Friday, March 25, 2005 1:55 AM
I was bored over spring break and there was no chance of getting to SFOT. So, I decided to beg to do the next best thing: go to an arcade. My favorite one to be exact. I'm talking about GameWorks Grapevine, located in Grapevine Mills Mall. It's really rare when I get to go; it's probably about once or twice a year. That's because of the 50-minute drive and the terrible traffic. However, Mom and Dad were going to WDW because Dad won a contest that gave him not only tickets to WDW, but also tickets to the Bay Hill Classic golf tournament. He and Mom were going to go.
They wanted to do something with me before they left, so they consented to drive me to GameWorks. We had some matters to take care of first, mainly getting my hearing aids recalibrated.
After doing that and having my ears painfully cleaned out, we set out for GW. We got caught in bad traffic on I35, but we eventually made it and got to the entrance. I began to feel excited.
I love GW for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, Vertical Reality is what draws me to this place. More about VR later, however. Secondly, this place is so big that it keeps an avid gamer like me happy. It takes up 2 floors of the Grapevine Mills Mall, dominating the back of the place. Another thing that I like about it is the high-tech, credit card-style system that they have in place. Those of us who have a lot of summer earnings can go in, put a huge balance on our card, and party all day. That's what I did last time, spending about $100. I didn't want to spend that much, but after my horrible experience at Dave and Busters, I wanted to make up for it.
I let Mom and Dad handle the balance today, because if I had been in control, Mom would have had to miss church choir practice. Yes, guys, I'm that way. When I go into an arcade, I don't come out until every cent of my money is spent. That can take hours, depending on how cheap the place is. GW is very cheap, with most games being under $1, so it takes awhile before you can get me out of there.
As you approach the entrance, an automated door slides open and you walk into the vestibule. Here you walk up to the counter and choose your card option. You can do a credit card, like I do, or you can pay for a certain amount of time to be programmed into the card allowing games to be free for that time. The disadvantage to that is that once time cards expire, they can't be renewed like the credit cards can. That's why I always go for the pay-as-you-play card. Of course, I got one with a $30 balance on it. That would be sufficient for today since we were short on time.
Then, you pass the second set of doors and enter the huge arcade. On the level above you, there is a bar, a restaurant, a lounge, and some classic games such as Skeeball and batting cages. However, the first level has high-tech games and rides everywhere you look. It is quite a spectacle.
Towering above it all is my favorite video game, Vertical Reality. This is to me what DDR is to you guys. It is a 4-story column that rises up the side of a TV screen. Naturally, I wanted to play it first, because it is really rare when I get to, as this is the only place in my area where you can find it.
While Dad went to the restroom, Mom and I headed to the entrance, the massive column in front of us. Basically, the way this works is that you sit in a circle of 4 around the column, each person having his own console and jump seat. Each person is inside a balloon. Each rider is secured with an OTSR, with the control joystick on a panel in your lap. When the game starts, you push forward on the joystick, causing you and your balloon to rise up to the first story of the column. From there, it's all up to you. You're trying to pilot your balloon around the screen as you try to control your chair. It's complicated at first, especially for a blind person like myself, but you have it in no time.
There are cannonballs that try to get into your balloon's path. If you hit one, you are shot up a certain height. A really big one could send you shooting up to the top level of the column so you can reign supreme, while a small one could push you up only about 6 inches. The higher you go, the more points you accumulate. It also depends on how big the cannonball is. But there is a catch.
You're also trying to dodge other players' balloons. If they hit you, you fall all the way back down, losing everything. Nobody wants that to happen to them. However, if you hit another player's balloon with yours, you fly straight to the top for a better score, while the poor victim is shot from the sky, losing everything and having to start again.
Another thing to watch out for is the cannonballs. They're in your path for a reason. If they hit you before you hit them, you will fall a certain height and the opposite of what I said earlier will happen. So, instead of gaining, you're losing. However, you can also free fall yourself if you want to. For example, if someone's balloon is below you, you can push one of your free fall buttons and go down one level, then pull forward to go back to where you started while the bewildered player falls back to the ground.
But, you have got to be careful with how you use your free-falling controls! One button is to go down one level, and the other is if you want to go down and try not to make it back to the ground, pulling out of it at the last minute. It's an uncontrolled dive, and only luck can help you. I seldom ever use my free-falling buttons, trusting my instinct.
At the end of the game, the points are tallied up, and there is the finale. This is where the game turns into an amusement ride. If you got a really big score, you will rise up higher. Basically, the higher you score, the higher you will rise up the column. If you came in fourth, you will go up to the first story. If you came in third, you will go to the second story. You get the idea. Then they drop you down in a free fall which is pretty exhilarating. Then you get off. Did I mension that all of this is done in five minutes/?
I don't know how I'm so good at it. I can't even see the screen, so I don't know what's happening. Somehow, I always get really high scores. I guess it's just fiddling around with the seat that gets the score. That's what I do, besides pointing my cursor around the screen. I know I've shot one when I rise more.
Anyway, Mom and I head over there, and she decides she wants to play too. I've got competition for the highest score now! Uh-oh. Well, look out, Mom, because I'm going to beat the heck out of you.
Two other people join us, and now I'm getting butterflies in my stomach from anticipation. This game is also a thrill ride, with a really fast ascent and a great drop sequence, though it harms your score. The music swells and the motor starts. Time to go up!
Please note that the description that follows was given to me by people who were watching the game on the screen.
This is what they say I did.
Poor Mom and one of the other two didn't know what to do, so one of the other kids and I decided to take advantage. I pulled back on the joystick and shot up one story, Mom shouting questions about what to do at me all the time. But I was too caught up. Man, it felt great to be back up here!
I decided to steer my balloon left first. I wound up hitting a small cannonball. Great, I've got 5 points now. There's a big one somewhere. I went up about 6 inches. Pathetic. Ok, time to go the other way. Suddenly, bam! Woo hoo! I went up a level! I was on the second story now! Poor Mom hadn't even gotten off the ground yet. This was a little harder because they were coming at me a little faster. I decided to stay put for about 6 seconds, then move to the right. I wound up hitting another player's balloon, so I skyrocketed all the way to the top! Man, I've got about 50 points now! Now, let me defend my airspace.
Mom's balloon was about 1 level below me. Well, it was time to shoot her down to ensure she wouldn't get to the top easily. I pushed the button that allowed me to dive nonstop. After about 7 seconds of falling, I pulled on the joystick, shooting me back up. But I had lost my leading position! No! However, a startled cry from the other side of the platform told me Mom had plunged all the way down, just like I wanted. Ha Ha Ha.
I had gained about 10 points for a total of 60. I had no chance of getting up to the top, because the kid that lifted off with me had taken over. I didn't dare risk going back for fear of being shot down. However, a lot of small cannonballs darted around, so I shot them and gradually went up to the third level. I got a total of 76 points. I was feeling fine when I suddenly plummeted to the ground, the game being over. Well, time for the finale. I was raised up to just below the 4th level. I had come in second! All right! That meant this ride was going to be pretty good, though there's nothing like falling all the way from the top.
Then the drop came. It had mild airtime and was a little gut-wrenching at the same time. After dismounting from my chair, Mom came over to get me and said she wasn't playing it again. She had wound up with 50. Not bad for a first-timer. Someone had got 0, while the first-place winner got 187. Not a bad game this time around.
Next, I headed over to the MaxFlight Cybercoaster simulator. This is a must-ride for me, because it rides like a spin ride, inverting, rolling, and rising. I won't bore you with details, as I may have bored you with that VR report. Sorry guys. BTW, could someone explain how the game really works? The description I gave of the game is what I think it is. The ride was Ok, but Mom got really sick from it. Whaaaat? I thought she liked that!
After that, I vedged out in the lounge eating fish and chips and drinking Mr. Pib. The food out of the restaurant is not so bad, with really good service. The fish needs to be a little less spicy, but the fries were fabulous.
Since Dad and I can't leave an arcade without Skeeball, we headed over there next. GW has two types of Skeeball. One is the tradditional style. The second is a type with smaller lanes. Only one ball comes down at a time, and it can't roll off like in regular Skeeball. Dad and I played some rounds of both, and I kind of prefer the more modern and restricted version. I beat Dad 2 out of 3 games. Man, he was devastated because I had beat him at something.
After Mom did the batting cages, we headed down for one last game of VR. This round was horrible. I kept getting shot down from the first level because there was an expert in one of the seats. By the time I got the right-sized cannonball, the game was nearly over and I didn't even get a good ride. I went up maybe half a story at the finale.
After that we left. Overall, I thought this trip went well. GW is a cool place, and I always look forward to going there. This trip was great because I got to play VR, ride the Cybercoaster (which had minor forces), and play Skeeball. I wish I could do more.
Next up: A ride on the Knoebels Phoenix, a ride on Astro Canyon, and a shocking experience.
Friday, March 25, 2005 12:28 PM
I'm glad you had a good time, because my local GameWorks is crap.
They have the Vertical Reality game you describe, but the control is so poor, it's not worth playing. You'll drop down to the ground floor, but your balloon will still be on the fourth floor. I liked the previous game better (you had a gun that could shoot down planes).
It's also very expensive where I live. DDR costs seven credits ($1.75) for three songs. The next most expensive machine in town is $1 for three songs. Vertical Reality is $5. Almost every other game is at least $1. Even the few classic games there, like Defender and Gorf, are 50 cents rather than the quarter they should be.
In addition, the house music is so loud that you can't hear the audio on most of the games (essential for DDR, just annoying on other games). On an average visit, about half the machines I play are broken in some way that detracts from gameplay (gun not calibrated correctly, button broken, etc.). Not to mention, the place has three pop machines, but not ONCE has ANY of them ever worked for me.
And to top it all off, the place is always swarming with teenyboppers, bratty rich tweens and goths who just stand around and smoke.