On August 13, 2004, Northern English man Gary Whelan bagged a new coin-op Galaxian world record on his cocktail cab at home in sunny Manchester. The previous record – 389,770 – was set 21 years ago by American man, Perry Rodgers. Gaz scored 399,290 – the last 150,000-odd on his last man. For Christ’s sake.
There as a palpable sense of annoyance over at US high-score custodians, Twin Galaxies. How dare this man from Great Scot-Land Which Is Practically France so rudely swipe the title off some Californian or other?
Best of all, Gaz is a Rodent through and through. We’ve known him like a kindred brother-spirit since he briefly posted on our forum after Sickboy pestered him on the ‘phone.
So… If you’re good at a game and you’re British – practice, y’bastard. At this rate, we might just snag that Mappy title before 2030.
The new Galaxian world record-holder. Not Billy Mitchell.
Tell us a bit about your history with the game. Where did you first play it? Did it used to swallow your lunch money?
Flattery will get you nowhere. I first played Galaxian down the local boozer, the Freemasons down in Stalybridge, in 1979. I was around 19 at the time. Everyone was well pissed off when the cash-gobbling Space Invaders was moved out. But when Galaxian arrived, with its high tech, multi-colour screen and dive-bombing aliens, people really took to it. The chalkboard of names on the wall behind it was always chocka, with everyone waiting their turn.
When did you get your own machine? How much did it cost?
I got it from a guy called Mike - won it off Ebay. Think it was 450 quid-ish. Best money I’ve ever spent. When I got the table, it had some really bad control panels in there, re-drilled with two fire buttons for another game. When I got hold of some real nice panels from a guy in the States, the difference was amazing. With proper two-way movement and one fire button, the game was transformed and I was suddenly back there in 1979.
Gaz’s disturbingly fag burn-free, 2001 obelisk-like cab.
How dedicated did you have to be to get this good?
Practice does make perfect, it’s true, and snatching the world record took shed-loads. I played the game from December 2003 through August 2004 – couple of hours a night minimum, much more at the weekends. Also, dedication takes different forms. While playing, I’m always looking for an angle, always after a better, quicker, easier way to victory. So some nights I would blast away till I got past level 10 (simple) and then try some new tactics and techniques. Over the months, my strategy changed dramatically. I logged scores and the technique and tactic I used every night, weighing up the pros and cons of each method, eventually settling on the way I play today. I know of no better system than the one I use now – though there is a very slight variation in later levels that I could use more to see my score improve.
When you nailed the record, how long was the game-time? Did you have anything ritual or inspirational to keep you going? Any little superstitions/music/psyche-ups, etc.?
Game time was just shy of 2 hours. It’s a long time to be crouched over a cocktail table, believe me. I always play some background music while playing: Clash, Smiths, Billy Bragg, Springsteen… On the record-breaking night it was a Springsteen show circa ‘79. Great renditions of Prove It All Night and Jungleland are two highlights I remember. The new album by Morrissey is my latest companion. Food-stuffs – a can of V (energy drink) and a few digestive biscuits. A towel is also handy. Two hours of constant play sees your hands get a little wet.
Have you played Galaxian in MAME? How does it compare to the original arcade cab?
Played it in MAME a little, but I’m not keen. It just isn’t the same. The game seems very similar in play, but there’s something not quite right – can’t put my finger on it. The alien swoops and timing aren’t spot on – which is crucial with the method I use. Another reason for not using MAME too much is that I’d struggle with timing on the real deal after prolongued exposure to emulation.
Gotta start somewhere…
Does the game keep getting harder and harder, or does it hit a ceiling?
Hits a ceiling, but not sure when. The first 10 levels are very easy, and then there’s a step-up from level 11. After that, I think there’s a gradual increase up to around level 20. The difficulty ramp is related to the speed of the aliens in movement and descent. Nothing else changes from level 1. They just get quicker. You have to keep concentration, and always take out the aliens in the same way, every time. This is extremely difficult to do – one missed shot and everything changes.
Give us a few tips, then. I’d say surviving the end-of-level swarms is the hardest part of the game...
The trick is, not to let the swarm happen at all. The method is very difficult to explain, but I’ll try… Speed is the key. Always kill the enemy as soon as possible, no hanging around. Just massacre them. Better to take out the edges first – columns not rows. This reduces the width of the convoy, and makes for less dramatic swoops later. Then pick off a few along the edge (one full column if
possible) then move into the centre. By now, the yellow ship/two red ships convoy should be attacking. Take out the two reds before the yellow for maximum points. Then get over to the other extreme column, and destroy it. Wait centrally again (still firing of course) and hit the yellow/red convoy as previously. By now, you should have between 6 and maybe 20 aliens left. 6… and you can
wipe ‘em before they swarm. Anywhere near 20… you’re in the shit, but don’t panic. You have to be aware of each alien type’s descent path. Greys come down pretty straight, Purples swoop across like crazy, and the Reds are unpredictable. Most important – STAY CENTRAL. Don’t let the swarm push you into a corner.
Download footage of Gaz’s world record-beating Galaxian video. The quality is hilariously shite, but if you know the game, you can see what’s going on – and listen out for his relieved/exhausted exhale at the end. No sign of this on Twin Galaxies, is there? EH?
Nearly Loses It (2.7mb)
World Record Passed (2.1mb)
Game Over (3.1mb)
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