First Dig Dug and now Miner 2049er? Can we really have two such games come along at once? No, because Miner 2049er doesn't appear to have a whole lot to do with mining. I can't say for sure if it's got the 2049 side of things down though, so we'll give it that.
In stark contrast to Dig Dug, what we're presented with here is a platformer - with a meaty ten levels of platforming - centered around the clean up duties of what I'm told is a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman called Bounty Bob.
It sounds different. Definitely different.
Cleaning up involves merely running over the floor and avoiding or otherwise dealing with any and all stage hazards. How hard can it be?
Simple games get ported everywhere, and this is no exception. Intended for the Atari systems, Miner 2049er has since ended up seemingly everywhere else, so picking and playing a version is a doddle, especially when the MS-DOS version can be found and played over on everybodies favourite Internet Archive.
But Miner 2049er is not simple. Well, no, it is, but it's the kind of simple where you fall over yourself at the simplest of things.
You can sum up the gameplay in one sentence and the idea of platforming isn't new. What's different is that you have to visit every purple block (in this example), while avoiding the walking thingymajigs. You can't ignore a platform because you think there's nothing interesting over there, or that you can go on a quicker route elsewhere. It's everything or nothing, and one slip up results in all progress lost.
"Bah! Childs play!" I hear you shout. Yes, yes it is. But humour me by trying to find the jump button if you're using keyboard controls - without scrolling down the Internet Archive to find the incredibly helpful comment by batwimp. Yeah. I was stuck in that corner for a while, dying repeatedly to that sly blob. Not the best of starts.
Once you can jump, your movement is simple. Left and right, up and down ladders - it's like stealing candy from a baby. Oh how I can look back on it and laugh.
So you plot a course for anywhere that's purple and your score clocks up. You might find yourself inching a little too close to the one-hit-kill radius of those little goomba ghosts, but you learn. You're cautious. You can climb a ladder once they've passed, or jump over them, or even jump on them. You think. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It shouldn't, but the only reason it does is because you've run over an item of some kind, and you've a few seconds where they are vulnerable and can be dealt with.
This is really useful information - I'm glad wikipedia told me about it once I'd put the game down for a while to read up on it...
Armed with that knowledge, you plot out a new course, taking into account that picking up an item isn't just for points but for a purpose. Deal with the enemy while he's distracted by happiness. Avoid the next one if you didn't reach him quick enough, before his mood changed back to miserable. Climb the ladder, leap over the gap... and the platform you were aiming for... oh wow, fall damage. Or rather instant death. Nice.
Armed with that additional knowledge, you head out once more, only this time you're a bit more careful with your jumping, you're more successful with your landing, another item allows you some peace of mind in offing your bumbling opposition and you proceed to the next challenge, whereupon you move a tiny bit too fast, face first into your foe and have to go right back to the start.
But you persist. Again and again, getting further and further. You do so because this should be easy, this should be a walk in the park. You know what the items do, you know where those mushroom looking fellas walk, you know your route through. Deal with the enemies, pick them off, ignore the floor for the moment...
This is it. The final jump you need to make on your first level. Better not overshoot it like you've done so many goddamn times before it's not even funny anymo-oh, no, you've done it again. Back to the start you go.
That's Miner 2049er, at least that's what I got out of it. Deceptive simplicity that threw me off my game time and time again. But for a good while I kept coming back. I simply had to get onto the second level. Just the second. I'll imagine the rest...
Better yet, I'll read up on them. Environmental challenges, slides and crushers, teleporters. Sounds great. What are those numbers, score and what, time? Amount of oxygen available to me? Oh that's just fantastic, I'm timed as well. Even more pressure to add to the mix.
Miner 2049er is rewarding, it has that 'yes, gotcha this time you bastard' thing going for it. You overcome something that defeated you in the past, and you do so often. Then you make a schoolboy error and pay dearly for doing so. Grit your teeth and go again. Then fail again and grit a little harder.
I've lumped an awful lot of words under the 'frustrations' header, but that really isn't to say that Miner 2049er is frustrating. It can be, a lot of games can be. What's important is that when it isn't frustrating, it's a winning formula of game design. Ported and played everywhere for a reason, with no reason to miss out on playing it even for a little bit.
Ever swapped a disc over to continue a massive game that simply couldn't be contained within a single CD? Of course you have, who hasn't played the likes of Final Fantasy or Metal Gear Solid? Miner 2049er just couldn't fit into the Atari 2600s 4K ROM, so those 10 levels were reduced to 6 and squashed into two separate cartridges. How far we've come with regards to digital storage...
Miner 2049er, developed by Big Five Software, first released in 1982.
Version played: MS-DOS, 1983, via emulation.