Review by John Christovassilis
it's high time we cleared up one of the greatest misconceptions of the
videogame community: that of women in action adventure videogame roles.
Lara Croft may have been the first (female) videogame sex symbol /
babe, but she was categorically NOT the first female protagonist to go
gallivanting off into videogame history as its first true heroine, despite
what Core Design's ace programmers and her PR smart alecks may want the
general public to believe. Oh
no. Let me take you back in
time and introduce you to some real action adventure chicks back when
platform didn't only mean a type of shoe.
was a usual late Friday night in my cosy chalet high up in the mountains
of Switzerland and I was working through my latest acquisitions from
2002<> in an effort to finally update my trade list.
Among the many pirate games I had managed to trade for was Alices
Abenteuer by German company Quelle (identical to Lilly Adventure
by Homevision and also by Quelle), so after powering up my VCS I thought I
might as well see how far I could get in the game before putting it away,
for I am still very much a gamer at heart despite indulging in collecting
as a serious hobby.
first 10 screens went by quickly, so I thought I'd tackle the next 10; I
mean how many screens could this dinky little game have?
Bobby Is Going Home only has 8 screens which then apparently
repeat 32 (!) times anyway (according to the instruction manual), so this
must be in the same vein, right? WRONG!
Another 10 screens later and I'm getting hooked, so on I go. Another
10 screens come and go and I begin to lose count until I hit Screen 68.
And a brick wall. No,
not literally, but if I could have found one then I would surely have
smashed my head, the cartridge, the console and probably anything I could
lay my hands on against it in total anguish and frustration as I could NOT
complete Screen 68!
get me wrong, I'm a pretty decent (platform) game player and I love
finishing games whenever I can. I
cut my teeth playing such platform classics as Burgertime, Cauldron,
Jet Set Willy II: The Final Frontier, Popeye, The
Pharaoh's Curse and Toy Bizarre on my C64 many years ago, none
of which I ever finished, but I had heaps of fun in trying to do so.
In addition I have completed
on the VCS (not a platform game but that's a minor detail, right?), Bruce
Lee, Cauldron II, Commando (it has bridges which are
like platforms), Ghostbusters! (okay so I'm pushing it a little
now), Wizball and Zorro on the C64, and the excellent Another
World and Flashback on the Amiga, plus I can complete
II: Lost Caverns<> on the VCS, XE and C64 within a couple of hours with
no major hiccups, but this was something new.
(Did you know that on the XE you get a totally new layout once you
complete Pitfall II? But I digress…)
Hero and Pitfall Harry make it tough for you in Activision's two classics
and I have never completed either of these two great games (assuming that
such feats are even possible) as I always run out of lives, but Alices
Abenteuer is different in that it lets you go on and on with a
seemingly infinite number of lives, so the temptation to just keep playing
until I finished the game was too much to resist.
where was I? Oh yeah, dreaded
Screen 68. I began cursing
out loud, begging Alice to get her ass home.
I mean, Smurf rescued Smurfette and Bobby got home so why couldn't
she do it? In fact, why was
home so far away anyway? The
curses turned to pleas as the music began to grate beyond belief (I had to
turn the volume down on the monitor for fear of causing permanent damage
to my nerves and sanity) and then back to curses again as I found myself
inundated with a combination of bad luck and bad timing as I tried to jump
over the oncoming baddies while simultaneously trying to avoid the black
bird while only jumping on the alligator/crocodile heads when their mouths
were closed. @!#?@
imagined fat German kids being forced to play this game (and Mangia,
but only because you get fat in it) if they had not done well on their
tests at school, but this didn't make me feel any better as I could relate
to them on certain levels. I
spent hours trying to conquer this screen but all to no avail.
I was going to leave the VCS on all night and then tackle it anew
in the morning but, as any serious gamer knows all too well, there is
something called pride that makes us want to complete a screen and then a
game before we can call if quits. What
the heck, Joe once spent 85 hours beating Final Fantasy Spirits (DP
#37), so I'm sure I could muster up the resolve to get Alice home, right?
guess resolve wasn't the only thing pushing me on.
Curiosity was a factor too. I
mean, what the hell was going to happen in Screen 69?
Was Alice going to meet Bobby (or even Lilly) for a private
one-on-one? The possibilities
seemed awesome (at the time) so I knew that come hell or high water I
simply HAD to get across Screen 68 one way or another.
I took a break, went upstairs, walked around the chalet for a bit
to clear my head and then came back to the game with a fresh mind and a
resolve of steel. Alice would
buckle up and get her ass home as her parents were surely worried sick by
now. In essence I was living her plight, wanting her to get home
more than I wanted anything else in the world, and I knew that I was the
only one who could help her to do this.
so it came to pass that by sheer determination and divine intervention
(luck?) I managed to crack Screen 68.
I ran outside onto the back terrace once Alice was safely in Screen
69 and I looked up into the starry night sky and I thanked God, out loud,
for allowing me to complete this screen and for not letting me lose my
sanity over a video game. It
was a moment of pure elation, sort of like when your team scores in the
dying seconds to clinch a critical game after wasting chance after chance.
69 was nothing special and despite my initial disappointment I pushed on,
anxious to get to the end of the game.
I must say, in retrospect, that the screen layouts do change
somewhat as you progress through the game, similar in style but much
harder than those in Bobby Is Going Home, and the baddies also
appear at different intervals. (Hint: if you jump down onto a turtle you can actually sneak
under the large boulders by falling off of its back but by continuing to
walk closely behind it. You'll
need to jump twice when reaching the end of the bottom of the screen
though; once to get back on the turtle's back and once again to get back
to the top of the platform.)
game ends after Screen 99. The
final game screen says 1000 at the top of the screen, your score appears
below the action (mine was 81,071 just for the record) and a 95 appears
below that. I'm still not sure what that 95 signifies but there was
always a number to the right of the screen number that was consistently 5
below the screen number, so I guess that this is it.
I went upstairs to see Emily (my wife) after taking a number of
photos of the screen and her first question was "Whom were you
talking to?" I asked her
to come downstairs and I explained the whole story to her.
I'm lucky in that she used to have both a VCS and a C64 growing up
so she knows what it's like to be frustrated by a game, but she was
convinced that I was really having an argument with someone that night. Alice and Lilly, along with Bobby, have now been banished to
live out the rest of their existence in my Ikea cart drawers, and I
genuinely hope never to have to go through such a gaming ordeal ever
again, although I also know - secretly - that I will, and that the
satisfaction I get when I complete a game for the very first time is a
unique and very gratifying feeling. So
dig out either Alice or Lilly when you've got a few hours to spare and let
me know how far you get…
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