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Exapunks players remake Asteroids and Pong inside a fictional Game Boy


Johnny Lee Miller simulator sim Exapunks is the newest puzzle game from the makers of Opus Magnum. I’ve already told you how cool and hard it is. But I thought I’d pop by to show you the neat things players are making within this code-drenched alternative 1990s. Y’see, there’s an in-game handheld console called the Red Shift, and since Zachtronics are known for their frighteningly-detailed hacking games, you can program your own games for this Game Boyish device (not to mention other nonsense). Then, if you like, you can send the cartridge to other players.

While this doesn’t have the same hypnotic quality as Opus Magnum’s wonderful click-clacking alchemy machines, they’re nonetheless impressive. Here, hackerperson ‘furrykef’ made the Red Shift bleep-bloop the Super Mario Bros theme.

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“I took a .vgm file of the theme (which is basically a list of writes to the NES's sound hardware registers) from the internet and wrote a Python script to convert it into DATA statements for a Redshift music engine,” they say in a Reddit post. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that.

“This took me long enough though that I'm not sure it saved much time over doing it by hand. On the upside, I can now convert other pieces of NES music this way if I want.”

Making music is something other people have figured out. Fellow mirrorshades wearer ‘gtw123’ recreated Exapunks’ own title music in the fictional console.

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And another code wrangler called ‘Fun Maker’ made the Skater’s Waltz, used as the theme for ancient Konami penguin sim Antarctic Adventure .

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Of course, that wasn’t enough, so they also went ahead and “bootlegged” the entire game.

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Making these games means typing lots of little lines of code, all stuffed into tiny spider-like bots who talk to each other, trapped inside a Game Boy. It’s not exactly simple, but people have made things like the Game of Life and, of course, Pong. Made here by 'LadyApoLLo'.

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There’s even a cartridge for video poker (although I haven't seen this in action yet).

However, this Asteroids clone, again made by ‘gtw123’, is probably my favourite.

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As for my own Exapunks code-tinkering, well, let's say I threw my 56k modem across the room in frustration because I couldn’t get a spiderbot to talk to his friend in a timely fashion. That was one of the earlier puzzles, and I haven’t gone back to it. I find it hard to make my bots efficient, and after the machine-like clarity of Opus Magnum’s marble transportation I’ve found it hard to go back to thinking in abstract numbers that can often zap between bots without being easily tracked.

All of that just makes what the players have done here more impressive. These monstrous people are making tiny moving lights and little beeping noises out of nothing but MATH. That's magic. There should be a whole industry based on this stuff.

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Brendan Caldwell avatar

Brendan Caldwell

Former Features Editor

Brendan likes all types of games. To him there is wisdom in Crusader Kings 2, valour in Dark Souls, and tragicomedy in Nidhogg.