Best Games - Miner 2049er
I have never finished Miner 2049er. Even now, when emulation, level select codes, and other digital wankery, would make completing the last level of this game trivial, I still haven't finished it. I don't think that I want to.
I first played Miner 2049er on an Atari 800 computer. I knew that it existed on other computers, because I would paw over all the game boxes at the local computer store compulsively. What I didn't know at the time, was that it had actually been written on the Atari 800. Like a lot of games from that era, it was ported to every object with a processor in it, but many of them have system specific changes, or concessions. The Atari computer version was created with such focused intent, that it's difficult for me to imagine the game any other way.
At first blush, Miner 2049er looks like a Donkey Kong ripoff. There are platforms to walk and jump on. There are ladders to climb. A bulbous, hat wearing, protagonist is tasked with scaling navigating an impossible structure, one screen at a time. There are amorphous baddies that mindlessly march a set pattern and don’t actively assail the player character. All pretty damning stuff. Really though, Miner 2049er and Donkey Kong are nothing alike.
Donkey Kong is a sort of dexterity challenge. The players goal and path to that goal are perfectly clear, but navigating the games obstacles required fast reactions and quick thinking. Miner 2049er is a set of 10 puzzles. There is a time limit, but it is fairly generous. For the most part you can take your time and figure out how best to complete the variety of challenges on offer. Each level presents a different novelty from teleporters, to vats of radioactive waste, to scissor lifts, to cannons packed with TNT. The catch to these puzzles is that you must step on every platform tile in every level to win. Some levels have platforms that can only be reached by following a very particular path making the entire level a sort of navigation puzzle. Of course the main difference is that when Mario dies, he spins around and falls over, but when Bounty Bob dies he crumples into his hat like Super Dave Osborne. Now that’s comedy.
When I played Miner 2049er I had no manual and no one I knew played the game. There was no internet, so there was literally no way to ask someone what I was supposed to do on each level. If let’s plays existed they were probably recorded on betamax taped and placed lovingly in shoebox under someones bed. I have only just yesterday learned that there was a code that could start you on any level that you wanted. I just played the game over and over until each level was etched somewhere in the reptilian portion of my brainstem. I reached the 10th level, the one with the cannon you load with TNT, several times, but I could never quite put it together. I didn’t know at the time how close I was to finishing Miner 2049er, or I may have been enticed to complete it. I have held on to that as some strange mark of shame for all these years. It was a game I was good at, but one that I could never defeat. A low priority white whale.
Now, decades since, I know that I could go back and finish it. I have seen videos of the game being completed. It would be so very easy. I think I would rather not. I think that one level I never beat makes this game a little more special. A tiny nagging memory of joy. It’s small, simple and trivial, but it’s mine.