Oh great, Jackson thought as he stepped through the vagina-shaped opening and into the mountain, more of the stupid organ-grinder music playing in the background. Another damn earworm that was going to be stuck in his head for the next week. Other games had moved on to atmospheric doom chords and blasts of heavy metal. JRPGs were still stuck in the land of rainbows and unicorn farts.
Okay, so that was impressive. The mountain was hollow inside. A cross section was revealed to him like the glass wall of an ant farm. Or termite farm, he supposed, given the shape of the mountain. It was a complex mass of scaffolding arranged in a stack of blocky rooms that extended up the inside of the mountain. They went up a long way, too far for Jackson to see the top. Each ‘room’ was illuminated with different coloured lamps. They all teemed with monsters.
Fuck. That was a shit load of levels, Jackson thought. Do not be another fucking Blighttown. Once through there was enough.
He spotted a stone archway at the base of the tower. Looked as good an entrance as any, he thought, walking towards it. To the right of the archway was a small pedestal. Sitting on top, under a glass dome, was a giant bubblegum sweet in a garish, stripy wrapper. On top of the dome was a folded note with the words ‘Eat Me’ written on it in large letters.
Yeah right, did they really think he was that gullible? Jackson thought.
He ignored it and walked through the stone archway. There followed a strange feeling of dislocation, as if the universe had been turned sideways and passed through a funhouse mirror. The world on the other side looked different. Jackson thought one of his eyes might be playing up, but a hand over each revealed both were working fine.
Which was more than could be said for the world around him. Three slabs of coloured concrete floated in the centre of the room. They formed three floors, each separated by a height of around seven feet. Nothing appeared to be holding them in place. Or maybe they were attached to the back...side wall. Jackson shook his head in an attempt to fix his screwed up vision. Nothing appeared to have any width. Not even the outcroppings above his head. There were three of them, all on the same level as the platforms in the centre of the room. That Jackson could currently see all three of them despite standing under the lower one said a lot for how the perspectives were all fucked up in here.
A trapdoor in the far ceiling opened and three unusual monsters dropped onto the top platform and started running towards him. They looked like giant wind-up toys—nothing more than metal heads on oversize clown feet. They had a chin a boxer would be proud of and their metallic jaws clanked up and down as they marched across the top platform.
Typical JRPG, Jackson thought. Commonplace orcs and goblins were clearly too passé. Let’s throw cutesy giant clockwork robot heads at the player instead. They even had bow-shaped keys turning in their sides as they walked.
The lead monster dropped down off the top platform and landed on the same level as Jackson. Despite a three-floor fall the thing didn’t break apart or—more likely given it seemed to be made out of solid metal—bust a hole through the floor. It landed smoothly on the floor and continued marching towards Jackson.
Okay, come and get it, Jackson said, drawing his sword. He took up a fighting stance and waited for the battle music to announce the beginning of turn-based combat.
The lead clockwork head didn't instigate turn-base combat. It carried on marching forward and trampled Jackson into the floor. Then it rebounded off the far wall and trampled him again on the way back.
* * * *
Far above, the unseen figure watched events on a dusty screen. It watched Jackson get trampled into the floor and let off an imaginative and probably anatomically impossible curse.
"Do they always have to be so stupid?"
* * * *
Jackson stood back up.
Okay, so this game was a little more active in the combat department than the other games. There wasn't much time to think about it as the third one was already right on top of him.
Jackson swung his sword at it, which was obviously really stupid in hindsight—what was a sword going to do against a giant metal head? Or would have been stupid had the sword not passed straight through it. Jackson was still pondering that oddity when the clockwork head marched through him and he didn't feel a thing.
Like it was a ghost or hologram, Jackson thought.
No, he was the ghost, he realised. He looked at his arms and saw they were flickering.
The third clockwork head rebounded off the back wall and marched back through Jackson's flickering form. He stopped flickering after the thing had passed and watched the clanking metal head walk away from him.
Solid now and the thing had its back to him. Jackson looked at his sword.
Fuck honour and fair play and all of that shit.
He charged forwards and swung the sword down with all his strength. It rebounded off the metal head with bone-jarring force. The blade broke off, leaving Jackson with a hilt and about half an inch of broken blade.
Well, d'uh. What did you expect was going to happen?
And now the first one was coming back for him. Jackson panicked and jumped upwards, hoping to maybe catch hold of the ledge above him. He was surprised when his jump catapulted him far higher than he expected. Crap, he was going to bang his head on the platform above.
It didn't happen. Somehow he passed straight by it. And then landed perfectly on it as he came back down. Which made absolutely no topological sense at all.
He bent his knees and jumped again. It was like being on the moon. He sprang upwards through the second platform, which mysteriously returned to being solid the moment he came back down to land on it.
Of course. It made sense now. No wonder all the perspectives seemed screwed up, like the world had lost a dimension. He was such a moron.
This wasn't a RPG; it was an old arcade-style 2D platformer.
Jackson hated old arcade-style 2D platformers.
He looked down and watched the clockwork head crouch and then jump up to the level below him. He ran to the end of the outcropping and bounded across to the central platform. The monsters followed him.
It had been years since he'd played a game like this. How did they work again?
Jackson watched one of the clockwork heads pass by on the lowest level.
Oh yeah, that was right. You had to jump on top of them. He waited for the monster to rebound off the far wall and come back.
Jackson dropped down on top of the marching head. The clockwork head did not squish. Instead Jackson's foot slipped out sideways, twisting his ankle. He fell off and landed in an ungainly heap right in front of the advancing clockwork metal head. It did not stop. Heavy metal feet crunched down on Jackson, first breaking his legs, then crushing his vertebrae to powder, before finally shattering his skull like an egg.
It was as painful as it sounded.
to be continued...
Ouch. Don't worry, he'll be okay. I think...