Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Chapter XXXI: Wonderboy in Monsterland

I’ve mentioned in many occasions how piracy not only wasn’t fought by the authorities, but there were actually many stores around that sold pirated games in the open. These state of affairs endured until around ’93, and most of our gaming needs were purchased at the store of Mr. Joaquin.

Mr. Joaquin’s store was located in a small shopping centre on the suburbs of Lisbon. As my impressionable young memories of the time tell me, it was a place always filled with kids and teens where there was always something happening, being it Sensible Soccer competitions or the arrival of new games by some cracker connection of him. While it wasn’t the only store around, it was definitely the one I liked most, since he was a really cool guy, and the fact that his wife owned the hair salon on the opposite side of the store gave the whole area a very familiar feel.

Having one of these kind of stores meant that Mr. Joaquin had at least the minimum of skills when it came to dealing with children, since on many occasions he was faced with oddest situation. I remember when some kid came into the store, and asked him with the most enthusiasm and high-pitched voice as you can imagine “Can you make me the Ninja Turtles game?”. Mr. Joaquin just replied with the most intrigued face he could find “What?”. And the kid repeated the same mysterious question, word by word. Mr. Joaquin said “Well, I can make you a copy, if that’s what you’re asking”. Eventually the kid had to return home highly disappointed, since he wanted a copy for the ZX Spectrum and we were already in the nineties. His parents must have been truly evil. This story has no importance whatsoever, but I felt that I needed to share it.

Many pirated games were bought at Mr. Joaquin’s store, and many times Walter The Baptist conned Ricky Cap in those installations. While there are so many memories attached to my multitude of purchases, I do remember one particular when I went for Wonderboy in Monsterland. Why I have chosen this one, I have no idea, but one of the reasons must be that it came on one disk only, thus making it half the price of a two disk game, and a third of a three disk, and so on. When I asked for the game, he went to copy it with the glorious x-copy, right in front of me. Watching all those zeroes filling the matrices gave me the utmost blast, and having a new game was always reason to rush home as soon as possible. When he handed me the disk, he asked “Would you wish to be like Wonderboy?”, and I replied in the most deadpan manner “No”.

This episode right here might be one of the reasons why I feel so uncomfortable next to kids, since it seems I was a pretty annoying one myself. Why would I reply in that matter to the kind Mr.Joaquin, who was only guilty of being a terrible loser in Sensible Soccer? Every time I speak to kids I always have this impression that I’m not cool enough, and never funny. I wonder where Mr. Joaquin is these days. He was pretty young back then, probably in his mid-twenties, so calling him “Mr.” might be a bit of a stretch, but I had to honour him, after me being such a jerk.

As for Wonderboy in Monsterland, it was always comfort food to me. While some games were played obsessively and then placed on the back of the drawer, never to be touched again, this was a game that I picked every now and then when I needed some metaphorical sunshine. I loved the bright colours, the music and the minimalistic graphics. These Japanese aesthetics weren't prevalent in Amiga games, but since I grew watching cartoons such as Tom Sawyer and Dogtanian, there was a childhood comfort to be had with this game.

Good luck on selling that to minors
Unfortunately, dealing with pirated copies wasn't all roses and pizza. One of the last levels of the game, the one who took place inside a pyramid had its graphics completely botched. While the main character was visible, everything else was a mess. My current, 2015 self, would have quit right way, but back then I memorized all the traps and platforms of the level by trial and error, dying many times and restarting again in the process, so just I could proceed. Eventually I reached the final boss, which I never got past for being so unfairly difficult. What would have I given to have save states at that time?

I was really about to abuse the hell out of save states, but for some reason the disk images I got always made the game hang while loading up. So back to WHDload and honest-land it seems. I doubt that my geriatric hands can take me far in this game.

The first thing that assaulted my senses is how ear piercing the sound is in this game. I did remember the jolly melodies, but not exactly the execution. And first thing to do was to dial the volume way down.

Hey, curb your enthusiasm.
Not long ago I played the original arcade version on MAME, and I was under the impression that this was a perfect conversion. Well it's not. There's a very noticeable toll on framerate which makes quite a big difference. It's still a very competent conversion but the Master System's might take the prize as being the best one. At least this one is much easier than the original, which gives me at least the opportunity of going further than the giant squid on level three.

Still, and even though on purely technical terms this is a very primitive looking game for Amiga's standards, I still really like the overall aesthetics and feel of it. The clean palette was quite unique as most Amiga developers were cranking the details on the graphics on most games to take advantage of this machine.

Stairway to Slaughter
One thing that I didn't weight down when I played this one many years ago were the ethical implications of the game. Most of the monsters and animals are just going on with their lives, and wonderboy is their genocidal extinction clock. The bastard has the nerve on knocking on people's houses so just he can kill them and steal their keys. Good thing I told Mr Joaquin that I didn't wanted to be like him. I even pitied Death itself. Not those assholes with arrows though. Those deserve to die, obviously.

Also taking account the huge quantities of booze Wonderboy drinks throughout the game, I'm not that convinced he's a boy. Have you ever seen the movie Orphan? Sorry for spoiling that.

Wonderboy's adventure ended tragically at the door of the infamous pyramid after failing to find the key and time running out. Considering all the misery he caused throughout Monsterland, it's a fitting end.

Die, you shitty human being!

1 comment:

  1. Another nice background story and review :-).

    I played the game on a friend's C64 but never really liked it.