind of game), it’s only fair to declare it a draw. So I’m just as mediocre at arcade games as I ever was, despite the grey hairs.


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