Am I the most successful person ever? Winston Churchill described success as “going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”. Well, I did that.
I did not give up dousing the flames of Fire Leo. I cried and cried until I could laugh in the face of Ninja Gaiden’s final boss. I can play Ikaruga’s black and white switches like piano keys and can cruise through F-Zero like it was built on Scaletrix. If there was a noble prize for tenacity and unwavering spirit in gaming, I’d have gold-plated Birmingham (may it forever stand tall) by now with the gold from all my melted medals. And they’re small medals.
But one short, ten-second segment in a little game called VVVVVV proved almost too much. I just kept. On. Dying.
In theory, it was optional; getting the trinket just raised another number in the menu. In practice, it was irresistible. The tight gameplay and charming aesthetic had me hooked, glued to my screen like pixels were squares of crack. If the average gamer brain can contort its synaptic pathways until the ‘Pause - Menu Scroll – Retry’ mantra is as automatic as a nerve reflex, what chance did i stand ignoring a challenge in which respawns were instantaneous, where reincarnation is a word that takes longer to say than it actually does to-
Wail. And I’m back. Ready to jump into action over the-
Wail. And I’m back. Again.
How embarrassing! I couldn’t call these repeated wails just random blips, whatever they sounded like in digital form. The level named ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’ had me dying continuously. I tried to blame my little monochrome man and some suicidal attraction he had to the spikes lining the walls but his one-frame grimace of death and his 8-bit wail for life were just too sincere. I tried memorising the exact timing required for my finger presses, counting out loud my finger aerobics. I even tried changing the graphics settings from ‘Basic’ to ‘Basic And Blurry’! I think it’s running… a little smoother!
But a one frame animation of death can only get so smooth, and it certainly didn’t get any less familiar.
Wail. By now it was just part of the soundtrack. Thirty minutes of retrying is pittance, but divided by a 10-second stretch of level it becomes something else altogether. My only glimmer of hope was that I was gradually increasing my survival distance through Veni, Vidi, Vici’s spiked vertical ascent. Bit by bit.
Not like ‘8-bit’ retro cool, you understand. Or like, ‘just a little bit of cake please today’ and getting that fat juicy slice of black forest your obese stomach was really pining for. No. these were bits of gaming dignity, hard earned through death and determination. Even my laptop had hushed its baseline of alerts and annoyances, an act of respect for this pixel-purgatory. Soon, my eyes glazed over and my finger muscles started to act of their own accord. They were now mere fleshy automatons, locked in an endless dance of digital death.
Wail. Spike by spike, I was learning that damn wall. Work needed to be done, food needed to be eaten, bowels needed emptying, but my fingers carried on in autopilot, the keys click-clacking away like I was typing.
Wail … Wail
This is ridiculous! Nearly an hour on this one bit? This was too retarded. The programmer must be retarded. Did he scrape his teeth clean in the morning with razor blades too? Maybe he uses Tabasco instead of milk on his cereal for a similar dance with danger. I bet he walks bare foot to work in the crazed hope that some phone booth has been smashed in, spilling shards of glass that he can dodge like some pervert of pain. Hell, I bet he even cuts his boxer-shorts out of sandpaper and then jogs in the cold! In fact, he probably unplugs all the plugs in the house at night so that he might step on one on the way to the loo, the freak. I wouldn’t be surprised if he only goes out with girls with tongue studs, in the hope of suffering some personal oral damage. Whatever he does, he is clearly an absolute, total-
I had done it? But, I wasn’t even concentrating! YES! I cheered to an audience of no one and shouted things that should never be repeated in genteel company. I was made of win.
My mind had been too consumed by anger and got in the way of gameplay instinct! I had been consumed by anger, cursing the sick masochism of Mr Terry Cavanagh (programmer and producer).
In that instant, I was King of Kong, Master of Mario and Titan of Tombraider. I was Lord of Lylat and His Highness of Hyrule. I was Victor of VVVVVV.
Alas, such a triumph cannot be adequately described in this medium of words, divorced from the narcotic pull of audio loops and pixel-perfect-precision. This is but an ode to fantastic games and near-fantastical challenges.
VVVVVV, I salute thee. I am whole again.
VVVVVV is available now and can be downloaded for £3.99 from Steam.