Monday, August 1, 2011

New World Record on Nibbler

Over the weekend there were new world record high scores set on four different arcade video games:

Frenzy: Joel West with 4,933,702
Snake Pit: Mark Alpiger with 317,350
Tron:  David Cruz with 14,007,645
Nibbler: Rick Carter with 1,002,222,360

[*12/26/2011 Update: Tim McVey took up the challenge and recaptured his high score crown on Nibbler by crushing Rick's score with 1,041,767,060. Congrats Tim and thanks for setting the record straight about the bogus passing out story!]

Congrats to all those guys, but since I've never been overly interested in the first 3 games I'd like to chat a bit specifically about the fourth one - Nibbler.

Hats off to Rick Carter who took a little over 49 hours to amass that score. 49 hours! That breaks the old high score of 1,000,042,270 set by Tim McVey way back in 1984.

Nibbler was the first game to support a billion point score and to spotlight this Rock-ola offered a free Nibbler machine to the first player to turn the game over by scoring a billion. The early favorite to surpass the mark was U.S. National Video Game Team member Tom Asaki, who came close but failed in attempts at Walter Day's Twin Galaxies arcade in Ottumwa, IA (once when the joystick broke after he had scored 793 million points). Tim McVey (not Timothy McVeigh!) had six unsuccessful attempts before he finally broke the billion-point barrier with 1,000,042,270 points. To commemorate the achievement Ottumwa declared January 28, 1984 as Tim McVey Day.

Tim McVey held the official high-score record for the next 27 years until Rick Carter broke it last weekend. McVey tried to one-up himself in 2009 but only mustered a paltry 648 million. But now that he has officially been dethroned by Carter I'm guessing he will come back out of retirement for another shot.

And now to the game itself - Nibbler is another one of those arcade games that I discovered on MAME and enjoyed but still have never actually seen in person - not even at the ACAM. Pac-Man fever was still running rampant when Rock-Ola released it back in 1982 so it's not surprising that it is a simplistic maze-based eat the dots type of game controlled only by a 4-way joystick - but it far from a Pac-Man clone.

In the game you play as Nibbler the snake and must slither around a maze eating the food that is scattered about. You must eat all the food in the maze before time runs out but with each piece of food you eat, Nibbler gets longer and ultimately starts getting in his own way. If Nibbler runs into his own body or if the time runs out he loses a life. Once you've eaten all the food the level is completed and a new maze full of food begins. Don't ask me what kind of food it's supposed to be - apparently a radioactive fruit of some sort because it radiates with a multicolored glow. I saw someone call the food/dots "croutons" online once, but I have no idea where the hell they got that from - maybe the manual who knows.

Anyway, to make things more difficult the uranium-soaked fruit is evidently laced with methamphetamines because you cannot stop Nibbler and he just keeps going faster and faster the more he eats. He does pause very slightly every time he runs into a wall to let you gather your thoughts but he's tweaking hard so like any good meth head he is off and running in a split second, consequences be damned!

Obviously the gameplay is pretty redundant, but it is somewhat addictive and the mazes change up a little at each level to add a little variety. The second you look at the graphics you say - oh this must be from 1982. Or at least that's what I said when I first played it.  Is that wrong to not only think that but to actually say it out loud to myself while I'm sitting alone playing it?  The sound, though not great, is tolerable for a while. But it doesn't take long for the 8-bit rendition of La Cumparsita to wear on the nerves.  If they'd let the song play on I think I'd have liked it fine but it only loops the first couple of bars over and over and over like a broken record until I just want to tango into the kitchen and stuff my head in the oven. The microwave oven.

The game isn't nearly as easy as you might think. Since you can't stop you have to strategically think ahead to plot your course as Nibbler keeps getting longer and faster and it gets quite challenging very quickly, assuming you aren't Rick Carter, which I am not - my high score is a mere 52,170 (casts eyes down in shame).

Nibbler was ported to the Apple II in 1983 and the Amstrad CPC in 1984. So if you're not a MAMER you might want to check out those ports. In 2005, JMD developed a freeware themable clone of the game (the Amstrad CPC port of the game anyway) for the Sega Dreamcast - although I've never seen that one.

Overall I think it's a decent little game with a certain charm.  Reminiscent of the old Snake games that have been around forever but all Pac-Manned up.  To me it tastes like Anteater (although Anteater is the superior game) with some Tron light cycles thrown in, except there are no ants or MCP hooligans trying to kill you - just your own ever-growing body. I don't hit this game on the MAME cab very often but will brink it up every great once in a while for a quickie. I give it 6.9 bulimic boa constrictors out of 10.

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Fallguy40 said...

Congrats to the new record holder OJ Simpson.

Sucks to be that guy Tim McVey. I think I'd change my name.

I don't think I've ever heard of Nibbler. I'll check that one out.

MadPlanet said...

Congrats to Ted Kaczynski. Kenneth? Kenneth?

yeah - the bomber ruined the name for all the Tim McVeys out there.

Check it out and post your thoughts on it. Might be a little tough to play on the keyboard though. Ever get that joystick rig yet? (Shakes head with disapproving frown)

Fallguy40 said...

I'm working on it!

gnome said...


dwayne said...

The World Record was actually broken by an italian named enrico zanetti long time ago. The ignore him because it isn't convienent to promote an italian who doesn't care. I broke the nibbler world record with a score of 1 billion 4 million a couple years back but I had it removed from the twingalaxies database because a documentary crew discovered taht there was something wrong with my board that effect the game play. So rick carter should hav also had a higher score. His board crapped out at 83 million and he had to start his game over again. He played for 50 hours which is a ver difficult thing to do on the game.
Congrats to Rick Carter!


MadPlanet said...

thanks for the comment Dwayne - I hadn't heard any of that. But I HAVE heard of Twin Galaxies doing that before. Controversy!

Fallguy40 said...

I tried out Nibbler on MAME. I don't recall ever seeing/playing one in the arcade. It's a fun and addicting game.

MadPlanet said...

Agreed. Kinda like one of your PS minis - if the graphics were updated that is.

Mik said...

50 hours? Gosh, I can't see me doing anything that long... except sleeping, of course :)

But come to think of it, do you really want to do the same thing over and over again just to get an high score? Meh...

*turns on the old PC and loads nibbles on qbasic*

MadPlanet said...

Hey Mik. Yeah - I love to play arcade games for high scores but I've never been good enough at any of them to last for even a single hour at a time much less 50. So I've never had to face the prospect of playing that long. I'm sure it must be satisfying for the record-breakers while they are playing those marathon matches but it doesn't seem like it would be fun.

I'll see your Nibbles on PC and raise you a Tapeworm on Atari 2600!

Mik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mik said...

You caught me off guard, my friend!
All I can do is call your Tapeworm with this:
Probably the best of this kind I ever played

MadPlanet said...

hmm - seems like clicking through on that link carries me to a different game every time so I don't think I got to where you wanted me to go. I was wondering why you put a RTS (I think) called Darkhorn on there. But I see it's from Lemon64 so whichever game you intended me to see it must be pretty good. Was it.. Nibbly 92? Snake Attack maybe?

Mik said...

Ooops, I think I screwed up that one :P
The game was Super Snake Simulator, and last night I had a chance to play through a couple of levels thanks to CCS64 emulator. Lemme know what you think of it!

MadPlanet said...

I've actually heard of that one before but never played it. I remember the odd name. I'll check it out. Thanks!

Tim McVey said...

1,041,767,060 is the new World Record! I played this weekend, breaking Rick's score by 39 million+ and doing it in 10 hours LESS time.

The entire game has been saved on the Twitch TV site.

Tim McVey said...

Also the article states that I passed out after one of my attempts in the 80's...didn't happen. That was Tom Asaki that *supposedly* passed out...but the picture they showed with the original story was of Mark Hoff sleeping in the back at Twing Galaxies. Mark was a Twin Galaxies employee that had tried to stay up thru one of Tom's record attempts.

MadPlanet said...

Congrats Tim! Nice job! And thanks for letting me know about the passing out story being false - I'll update that. I did get it right about you coming back out of retirement to recapture the Nibbler crown though... :)