Taking a little detour from actual retro games and entering the dark and twisted realm of fan-made retro-themed games, here’s a little something I’ve been dying to talk about for some time.
Black Lodge is, believe it or not, a Twin Peaks Atari 2600 game. Or, rather, a free Atari 2600-style Twin Peaks game made recently and playable on your Mac or PC. A homage to both the classic console and the cult TV series, essentially.
The game follows a pixelated version of Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper as he attempts to find a way out of the Black Lodge, a dark and surreal nightmare-world where nothing makes sense and your life is very much at stake. This is all based on the final episode of Twin Peaks so if you haven’t seen the show (you really should) you’ll sadly miss out on many in-jokes and nifty details. That said, the game is very simple to play (despite it not being an easy game to finish) so you should be able to get a kick out of it regardless.
For those Twin Peaks fans out there, however: It’s a treat and a must.
I do love that there are people out there making games based on obscure retro things, I must admit.
Good ones as well!
The game opens on a short loading screen where you see the Black Lodge’s “entrance”, basically a circle drawn in the middle of the forest with a giant, random red curtain behind it.
Then those curtains suddenly open with an 8-bit whoosh and you’re finally there. It’s a cool little effect this curtain thing and it occurs pretty much every time you change rooms during the game, it’s not annoying and in fact adds even more urgency to an already fast-paced game.
As you can see you’ve got three lives, but those aren’t just given to you, you earn them by shooting down owls.
Not even kidding.
Every time you die, you’re sent to this screen where Dale Cooper is walking towards the villainous Bob and these owls are flying over you. You’re in the middle and you’re meant to shoot what I’m guessing is rocks (Cooper likes his rock-throwin’) at the owls in the hope that one plummets towards Bob and knocks him on his butt.
It’s tough that you have to earn your extra lives but knocking Bob out is super satisfying.
Besides, I finally got to re-enact that owl scene from Dumb & Dumber!
We all have our dreams.
But ok, the game starts and after this dude plays sweet, sweet 8-bit music to you, it’s time to actually play.
In the room is The Man From Another Place, that strange hand-rubbing, backward-talking little man who tends to just kinda hang out in the Lodge. He does that too in the game, though he does tell you off if you go the wrong way. You’re meant to keep walking to this one spot on the top right of the screen constantly.
Which is easier said than done as the game goes on.
You’ll soon see why.
The game builds up to something rather challenging but it builds up fast so dying and starting over isn’t a chore, quite the opposite. It helps that every time you play the order of the rooms you go through changes so it never becomes monotonous. Soon enough, you are pursued by your own clone/doppleganger and if he reaches you, that’s it.
(that’s from the also fun instruction manual that comes with the game)
So it’s very important to keep moving but various things keep getting in the way. The infamous Leland Palmer starts blocking your path by walking back and forth, Laura Palmer shows up to terrify the hell out of you, which is weird because I don’t remember her being scary in the show…
Seriously, Laura Palmer in this game is one of the scariest 8-bit things I’ve ever seen. Far scarier than, say, that old Texas Chainsaw Massacre Atari game which just had you running around as Leatherface chainsawing people’s heads off like it’s a Planet Terror game or something.
No, in Black Lodge, if you meet Laura Palmer: Run.
She’s cool for like a second but then her eyes start glowing red and you know you’re in trouble. The lights start flickering, she’s screaming, chairs start flying around Poltergeist-style, the whole room goes INSANE! Plus you’ve got Evil Dale Cooper on your back.
The game has a really good, surprisingly unnerving and intense atmosphere throughout. Early on you’re basically just browsing around but all of a sudden it’s a non-stop race to the end and when there’s not much space to move around or you’re having to think of a way out fast, it’s not easy. The most frustrating (in a good way) feature is when you bump into Laura Palmer or one of those weird scream vibrations, after that your controls are reversed: left is right, up is down. It becomes bizarro world instantly so quick thinking is required as well as vigilance since your controls get back to normal soon after but without warning.
By the end, every single thing is against you: Chairs, statues, you name it, it hates you. Even YOU hate you!
It’s sad, really.
If somehow you manage to keep your momentum and get a score that’s over 5000, then you haven’t beaten the game but you’re allowed to go to the next stage. That bow-tie-wearing giant tells you to meet him after the game over screen where he tells you three things, the first of which is:
You’re basically given a clue which will help you defeat Bob right at the end of the game but I won’t reveal what it is as it is too darn clever and I wouldn’t want to ruin the ending for you.
Overall, while not technically a retro game, Black Lodge is a game I would have loved to own back in the day. It’s fun, clever and slightly evil, just the way I like ’em. Plus, as a Twin Peaks fan, the game would have had to be pretty terrible for me not to love it.
Imagine how many TV show finales could be given the Black Lodge treatment! Lost? Seinfeld? Arrested Development? Heroes? The possibilities are endless.
You can download and play Black Lodge HERE, the game was created by Jak Locke and if I were you, I’d definitely check it out. I’d also follow you around red-curtained forest dwellings endlessly.
I leave you with an 8-bit rendition of Angelo Badalamenti’s immortal theme because…
Any TV show finales you’d like to see made into retro games?
Feel free to comment below ;)