A Cure for the Itch

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Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008
As gamers get older, more and more emphasis is being placed on revisiting the past. ROM CHECK FAIL is a freeware PC release that may just snuff your urge to do so for a long time.

As gamers get older, their focus changes.  Gaming becomes a little bit less about competition, about winning at all costs, and a little bit more about the joy of being able to play at all.  Gaming is one of the few things that we can bring with us from childhood that happens to be a little bit socially acceptable—heck, Guitar Hero and Rock Band are becoming staples of the bar scene, cutting into karaoke nights everywhere, and the recent popularity of casual and multiplayer gaming is upping the emphasis of the social aspects of gaming.


As a part of that set, I’m all for the recent rash of retro-gaming that has graced the console and portable set of late.  Arcade ports?  For it.  Atari 2600 remakes?  I’m cool with that.  Sega Genesis compilations?  Yep.  The Wii Virtual Console?  I’m addicted.  As much as we love finding new ways to be drawn into our televisions with controllers in our palms, it’s almost as exciting to be reminded of what made gaming an interest/hobby in the first place.


After playing ROM CHECK FAIL, the latest offering from the up-and-coming indie developer known only as Farbs, I may not need to be reminded for a while.


The experience that comes most readily to mind when playing ROM CHECK FAIL is that of A Clockwork Orange, specifically the scene in which he is sitting with those metal things prying his eyes open, as he watches violent scene after violent scene, supposedly on his way to being cured of an addiction to violence.  ROM CHECK FAIL is like that, except that instead of violence, we get retro hit after retro hit, and instead of being forced to stare, we simply cannot turn away.


If you played video games at all in the ‘80s, there’s a good chance that on some level, conscious or unconscious, you will recognize every single thing in this game.  What makes it interesting is that you have never seen the juxtapositions of those things the way that they’re presented here.  By pulling sprites and tiles from the classic games we recognize, we are presented with something familiar but not; say, we could have Mario jumping on the ghosts of Gauntlet.  Pac-Man could be chomping on space invaders after turning them into blue ghosts with a power pellet, and he could be doing it in a level straight out of Bomberman.


No matter which control scheme you start with, however, don’t get used to it.  It’ll change in a matter of seconds.  This is what makes ROM CHECK FAIL so disorienting—every character you remember is saddled with all of the advantages and limitations you remember, but once you get used to the scheme behind whatever character you’re playing as, you need to adjust to a new one.  No sooner are you used to driving as the Spy Hunter car and shooting straight up than you turn into Mario, fall to whatever platform is directly underneath you, and accidentally jump into whatever it was you were shooting at.  It’s maddening, in the best possible way.


It’s so worth it once you get to the end, though.


Pictures cannot do this game justice.  The YouTube vid below is not even close to an accurate depiction of the maniacal action that the game offers.  You really have to play it.  It’s free, and it’s fun as hell, if not all that hard once you get the hang of it.  Give it a go, and you might not need to scratch that retro itch again for a long, long time.


Thanks go out to the IndieGames.com Blog for this one.

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