(Sorry, dear readers, but no pictures or videos this time. Just reading material.)
I try to plan my trips to Underground Retrocade for when I know Scott Lambert, the owner, will be working. He’s a registered referee on aurcade.com, so I know if I get a high score, he can make it official for me.
I’m planning a trip for this Sunday, October 13, so I asked Scott if he’d be around. Scott asked what games I’m thinking of attempting a high score, and I told him my usual: Ms. Pac-Man Turbo and Jr. Pac-Man Turbo. He asked if I wanted him to set up a camera to stream my high score attempts. I told him as long as he doesn’t make me look fatter than I already am then I’m cool with it.
Thing is, I don’t think it’ll be worth getting video of my Jr. Pac-Man Turbo attempt. The first time I went to Underground, I beat what Scott had recorded as the house high and the aurcade.com world high on only my second attempt ever at the game…except that I found out later that night that someone had just a couple of days earlier already beaten that world high, and I was “only” second in the world. The next day, someone else — I think at Underground Retrocade! — took the world lead, knocking me down to third, which was still pretty cool. I monitored the scores on aurcade.com, and over the next two weeks I saw my score slip down pretty far; last I checked (not too long ago), I’m only in 13th place…yikes! I’m only going to attempt to beat my 290k+. Maybe I’ll be lucky and beat Fred Ochs’ house high of 400k+, but I doubt it, despite the tips he offered me.
But Ms. Pac-Man Turbo? I have two goals toward which I’m working. I think I mentioned on this blog before that I want to reach the kill screen. But the main thing I want to do on Sunday is what I’ve tried several times: beat George Strain’s house high score of 551,920. Providing nothing else changes with the high scores, that will put me in at least third place on aurcade.com’s chart. But I just want some sort of high score recognition at Underground, and I feel MPmT is my best bet.
So…two Pac-Man variations I mentioned i this post, both the turbo versions. But why? Well, first of all, at Underground Retrocade, if I want to play Jr. Pac-Man, I have no choice but to play the turbo variation, as they don’t have the standard version there (unless it’s in the multicade cabinet). It’s an interesting machine, too – it’s obviously a converted Super Pac-Man box. Also, most people know how hard Jr. Pac-Man is. When I got my 290k score on the turbo variation (and THOUGHT that I had the world record!) I called my friend Jim to tell him, as I knew he’d appreciate it. He was impressed that I even got past the third maze! Yes, the standard Jr. Pac-Man is that freakin’ hard. The turbo version gives you a decent chance of seeing all seven mazes at least once. (And once you get to the seventh maze, as long as you’re careful, it’s easy to rack up points, as the only prize that appears from that point until the end of the game is the 5,000-point root beer.)
And I gotta tell ya…I find it hard to play the standard Ms. Pac-Man any more. It just moves too slow. On the turbo version, you can get a pretty impressive score in under half an hour. You’ll get to see all three “Junior” cut scenes. (By the way, ever notice that the Jr. Pac-Man opening theme music is almost a note-for-note remake of the music from the “Junior” cut scene in Ms.?) You’ll quickly get to the point of the game in which the energizers no longer make the ghosts vulnerable. The thing about the “turbo” variation is that it’s very common. I remember seeing it at the Venture that used to be by the Lincoln Mall in Matteson, Illinois. The Aladdin’s Castle at the Louis Joliet Mall (Joliet, Illinois), if I remember correctly, actually had a Ms. Pac-Man machine with a turbo button you’d press so that you could enable turbo speed at will. And once during my career as an equipment manager with the college football team (boy, was that a fun job…*barf*), I played a turbo machine at a truck stop during a road trip. Most retro arcades have the turbo version. (Underground has both the regular and turbo versions.) And the easy-to-find Ms. Pac-Man / Galaga: Class of 1981 machines, there’s an Easter egg that allows you to toggle between standard and turbo speed — and many machines are set to default to turbo. (The not-as-common Pac-Man 25th Anniversary machines also have the same Easter egg.) So obviously, the turbo Ms. Pac-Man is popular — again, undoubtedly because it gives some players the opportunity to get farther into the game than usual. (Other players may not adjust well to the speed and may see it as an additional challenge.)
Let me be honest, though…another reason I prefer the turbo version of Ms. Pac-Man is because, well…on a standard 3-life-plus-one-bonus-life regular-speed Ms. Pac-Man, I just can’t get very far. I don’t think that I’ve ever reached the fourth maze unless it was either the turbo version or a machine set to five lives; usually I die on the level after the banana. I’ve come close to scoring 100,000, but not quite. (On the turbo version, by the way, I don’t consider it a respectable game unless I end the banana level with at least 100,000 points. I’m sure there are some hard-core gamers that laugh about me having such a low score at the end of the banana maze!)
Before anybody scoffs at me for craving the turbo versions because they’re not original…well, let’s not forget that neither are the standard versions of Ms. Pac-Man or Jr. Pac-Man — those are unauthorized sequels made by Midway, and in fact, let’s not forget that Ms. Pac-Man is essentially a hack of a hack! So I don’t think originality should be considered.
All I know is my goals and strategies for Sunday will include:
- Beating George Strain’s house high on Ms. Pac-Man
- Ending the Ms. Pac-Man banana maze with at least 100,000 points
- Never missing a dancing prize on either game
- Breaking my record of going 200,000 points on Ms. Pac-Man Turbo before losing my first life
- Sharing some strategies with anybody who asks
- and most importantly: having fun.
If you care to see the stream if Scott decides to do it, check Underground Retrocade’s Facebook page on Sunday afternoon.