the artistry and psychology of gaming


Screech’s Sprint (Donkey Kong Country 2)

Screech’s Sprint (Donkey Kong Country 2)

After one of a few ill-fated voyages I’d taken on a ship, I landed upon a small island.  Well, that is to say that it was small as far as width and depth; the island itself was rather tall.  There were a number of diverse biomes upon it, as is typical of many lands, but there were also several man-made structures.  I’m taking creative liberties with the term, “man-made”, though; the dominant species here was an anthropomorphic sentient crocodile that used the island as a base of sorts.  Some strange things were to be found here, such as an amusement park, but some of the oddities were natural.  My favorite of these natural wonders is one that initially seems quite intimidating: the large brambles.

These weren’t your typical thorny shrubs; within them were little worlds of their own.  You’d not likely guess it, but these areas are among the coziest I’ve ever seen in all of my adventures.  When you’re up there, nestled within the thorns, and there are countless wonders to explore.  Not many would expect this because we’re so much larger than the thorny shrubs that we encounter in this world, and having made my way into the middle of one as a child, it was difficult for me to appreciate the microcosm amongst all of the pain and blood.  Given that it is very difficult to shrink yourself down, finding a much larger version is the way to go to discover the world within.

Today, I’m not going to talk about the lovely green wonderland in the sky, though; that is a story for another time.  No, today, I’m going to talk about a similar area that was colored quite differently.  There’s a long stretch of brambles high above even the castle atop the towering island known as Screech’s Sprint.  The area got its name from a a darkly-colored bird known as Screech, who liked to race through the area.  It is said that he shows up every evening around sunset.

I arrived at such a time; the thick brown vines twisted and wound far in the distance among the clouds as the sky turned a soft purple.  The vines upon which I stood, which had planks upon them to prevent my injury, were thick and brown with a hint of orange, almost like a very dark rust.  Lighter brown bunches of leaves grew from them as well, and the thorns themselves were a subtle yellow, almost like slightly overripe bananas.  Occasionally, you’d encounter small plants that looked like bunches of grapes, but upside down and green; I believe that they were native to the island.  Completely enchanted by this old favorite in a new color, I began my journey.

I had to move quickly in order to leap over the large gaps in the planks, some of which were rather deep, coupling the threat of a deadly fall with that of the already deadly impalement.  Eventually, I reached a wall of brambles higher than myself.  With a careful and powerful leap, I managed to clear it, though I had little time to think; certain death was just beneath me, and all that there was to save me was a few vines.  I grabbed onto one for dear life and made my way across the rest of them, wishing that I’d had the opportunity to look before I’d leapt.  There were several more of these little traps, leaving my continued survival up to my reflexes.  The next one had a horizontal rope, across which I slid, terminating in a drop down to a set of planks.

I ran along these planks just a bit longer until I reached a dead end with a single vine leading straight upward.  I quickly climbed to the top, past another bramble wall.  Luckily, reaching the top had granted me a much better vantage point, so I was able to see where it was that I could safely land.  I leapt across some of the largest gaps in the area, finally landing in front of an impossibly long stretch of thorny death.  I stood there for what seemed like hours, trying to figure out where to go from here.  I sat down for a short rest and lost track of time.

After a while, I stood up, and my hair felt a bit lighter; it was floating!  It was then that I noticed the strong updraft coming from right in front of me.  I leaned into it and it supported my weight almost perfectly.  I just let myself go and I was flying!  Oh, the wind embracing my body; the thrill of weightlessness; it was like a dream come true.  I flew around wildly for a while before deciding to continue my journey.  It was then that I ran into a dark figure; it was Screech himself.

He took off ahead of me, and I playfully gave chase.  There was no logical reason for it; I was just caught up in the moment.  We zipped around corners, through tight corridors, and everywhere else along this natural race track.  I’d lost any sense of danger by the time we’d entered the labyrinthine part of the race.  There were S-shaped curves, multiple pathways, and impossible shortcuts, one of which I’d risked a bit too recklessly, scratching my cheek.  Even the minor blood loss wasn’t enough to bring any sense of sobriety to me; I was far too intoxicated by the thrill of it all!

We continued on, heading through a wide zigzag, which turned out to be effectively much tighter than it had looked, due to the incredible speed at which we were traveling.  I continued this dangerous slalom comprised almost entirely of perpendicular turns until I saw the end: a wall of brambles descending from the ceiling that was too low to avoid!  I panicked, descending as quickly as I possibly could.  The last thing that I remember is a face full of planks headed in my direction.  I blacked out for what seemed like an instant, awakening not far from where I’d thought myself to be, lying face down.  I sat up, wondering what had happened.  Was it all just another dream?  An itch upon my cheek began, suggesting otherwise.

Any grizzled old warrior can be an explorer, but to be an adventurer takes something special.  You can see every planet in each of twelve galaxies and still be nothing more than a mere explorer.  An adventurer is someone who has adventures, and that means approaching each experience as something special.  Where an explorer might just see a set of obstacles, an adventurer sees something far more grand.  It just foes to show that the old saying holds true: outlook is everything.  As you grow older, you can become cynical and bitter, and people might think you to be a witty, world-weary traveler, but wouldn’t it be much more rewarding to still enjoy life?  Never lose your childlike sense of wonder, my friend.

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