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Yesterday, I turned thirty-seven. That’s also the fifth studio album of King Never. It’s also the 12th prime number. It’s also bound to turn up in one of pi’s decimal number sequences—a quick mental arithmetic (who am I kidding) says it should start at the 48th number. It’s also thirty plus a holy number, and hopefully, the age in which I’ll graduate.

Contrary to previous year, I did get myself a present: Grand Austria Hotel—which, even better, we took a first stab at on my birthday! My wife threw a small but very succesful surprise party and my friend crushed our Hotel score; let’s call it beginner’s luck.

After dinner—a cobbled together self-made pizza that never completely disappoints—we went to an arcade/pinball hall. Last time we pinballed our way through Pirates of the Caribbean or Terminator landscape was half August 2021. As expected, I really enjoyed the nineties vibes machines. There was a Ghostbusters one where I managed to multi-ball (is that a verb?) the big greem slime thing for a couple of million points. After consulting the high score tables, it turned out that my many attempts proved to be pathetic, but at least I had a great time! The Deadpool machine from 2018 comes with a fancy LED where you fight it out Mortal Kombat style, which was more distracting than anything else.

As for the arcade machines, Turtles in Time with three players is downright awesome. It never occurred to me during my recent Shredder’s Revenge playthrough that the original it was inspired on is that simple: there’s a jump button and a kick button. That’s it. And that didn’t stop us from having fun. After a few tries and hurting wrists, Kristien jokingly mentioned it’s a perfect way to get Chandler’s “claw”.

The classic fighter cabinets were a bit daunting and we ended up button mashing our way through Street Figher II and Mortal Kombat. I can only respect the pros who manage to pull off all those cool moves with that many buttons. Imagine you’d have to chuck in all your hard earned money only to master a few moves…

Eighties cabinets are much less playable nowadays than their nineties counterparts. That could be bias and nostalgia talking since I grew up in the nineties, but I grew tired of Donkey Kong, Mrs. Pacman, and Dig Dug almost immediately, while wanting to keep on playing Time Splitters II. That arcade machine is simply brilliant: you’re cooperatively fighting your way through different stages with a real physical gun. The genius of it is that your partner is in the same area, but not necessarily the same location: while you’re up a ladder shooting stuff from above, your partner could be leaning from behind a barrel down there to take out the pesky ones behind the truck you can’t reach. It constantly keeps you on your toes and the reloading mechanism with the pedals is a cool touch.

If there’s one thing I wish for my thirty-eight birthday, it’s having played Grand Austria Hotel at least 20 times. Nineteen more to go!

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I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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