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Miner 2049er (Apple II) artwork

Miner 2049er (Apple II) review

"I figured once I became a big college student or even an adult, I'd be able to breeze through a game like this with my life smarts. That'd I'd be stronger and quicker and more mature and--well, I did realize stuff. Like how grossly unfair early video games were."

Miner 2049er (M49) was one game I never could get far in as a kid. And I wanted to, since each level seemed different. I'd seen a few pictures of the mythical level six and seven in a gaming magazine. I'd gotten to four. Text like "Entering Level 01" suggested there were at least ten. Somehow, I related getting bogged down on its fiddly bits to a lack of focus in school. I figured once I became a big college student or even an adult, I'd be able to breeze through a game like this with my life smarts. That'd I'd be stronger and quicker and more mature and--well, I did realize stuff. Like how grossly unfair early video games were. Software testing and game design had few objective guidelines then, and game testing in particular probably had more "Wow! I got to play something!" than was really healthy. Impossible? So what? Those early game writers worked hard to code that mysterious assembly language so I could have a fun game!

It's a cheery enough looking game--you control a big-hatted fellow named Bounty Bob as he jumps around and tries to walk over all the lined platforms on the screen so they become solid. His purple hat makes him tall enough to be killed by orange blobs walking above when he jumps. This is a great way to make the player feel stupid, because the blobs generally bounce back and forth just past an apple that can be used to kill them. Except for the last level, when they're impossible to kill.

First nuisances first, though. Falling the equivalent of four feet or more does for poor Bob. This is incredibly tough to judge, especially when a jumping adds to the falling distance. Plus, each level is timed, so figuring or even recalculating what's safe can squeeze you. And as an added bonus, so can tapping the joystick just enough not to fall off the edges.

This is level 1's main trick. Platforms that seem to go to the edge of the board actually don't. Level 2 avoids this but throws in lots of islands to fall off while clearing the edge squares. The jumps aren't tricky, but you only have to mess up one. Level 3 features an elevator, which is actually kind of cool--you can use it to clear out the trickier ledges instead of jumping around. But then come level 4 and 5. Your score has probably hit ten grand by then, with no extra life, which isn't nearly as mean as the levels themselves.

Miner 2049er asset

They're both about hopping among small islands. Though they look and play very differently, they both force painful loops back if you miss a jump. Level 5 features a series of chutes you must jump over. You don't have time to fall through them and cover them, so you have to step on the left edge and then the right. It takes several stabs to cycle through all the levels, and because it's an Apple, the game's painfully slow. I actually had better luck playing at double speed because of Bob's jerkiness and how I'd fall off islands.

Another level with a flashing orange-and-white radioactive pit follows, and I suppose it showcases the developers' sense of humor and how it doesn't always translate to the game. I got a big headache from watching, but it's thankfully short, and the main trick is what to clear last, which is probably obvious. Level 7's clever simplicity, with lifts going up and down, makes you wonder why it's in the game...until you see the stupid chutes to nowhere you have to walk over the edge of, seemingly thrown in for spite. Level 8's got a hydraulic lift that thankfully takes up the whole board--no stupid life losses here except for a few chutes--and an inexplicably easy and repetitive level 9 before a level 10 that makes you have Bob grab TNT and shoot himself out of a cannon.

This is really clever, ignoring game logic where being shot out of a cannon is less dangerous than falling four feet. You can figure out what to do, though experimentation is probably out of the question without unlimited lives. Of course, the orange blobs finally can't be killed, which makes them a total nuisance. The last level's sort of the whole game in a nutshell. You'll figure out what to do and what sort of timing you need, but the execution's wretchedly exacting. At least it's pretty clear platform to clear last. It's the one that's impossible, not improbable, to escape. Hooray for logical deduction!

Miner 2049er asset

M49 is definitely a good thinking game. It's absolutely horrible with everything else, though. Between the grinding when Bob gets absorbed into the ground and the creaky up-and-down scales as he jumps, it's not particularly inviting, and everything except the more clever gadgets is equally nondescript. And the controls make the game much harder than it needs to be. I'm able to solve the game in a half-hour with save states, but that doesn't make it any less fair. I suppose it's part of my childhood and way to convince myself I really can do more than I did as a kid, and it's a decent enough substitute for mentally standing up to schoolyard bullies or wise-guys I never had the answer to. But I don't think it was objectively good then--games like Conan and Hard Hat Mack were obviously superior--and it's not good now.

I wasn't at all surprised to find a Miner 2049er cheat code for infinite lives when I discovered other people on the Internet still liked Apple games, and I felt downright relieved when the disk image I downloaded had that cheat written in. I felt less alone. I also think M49 is the game that really spurred me to try save states--more out of necessity than anything else. Despite my relief that solving level 10 gave a "welcome to level 01" message, the neat gadgets actually left hope that the developers might've sanded out the horrid jumping puzzles in a sequel I found. They did, sort of. But it was still painful.


aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (April 07, 2012)

Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.

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Linkamoto posted April 08, 2012:

So, how old is this? Apple II? Wow. I had no clue people actually played games on Apple II. HAHA. This sounds, frankly, like a perfect bore of a game, and I can only imagine how bad the graphics are :P
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 08, 2012:

I think most people today, like myself, emulate Apple II. It's got some great older games on it, and some really tough ones too. I actually plan to write a review for the Apple II version of Archon II eventually, and it won't be pretty.
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aschultz posted April 09, 2012:

Yeah. It's emulated. I think I forgot to mention that the game appears on other systems as a port, and I'm sort of scared to play them.

It was enough of my youth, though, that I figured it was worth writing about. I can assume other people might have an NES or GameBoy game that kind of stunk in the same way, but they were still grateful to get through it. And I also suspect I get more of a bang than I should out of using save states to rip through an unfairly bad game. I just didn't realize how painful it was at the time. Thing is, it's never specifically boring. It's just way too demanding.
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bloomer posted April 09, 2012:

When I was little I used to play the C64 version at a friend's house of a morn before their parents walked us to the bus stop. I do remember only seeing a few levels, and going down those slides. I just never encountered the Apple II version in my whole youth of ignorant Apple game copying.
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honestgamer posted April 09, 2012:

I actually have an Apple IIe in my front room, so if I play Apple IIe games it's more likely to be on the proper machine (though emulation is in some ways still more convenient). I've never played Miner 2049er, but I have a bunch of copied games on disc that include a number of other classics (and more dubious "classics" that warrant air quotes).

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