Today I’d like to celebrate some of the best quarters I ever spent. At the Millcreek Mall in Erie, Pennsylvania, there used to live a pizza parlour named Pizza Boy.
It was situated right next to a tiny mall-based branch of the Erie Public Library. My Mom liked to end shopping excursions there. A first grade school teacher, she is a staunch supporter of the library system. Anyway, after a half an hour or so of rooting through their comic book stash and maybe borrowing a Roald Dahl book or two, we’d head next door. The pizza at Pizza Boy was satisfying. The big pointy triangles of thin, chewy-cheesed, orange-pooled, curled-pepperoni zestiness–washed down with a fountain coke– was the perfect cap to a Saturday afternoon at the mall. Often, The Scorpions’ hard rock anthem “Rock You Like a Hurricane” could be heard on the jukebox while the mulleted teenagers plated up your meal.
Just to add sprinkles to the top of a happy day, my Mom would sometimes let me blow a few quarters at the Tilt arcade that was directly across from Pizza Boy. At Tilt, lived one of my favorite video games ever and today’s great thing:
What’s not to like about this game? It lets you be the monster from 1950’s era horror films. Created by Bally Midway in 1986, you can play up to three people at a time. Not that I ever did. This demolition exercise was a one woman show for me. It’s not like my Mom or my sister were particularly interested. So, they would just tolerate me while I played solo for about fifteen minutes. You can be either George– the Kong-esque gorilla, Ralph–the Werewolf, or an actual girl character(!!!)–Lizzy the Godzilla-type lizard.
Because I love dogs, werewolves are my favorite monster. So, I typically played as Ralph, the giant grey-furred Wolfman. The characters all had a sci-fi back story. Previously, they were ordinary folks until, that is, they were mutated into town-trampeling beasts! George, the giant ape, was mutated after an overdose of mega-vitamins (try it, it works!). Lizzie took a dip in a radioactive lake–naturally, that would transform her into a reptile. And Ralph? He ate some bad sausage.
The goal is to stomp through and destroy over a hundred Amercian cities, all the while keeping your strength up by eating things as you get shot at by the military. One of my favorite things about the rules of this game is that food is described as such: fruit, roast chicken, or soldiers. Ha!
Here’s how the original game looked. This clip is a bit long, but you get the idea after the first couple of minutes:
That clip also highlights what might be the cleverest ‘death’ of a character. The player shrinks back down to a shamefully nude person that tries to cover their genitals as the sidle off the screen. How embarrassing.
That arcade game now goes for about 700 bucks. (Hint hint, my birthday is coming up soon–rich friends).
What the subsequent home-system based sequels have managed to improve on is the location design of your violent destructive tantrums. The characteristics of Peoria and NYC were finally and markedly different. No longer did those incredibly opposite two cities look exactly the same. Actually, playing the most recent version of the game is a great way to take a whirlwind trip across the U.S. You know…see the sights, taste the people:
It also looks like it introduces several new monsters into the fray. (Now with more mayhem!) Though, I’d just as soon keep playing as Ralph (and maybe Lizzie when I’m feeling a bit feminist).
I hope this game continues to prove iconic enough to keep inspiring spin-offs for each new gaming system that comes into our living rooms. I think it’s got the stuff. It feeds into our basic need to ocassionally punch a wall, it humorously highlights classic movie monsters, and not least–it lets you eat your favorite American towns. Amerilicious!
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