I’m a pretty big gamer. I’ve played games since I was a little kid. I owned an NES, an N64, a gameboy and a gameboy color, a Sega Game Gear (Yes, really), a PS1, and a PS2 when I was younger, and when I could buy my own I got an Xbox 360, a PS3, a Wii, and a Nintendo DS, not to mention playing PC games since Monkey Island. So I’ve played games a lot. I was talking to my friend one day, and we started talking about games we used to love. I brought up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, Sonic 2, Mario 64, Turok, Pokemon...The stuff I played growing up. After a while of talking, he said something along the lines of “Hey, remember that game Mischief Makers?”
“Yes,” I replied automatically. “...At least, I think I heard of it.”
“Oh, you’ve never played it before, have you!?” He looked really taken aback. I wasn’t really lying. I had a vague memory of an N64 game with a robotic-looking green haired heroine and some weird, round headed ghost-faced things. That was pretty much it. My friend seemed nearly outraged, and he immediately snagged my computer and downloaded the rom he used. I snatched my computer back and shot him a glare, but reluctantly started playing the game. The problem was that I had an old computer. I don’t even really know why I kept the N64 emulator on my computer, every one of the roms I tried to play lagged so badly that they were completely unplayable. When I booted up Mischief Makers, however, it actually ran fairly well. By fairly well I mean 15 frames per second. I assumed it was because the game looked much less intensive than some of the others I’d seen.
I started playing, getting a bit of a feel for the controls, but the low framerate made it feel sluggish and tedious. Still, my curiosity was piqued. I set the game aside, but the next time I got a few days off from college and visited home, I stopped by the old game shop. It wasn’t your typical game shop, with walls lined with 360 and PS3 games, though it did have most of the new, popular releases. Instead it was an all-games kind of shop, with everything from trading card games to tapletop RPGs to board games to Warhammer figures. They also had a small collection of classic games, and even a few old systems. There was even an Atari packaged with a few games and all the cables. So I hit the shelf, flipping through the N64 games. Several of them I already owned, but I decided to grab a couple. I still had my N64 at home and it still worked fine, so this seemed like a fun way to waste some time, and would be a cool change from Smash Bros. Brawl back at school. So I grabbed Perfect Dark, Diddy Kong Racing, and Goldeneye. And low and behold, the last game in the stack beamed up at me with it’s colorful kawaii japanese robotic goodness. Mischief Makers.
I knew it was a single player game and I probably wouldn't play much back at school, so when I got home and got a break from meeting with the family, I hooked up my old system, blew it off, and clunked in the new (to me) game. When I started it up, the title screen came on, but the TV instantly assaulted me with static. I fell off the couch and grumbled, grabbing the remote and turning the TV down from it’s ridiculous 80 to a more manageable 17. Cousins must have visited and played Call of Duty. Figures. I turned the system off, took the cartridge out, blew in it, and put it back in. Again the visuals worked, but static. Off. Blow. On. Repeat. Then I blew into the slot the cartridge goes into, and voila! Sweet, sweet music.
I started playing the game, and it worked pretty well. The colors, I noticed, looked a bit more muted than they had on the rom. I attributed that to the AV cable that was so old it was gray instead of black. I started playing and found the game fairly enjoyable, but nothing to rave about. The controls were tight, anyway, and that was a sign of an enjoyable game for me. Something about the game kind of bothered me, though. I quickly found the ‘shake’ action, which allowed you to shake items. You could upgrade weapons, mix items, harvest some items from random things you picked up. Most importantly, whenever you shook something, the character (Marina) would say “Shake Shake!”.
But you could also shake the NPCs. The sad, ghostfaced townspeople were all completely shakable. Most of them just squirmed around and shook their limbs about comically when you did so, and dropped a crystal. Then you could throw them around and abuse them a bunch. I quirked a brow and didn’t do it for quite a while, but eventually I fell a little bit in love with the mechanic.
I spent about an hour, once, running around the small, 2-d town and grabbing the villagers and shaking them for a while, before letting them go and dashing off again, laughing merrily.
I even picked up the
mayor and shook him down for his one crystal.
Then the two kids at the entrance to town.
They didn’t have any crystals, so I tossed them aside. They bounced harshly on the ground, but got up and ran back to their places, still willing to talk and give the same dialogue. I gave myself a challenge. Shake every one of them in town.
“Shake Shake! Shake Shake! Shake Shake! Shake Shake! Shake Shake! Shake Shake! Shake-”
The last one, the very last NPC before I left town burst out of my grip. The music stopped and Marina bounced back with a thud. The clancer turned red and a text box appeared on the screen, the normal blips of text appearing now louder and more frantic. “ENOUGH!!!” It said. “No more Shaking!”
I blinked and stared at the screen for a moment. That had been unexpected. Without thinking, I hit the A button. The text box disappeared, Marina stood back up. The music started, and everything returned to normal. No dialogues were changed, nothing seemed particularly different. I decided not to shake anymore.
Clancers, they were called.
I looked at the clock. It was 3 in the morning. I gave a big old sigh and gave the game a rest, going to bed.
The next day I felt nice and rested. I hung out with the family more, we had lunch together, and when I had some free time I looked more into the game. I couldn’t find any other players who had run into the same event that I had. I found an old school gaming IRC with a bunch of branch channels, and jumped into one titled “Mischief Makers.” It had about 20 people in it, and none of them (The ones that were responding) had heard of the occurrence. I chalked it up to my paranoia and the fact that it had been so early in the morning. Later, I jumped back into the game and started playing again.
I didn’t shake any of the villager Clancers, or anything if I didn’t have to to proceed. Even the weapons that would be more powerful, or the bombs that had timers that were way too long. I’d just deal with the weaker weapons and the longer waits. It’s not that I believed the game would do anything, but I wasn’t a fan of creepypastas and jump scares, and I did kind of feel bad for the Clancers I’d tortured and abused. So I continued playing through the game, but something seemed off. The background music seemed quieter compared to the sound effects, even though when I checked everything seemed pretty well equal. Also, anytime I saw friendly Clancers, I swore their eyes looked a bit more angry, as if they were keeping an eye on me, making sure I didn’t do anything.
I told myself it was just nerves. I willed myself to believe that the scene from earlier had just freaked me out and I was imagining things. I should have stopped playing, but I liked this game. I wanted to beat it. Even when I was starting to imagine the colors slowly draining out of the picture every time the game made me shake something. I just drowned myself in the gameplay. I must have played it for hours, and I was finally getting over it.
Until my mom came in the room.
“Oh, look at you. Sitting there on your butt playing video games. So good to have you home.” She joked.
“Uh huh.” I responded. I’d learned not to bite when she baited the hook. Besides, I was really into this game. I was almost finished.
“Hey, is there something wrong with your TV?” She asked, looking at the screen.
“Huh?” I asked in return. I blinked away from the screen for the first time in a while and looked at her.
“It’s all black and white. Is it supposed to do that?”
I blinked and squinted. It was a lava level. She was right, though, the entire screen seemed completely devoid of color and was just grayscale. What was more, I was holding one of the Clancers. Was this one a good or a bad Clancer? I couldn’t remember. Either way, if I just set it down, I’m sure nothing would be wrong.
“Um...I don’t know. Maybe? I’ve never gotten to this part.” I moved to set the Clancer down. Then I stopped. Wait. I told myself. I was being stupid. This game wasn't tracking my shakes. It wasn't going to come out and stab me for shaking an NPC. My thoughts went immediately to some of the stuff I'd read online, but I brushed them off. Games don't kill people, unless we're counting epileptic seizures. So I rolled my eyes and clicked the C-down button. The game was almost over anyway, right?
I didn’t have a mirror, but I felt the color draining out of my face. The Clancers, which normally bounced idly in place, had stopped moving alltogether. They had straightened up, and they were watching my character. They definitely looked angry, but instead of just wary they seemed to be...resolute, somehow. Mom rolled her eyes and left. I just sat there for a while, holding the Clancer. I felt like I had done something really wrong, but the game didn’t stop. I set the Clancer back on the floor and continued on. My hands were shaking. I swore that once I was done with the level, I was done with this game. If it was making me feel this jittery just by going black and white, I didn’t need to play it anymore.
I jumped in the star and the level ended. After the level clear screen, I stood up and moved forward to shut off the system.
The TV said. I froze in my place, my fingers just a few inches from the power switch.
It repeated. Slowly, the vision faded into Marina, kneeling on an unseen floor and looking out of breath.
She wasn’t the one saying it. She simply knelt there, panting and tired.
A Clancer appeared in front of Marina. The one that had yelled at me before.
A text box. “I warned you.” Every sound blip for every character was replaced by the word “Shake”, making a cacophony erupt from my speakers. Thankfully I’d turned it down a while ago. “No more shaking.” He approached and grabbed Marina. “You’ll never bother us again.”
He shook her. This time the sound was a bit different. It was changed. Deeper. It sounded like a male was saying it.
More shaking. Faster this time.
Faster and faster, the sound burst forth over and over again. Pretty soon, Marina was little more than a blur on the screen. More Clancers appeared. Then more. Their empty eyes watched as my game avatar was tormented, and the words began overlapping.
The sound grew and grew. I was still frozen in place. Finally, the Clancer let go mid-shake, and Marina went flying straight upwards. The camera followed her as she went, still a white and green blur. It took about 20 seconds, but finally she slowed, and I saw that she was frozen in the ‘damaged’ animation, but her face was bright red. She stopped at her apex and dropped. The camera followed the trek back down, but she moved faster than the screen. Slowly, her polygons sank to the bottom of the screen, then disappeared below it, leaving nothing but a blank screen.
The screen flashed a bright red as the sickening sound boomed out of my TV speakers. I jumped back, and as I did my finger flicked the power toggle, switching the console off. I looked down. My remote lay between me and the Nintendo, right near an indentation from where my knee had been. I must have shifted onto it while I was watching without noticing. I grabbed the remote and hit the ‘volume down’ button. The volume sank from it’s unnecessary “100” setting back to 20, but I held it down right to 0. It was 2 in the morning.
I didn’t sleep that night. Really, it was such a simple thing that I shouldn’t have been afraid, but it freaked me out nonetheless. I burned the cartridge when I got the chance. I don’t know if it was hacked or possessed or whatever, but there was no way I was playing it again. I also deleted the rom from my computer, and the 64 emulator, too.
I never let my friend suggest another game for me to play. To this day, my friends still wonder why I shudder when they ask if I want to go out for shakes. I can’t bear to tell them. I just can’t.