I used to be an arcade nut; Iíve made that clear in the past
. But, really, what gamer didnít have many memories in a mall arcade playing Tekken, Time Crisis, or the Star Wars Arcade game? There are so many staples to the market of arcade cabinet, itís almost like a universal language amongst gamers. Still, lurking amongst those tried and true favorites are some hidden gems. I found mine in a dank mall outside Bangor, Maine.
Lucky & Wild is a co-operative mish-mash of shooting, driving a sports car through a mall, and 80s buddy cop movie clichťs mixed into one amazing arcade package. How the game works may not be entirely clear upon seeing a picture of the cabinet, as it appears to have too many parts. It looks as if someone jammed a Rally Racer with an Area 51 arcade cabinet.
The game can be played solo, with one player both driving and shooting. But, preferably and if youíve brought enough quarters, itís best played with a second player handling either one or both guns and tearing up the endless waves of vague bad guys on motorcycles and in black sedans. The whole experience is a typhoon of sounds, ridiculous catch-phrases, and the traditional blinding fits of flashing lights every light-gun aficionado is familiar with.
Layered into every corner of the screen are those early 90s arcade tropes that Japan assumed was what America was like. Everyone wears sunglasses and Lucky wears fingerless gloves. It's almost a parody of 90s style in of itself, a time when comic book artists were giving every superhero a leather jacket to make them hip. The words 'radical' and 'whoa' can be heard at regular intervals. Trucks dump barrels and the health of the characters is indicated by the way in which they twitch their faces.
I may have actually loved Lucky & Wild before I even played it. Because, before there was really enough of a genre for me to love, I never realized how much I adore the idea of co-operative play. At least, the ones where the two players truly worked together. Playing Contra, for instance, is less of a cooperative experience and more of two players who happen to be playing their own games simultaneously. But a game where one player steered a careening sports car down the streets of San Francisco and the other blasts sunglasses-wearing enemies of motorcycles from the passenger seat is what co-op is all about.
My brother and I were the ones to discvoer it and, to be clear, we were not comrades. We were not friends or pals. If I were to pick a phrase to describe it, I would unquestionably go with mortal enemies. We loathed each otherís existence and fought ruthlessly to reveal that to each other. But games were that strange, social middle-ground where rivalry didnít matter. Maybe thatís where my love of co-op games stems from. If two people who hated each other so throughly could be friends even in competition, then there comes this peaceful unity in co-operative gaming. To me, itís unquestionably where video games truly shine.
Lucky & Wild was that game, where each player shouted panicked instructions in an endless tandem of chaos. Donít hit that mall kiosk! Watch out for the guys on the left! The right was your side to shoot! As fingers wore out, guns switched hands. If the driving became to tense, both hands griped the wheel while the other unloaded strangely large clips of ammunition in inaccurate criss-cross patterns. Strategy sometimes fell to disorder, but that was acceptable. Because that was when the laughing started.
No one plays Lucky & Wild in stern, focused silence, driving with caution against a merciless clock. No one winces painfully and squints earnestly at a screen, trying to link combos and uppercuts. Iíll admit, no one even looks like a fool swinging arms and slapping their Converse on colored light-up arrow squares. Lucky & Wild, when it could be found, was universally the most joyfully loud game in the arcade.
Of course, there are scarcely any versions of the game left and even less arcades for them to be found in. I havenít had a chance to play the game in ages and it exists only in the form of a memory of two consecutive summers spent dumping quarters into it. It could be that Iíd find the game now clunky and troubling to control. Perhaps my jaded attitude would realize it was built to be loose and out-of-control to facilitate constant death and more quarters fed into the machine.
I suppose it doesnít matter, in the same way itís irrelevant that Goldeneye 64 doesnít look nearly as good as I remember it or that I canít recall why I was always so intent on choosing to play Tails instead of Sonic. Lucky & Wild wasnít built for the cynical, narrative-seeking, snarky gamer that I am now. Itís from another age, when the job wasnít sinking players into hours of achievement hunting from their couch, but drawing people in with flashing lights, 90s lingo, and the loudest sounds possible. Lucky & Wild may be an obscure relic, but itís still an unbeatable co-op shooter in my head.