The upcoming Wreck-It Ralph film focuses on a fictional classic arcade villain of the same name who leaves the confines of his long-time home within a Fix-It Felix JR. machine, a cartoonist plat former clearly influenced by the iconic Donkey Kong.
Promotion for the Disney film is in full swing, from television commercials during highly rated programs to signs and billboards across the country. As part of the marketing blitz, a real functioning arcade machine based on the Fix-It Felix JR. game has been appearing at gaming events across the country.
The promotional machine recently made an appearance at the Game Works arcade in Seattle, where longtime gamer Tom Johnson passed 39 levels to reach the kill screen level of the game, setting a score of 276,400 points in the process. The PR firm in charge of the promotional machine confirmed this as the highest Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade score to date.
"My friend Noa got hold of a flyer in the shape of a quarter advertising the game," Johnson said. "He was the one who really wanted to play and he actually got the number ten spot on the leaderboard until I knocked him off."
While previously unaware of the Wreck-It Ralph film at the time, the 27-year-old Johnson has been gaming since he first grabbed the joystick of a TI 99/4a home computer at age four. The love of games turned him toward working within the industry.
"I've had a driving passion for everything games pretty much my whole life," he said. "I took my very first class in computer programming in my freshman year of high school and immediately went home and wrote my first game. It was a lame 'dodge-the-falling-stuff' game, but that was the point where I realized I could actually have a career in games. After I finished my schooling I got a job as a software engineer at Snowblind Studios and have been making games ever since."
Even though he did not expect to gain attention for his play on a promotional video game, Johnson states that his Fix-It Felix Jr. killscreen has gained him some attention.
"I've been on top score boards and player rankings before, but this one is different," he stated. "This one is official; no one else has ever scored this high. There's an organization keeping track of it and people are making a big deal of it. A few people even asked for my autograph after the killscreen. It feels pretty amazing."
While he says he is enjoying his reign at the top of the leaderboards, Johnson was willing to give his advice on how others could possibly top his score.
"The game doesn't give you any bonus for completing the stage faster, but Ralph randomly breaks a few extra windows throughout the stage," he said. "When he breaks a window, he may break an already broken window, and the graphic for it just looks more broken. When you fix a window, you get a flat 100 points, regardless of whether it was broken, or more broken. If you're fast, you can fix the windows before Ralph starts breaking them, then wait for him to re-break them, then get another 100 points for re-fixing it. I didn't really wait for Ralph to break more windows, so there's definitely room for improvement."
Johnson also states that it is possible to topple his record score without having extensive experience on the machine.
"When I was playing, I wasn't actually trying to beat the record," he noted. "The high score seemed so huge and the folks running the competition told us that the previous two holders had been practicing. I just played to see how far I could go, with no real plan besides 'It'd be cool to see the kill screen'. That turned out to work in my favor, because I was just playing fast so we could see the end at a reasonable hour, and I wound up doing just as I've recommended."
After playing the promotional machine, Johnson states that he is now interested in viewing Wreck-It Ralph when it is released November 2.
"It looks like a movie just about any gamer would love," Johnson said. "There's tons of cameos from characters throughout gaming history. It seems to be paying homage to the gaming culture of the past, as well as playing around with the more modern gaming tropes. Plus, the idea of a video game villain quitting his thankless job makes me giggle a bit inside."
Johnson also had words for the former Fix-It Felix Jr. champion.
"I heard that the previous record holder 'ELI' had been gloating about how great he was, and how nobody would ever beat his score," Johnson said. "HA!"