Playing it these days, my first question is always the same: How did I get in? Impossible Mission kicks off with the game's lithe secret agent already safely inside the underground complex, standing in an elevator with no apparent roof access, and surrounded by thick walls of rock on either side. (Dennis Caswell, the game's enigmatic designer, was apparently fairly proud of his rock-scrambling algorithm.)
Two weeks ago I compared Nintendo's Virtual Console, rather disturbingly I now realise, to a callous and insensitive husband, ignoring our devotion on a whim and then lavishing us with gifts when we least expect it. If last week's solitary offering of NES puzzler Yoshi's Cookie was the equivalent of a cursory phone call while he "works late at the office", then this week's bonanza of four new games and another new gaming platform feels like he's surprised us on Friday evening with flowers and chocolates.
Admittedly, in the case of the actual games on offer, the metaphorical flowers are from the petrol station down the road, and the chocolates are suspiciously close to their expiry date, but it's the thought that counts, right?
Another visitor. Stay awhile... stay forever! No, not Eurogamer's mission goal (although they're perfectly free to "borrow" it) but instead the taunting speech of a lunatic scientist, a simple yet perfect introduction to one of the Commodore 64's most enigmatic classics.
Born out of the Cold War era and inspired by the film War Games, Dennis Caswell moulded a program that set benchmarks for years to come - though it is oddly remembered as much for the aforementioned in-game speech as any of its other qualities.
Professor Elvin Atombender, genius and now deranged megalomaniac, has been tracked accessing America's nuclear missile computers and is in the process of breaking the codes required for launch. Analysts predict he'll successfully crack the encryption in six hours and cause worldwide nuclear devastation. As a result of two previously unsuccessful attempts to stop him, it's now down to you, and you alone, to thwart his plans.
From moment Impossible Mission begins you know it's something special. Possessing one of the most memorable introductions in videogaming history (Professor Atombender's ominous verbal greeting), it subsequently delivers a devilish duel experience of platform-leaping and puzzling. As noted by programmer Dennis Caswell, players would sometimes breeze through one of these facets only to struggle with the other.
Only through dedication and understanding can the game's title be revealed as a misnomer. To begin with it seems overly hard, unfair and, frankly, just out to destroy you. Yet with time, observation and practice the impossible can be achieved. This is one of the game’s most prominent strengths - that the player who can correctly react to every nuance and attribute will quickly start to reap the rewards.
Each individual aspect contributes to the satisfying whole; the superb rotoscope-like agent animation, the lonely sound of footsteps in the corridors, the whirring hum and blazing charges of security robots (not to mention their fiendishly tricky behaviour), and, of course, more of that unbelievable speech. All in all, the game's flash pants are hiding quite a package. Err, so to speak.
Impossible Mission will be the first non Virtual Console title to be downloadable from the Wii Shop Channel.