Thursday, September 11, 2014

Shades of Resonance: Fond Reminiscence - Memory Log #2

The Goonies

Like any child of the 80s, I was a big fan of The Goonies, which had that highly alluring quality of being a movie about a bunch of kids (all around my age) going on a dangerous adventure to discover treasure. It spoke to me, even if I didn't understand half of what its characters were saying until consulting the script years later (Chunk "ate weight and got his father's pizza"? Heh?). Even then, my affinity for The Goonies and other childhood favorites could only stretch so far; that is, I had a disposition when it came to video games: Nothing disinterested me more than the idea of a movie being turned into a game and vice versa. I still feel this way today. I can't explain why that is, exactly, but to me the two mediums never seemed compatible.

Somehow, The Goonies for the Commodore 64 was one of the only games that was able to successfully breach that mental barrier. It was a perfect match for the platform, which to me evoked feelings of discovery and adventure. I loved both its eerie title screen--with the silhouetted Goonies standing hand-and-hand in front of the Fratelli's hideout as if in deep consideration of their future predicament--and its digitized rendition of The Goonies 'R' Good Enough. It was another of those games that I'd load up and leave on the title screen just to hear the music and take in its aesthetics. 

It also captured the aspect of the Goonies teaming up to escape troubling scenarios. In fact, it might have been the first game I played where you could switch between characters and act as a team (outside of the more-simple fare like Armor Ambush, which had little complexity), sort of an introduction to mechanics that would be expanded upon and perfected in Maniac Mansion and appear in derivative titles like The Cave. I remember being intimidated by the entire concept, as if keeping track of more than one hero was akin to balancing two stacks of perilously swaying china sets.

Still, I thought its first stage nailed the desired atmosphere with its tattered, creepy three-story house setting, that spider web on the left portion of the third floor, and the starry night sky that filled the oppressive backdrop. It's a scene that represents one of my favorite C64 images and is always one that comes to mind whenever I think of Goonies-based video games (I never really got into the two NES titles, mind you) and early computer gaming.

I played through that first stage more than any other because it was the easiest to figure out: Send one Goonie to the attic to activate the counterfeit money machine while maneuvering the other to the ground floor to knock over the water cooler and break open a hole in the ground. From there, it was always a harrowing rush to reach the hole with the second player (Mikey, I guess), who had to be raced down three floors before Mama Fratelli could finish collecting the fluttering bills, lest she'd grab hold of him and apparently reduce him to ashes.

The next six stages continued following the movie, somewhat, but they grew increasingly obtuse and unforgiving, requiring too much busy-work and precision for the afforded seven lives that didn't seem like enough. From then on, their puzzles entailed challenges like placing one character on top a certain pressure point or in front of a lever while the other had to quickly run over to the next switch just in time to open a path for a rolling boulder or to activate another Rube Goldberg-type mechanism. And there were bats--annoying bats that always chose inopportune times to disrupt my springboard activity or fly toward wherever my idle Goonie was positioned. If I could make it as far, I'd usually fail decisively at around stage 5--the one with the giant skull whose portals ushered Goonies to its three separate corndened-off sections. 

It was frustrating as hell, but I still liked it a lot.

That's what The Goonies was to me: Another evocative Commodore 64 game I didn't have to complete to enjoy experiencing. It had all the trappings of one of those games that required seemingly years of practice to finish, as if doing so was unimaginable any other way, and it kept me returning in the hope that I could one day put in the perfect run. I never did, and I eventually gave up trying, yet I still remember The Goonies very fondly--more so for how it made me feel. My only regret is that I didn't know it was hiding a two-player co-op mode until years later; had I realized it at the time, The Goonies might have come to rank up there in my memories with Bruce Lee as one of my multiplayer favorites. 

I'm not sure if I'll ever return to The Goonies for more than a cursory visit, but even a quick tour of its appropriately creepy setting will always be "good enough" for me. If I were to never play it again, its beloved aesthetics and imagination-stirring rendering of one of my favorite movies would still always stick in my memory.

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