I always thought the game was awesome, but my brother… My brother had some type of special attachment with the game. I remember him playing the game hours upon hours. I never knew why. The game was fun and all, but I don’t know how someone could put as many hours into it as he did. I decided to play the game. You know, just one more game before I said goodbye to the house I spent 18 years in. Also I wanted to see what my brother had done with so many hours logged into the game.
I plugged in my system which had a blanket of dust after years locked away in a cabinet. I felt sad for some reason, like it was a friend that I didn’t talk to for a very long time. But finally I was playing it again. It felt so fresh. I watched the intro as Diddy flew in on the plane and the music played. I remember loving the music in this game so much. But something was odd. Usually Diddy, Pipsy and Timber all come into the title but there was only Diddy. This was very weird to me but the game was filled with dust so maybe some things were corrupted. I pressed start and selected Diddy. I saw my brother's save file which was named “how.” I had no idea what this meant, but it didn’t bother me much as my brother was always very strange.
Once loaded into the world I wasn’t greeted with the traditional intro from Taj the island genie. I immediately noticed that it was Taj, but he looked very weird. His eyes weren’t as jolly and bright as they usually were. They were half closed like he was irritated or sad. Also the whole character was oddly blurry. I was also confused as to why I was starting at the opening cut scene if my brother had hours logged into the game. Why was it showing the opening scene? Then when the text box appeared, I felt a sudden jump in my body. It said “YOU ARE NOT PERFECT.” What did this mean? Maybe it was some kind of message you got after completing a certain task or something, I thought to myself. Like a joke from the developers.
I continued into the first world. It said I had only one balloon. So was it at the start of the game or not? I decided to continue and start the first stage. Everything loaded up as normal. Everything was the same. But I noticed something trailing behind me at the end of my screen. I couldn’t quite make it out but it looked like some type of shadow. I thought maybe it was just the game not rendering correctly. I easily completed the race in first. Taj appeared at the end. He still had that same depressed look as before and presented me with the balloon. For those who don’t know, you get a balloon at the end of every race and need them to continue. But a text box appeared which normally didn’t happen and had the same message as before: YOU ARE NOT PERFECT. At this point I thought it was an Easter egg that most likely appeared for the rest of the game. But at the same time I felt as if something was off. Very off I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
I was brought back to the hub world and went to the second track. The second track had the key. The key is used to unlock a special challenge track. I decided I was going to complete the race as normal then collect the key. I pretty much breezed through the first two laps and then as I was about to finish the third lap my character turned pitch black. I realized it was what I saw before. Then I saw Diddy Kong pass me and get first place. That didn’t make any sense since I was playing as Diddy Kong. And how did he randomly get some kind of boost and beat me? I knew this was some kind of glitch so I restarted the race and the same thing happened! I kept trying and every time I was in first, my character turned black, and was beaten by Diddy Kong who appeared out of nowhere. I even tried restarting the console but the same thing happened. I decided that I would just go for the key since the race wasn’t beatable.
After I got the key and went into the hub world, I watched it open up the door. A text box appeared and read: "How does it feel? YOU ARE NOT PERFECT. YOU ARE THE SHADOW NOW." I thought that if this was a joke by the developers, it wasn't very funny and most likely confused a lot of players. I continued into the challenge room. The challenge room had no title and led into another hub world. It was supposed lead directly into a mini game where you had to break 3 eggs to win. Not another hub world.
The walls were all black and the floor was a royal blue. There was only one level. At this point I was intrigued. I had never played the game this way before. There was the first track which had the title “one of many.” I entered and didn’t recognize the track at all. It was a green track with a black background. The path was a straight road. Random letters started to slowly to appear. As I went further more letters appeared. The letters were completely random. As I went even further more letters came in and were flying across the screen. At this point I was 100% confused. The letters at this point were going at extreme speeds and started to give me a headache. It didn’t help that I have dyslexia. I decided to just close my eyes and hold down the A button. Eventually I hit the finish line and was brought back to the hub world. A new level appeared. Before I started the new level I went outside to get some fresh air. I needed a break if I was going to go through the whole game in one sitting.
When I came back in I noticed something was odd right away. The lights were off. Every single light was off in the house. They were all on when I left. No one was home but me. I lunged for the light and curled up on the couch. I had an extreme fear of the dark. I always felt like I was being watched and had to have some type of light source. I never grew out of this and to this day still have to have the lights on as I sleep. My parents always tried to convince me nothing was there but I never believed them.
I went to the next track which was titled “Are you afraid of the dark?” A big chill went down my spine. My body got really tight as I curled up in a blanket. The track was exactly what I expected. It was a pitch black level. It looked like Diddy was just floating there. Once the “race” started I could see something behind me. I couldn’t quite make it out but I knew something was there for sure. I realized after a while it was a pair of eyes. I almost had a heart attack. They weren’t just cartoon eyes, they were realistic eyes. Like human eyes. Bloods shot eyes… slowly floating behind me. At this point I was like "what the fuck?" I knew for a fact this was not a joke by the developers. No way in hell this would get into a kids game. I finally got to the end and just as I finished, the lights in the room went out for half a second. I almost fainted. I was a skeptic but there was no way this was a coincidence. But it had to be right?
I was then brought back to the hub world and there was a new track: Guilt. I was spawned in a map that looked like a forest with a straight road again. This looked liked the most normal of the tracks thus far. I kept going on until I saw something in the distance. Once I got closer I realized it was a black figure in the shape of a person.
It was like one of those shadow people. I couldn’t move at all on the road so I had no choice but to hit it. Right as I collided with the figure the level ended. I was trying to figure out what this represented but I had no ideas. I decided to take a bathroom break. But right when I got up I heard a bedroom door shut. It came from the guestroom which used to be my brother's. I ran back to the couch as it gave me comfort. There was no way in hell that I was opening the door. My mom was at work and my dad was out of town. I was the only one in the house. I had to admit I get scared very easily. I finally decided that maybe there was some logical explanation and went to check it out.
I slowly walked to the door, trying to convince myself that it was the wind. After all I was always very good at convincing myself of things. So good that I could literally drive out the second thoughts. I opened the door and turned on the light. Nothing was there. There was no window so if someone snuck into the house there was no way of escaping. I closed the door and went back to the game. I was somewhat relieved but I felt an uneasy feeling as I left the room. When I got back there was a message on the screen: "How could you forget?" I thought back to my brother. What did he do to this game? Maybe all those hours he spent on it, he was really hacking it to play a “joke.”
I decided to give him a call. I hadn’t talked to him in years. I pressed his name in my phone contacts and it began to ring. It continued to ring until someone picked up. “Hello?” I said. No one said anything. I kept asking if they could hear me and then I heard breathing; heavy breathing. I had enough. “Listen man,” I said angrily, “I don’t know what kind of sick joke you’re trying to play on me, but it’s not funny. You’re fucked up.” Then someone spoke. Or whispered very lightly but I could make out the words right away,
“You’re not perfect.”
“HA HA HA”, I yelled sarcastically. I ended the call furiously. What the fuck was wrong with him? I took out the game and threw it at the wall. “Fuck you’re dumb game no wonder you were always the weirdo at school!” I yelled at the air. Then it hit. It hit me like punch in the stomach. I felt like I was about to throw up... My brother died 5 years ago after he was hit by a car.
My brother always lived in my shadow. I had a lot of friends in high school, got girls, good looking, athletic, etc. I was the “perfect son.” My brother was awkward, had few friends, and was looked down upon by my parents. I never realized it but I must have made him feel so bad. We used to be best friends until highschool came and we went our separate ways. We never really talked during this time and when we did, we argued. Then one day this all changed. Everything changed.
My brother asked if I could drive him the video store and I yelled at him and told him he had legs so he should stop being lazy and walk there. This was the biggest mistake I ever made. I had a date that night. I was never aware of the incident till I got a call from my parents at about 8pm. I felt like I was about to break. It felt like the whole world was coming down on me. It took years of therapy to get “over” this incident. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t my fault. Eventually I convinced myself that it wasn’t. And without the guilt in my mind I started to forget and as the years went on, the whole incident and my brother faded from my head. It was like it was locked deep in the back of my mind.
I finally knew what my brother wanted to tell me all those years we disconnected. This game was a game of all my flaws. Showing that I wasn't perfect. Bad at reading, fears, guilt, etc. It was how my brother felt about living as a shadow. I felt so bad inside. I kept yelling that I was so sorry. But no matter how much I convinced myself, this time there was no running. I had to face the problem head on. This is a message to everyone reading. You’re not perfect. No one is. No matter what anyone tells you; you’re not perfect.