If you're familiar with the classic Donkey Kong arcade game, then you'll have undoubtedly heard of the kill screen. For those not in the know, the game essentially features a level known as the 'kill screen', whereby the in-game timer will be so low that's it's impossible to complete the stage as a result of a programming bug, thereby "killing" Mario once the timer reaches zero and ending the game. The kill screen occurs at level 22 and reaching this point of the game is exceptionally difficult, even for the most skilled of players.
Imagine our surprise, then, to find out that two players have not only successfully reached the kill screen, but have done so by combining their skills and taking turns in navigating through the game's stages. To our knowledge, a two-player kill screen had not been achieved prior to this, so we reached out to Luke Brynycz - who accomplished the feat alongside David Lyne - to hear more about how they went about the completing the challenge.
Nintendo Life: Let's start with you; can you give us a bit of background about yourself and how you got into retro gaming?
Luke Brynycz: My name is Luke. I was born in the mid 80s, so unfortunately missed the arcade era. I was more of a 16/32-bit kid growing up, which is where most of my gaming skill originated. I got into retro gaming when Arcade Club opened here in the UK. I was casually playing all sorts of retro games, and stumbled across Donkey Kong. I instantly became addicted, and began to study the game in detail. I have also grown really fond of some other retro games such as Zoo Keeper, Space Panic, and Kangaroo. I'm also currently the world record holder of Vs Balloon Fight, and the first person to achieve over 1,000,000 points.
Could you talk about your Donkey Kong achievement and its significance? What made you want to do this?
Myself and Dave met on Twitch, and decided to meet up in person at Arcade Club Bury to have a crack at something the world has never seen, a two player killscreen! Nobody had ever tried this before because it's hard enough to get a kill screen singularly, never mind relying on the skills of two players to be on point. Due to the randomness of this game, even the best Donkey Kong players in the world can be given situations where death is guaranteed. Our reason for wanting to do this challenge was not only for fun, but to try achieve something that hasn't been done before.
Can you walk us through how it was accomplished?
We decided to take it in turns by completing two boards each, then swap in between the loading screens. This not only kept things interesting for us, but demonstrated a solid understanding of each board throughout the game. For those that watch our Donkey Kong streams, it's evident who is playing each board due our different playstyles.
After a few warmup games of over 600k, we soon realised that this was actually very possible, even though the idea was initially a bit of a joke. We agreed that our fourth game of the day was going to be our very last, no matter what happened, and this likely lead to our laser focus.
Roughly how long did it take to achieve, from start to finish?
A typical 'board run' kill screen, takes between 1hour 45mins to 2hours. This is where a player skips the bottom hammer on the barrel boards, which minimizes dangerous barrel combinations. You also aim for 'free passes' up the right on on the pie boards, as well as skipping some prizes on other boards to reduce the risk of fireball deaths. Our particular game took around 1hour 47mins, and because we took the top hammer on barrel boards, it lead to quite a respectable score of 870,400 points when we reached level 22.
Do you have any similar retro challenges lined up for the future?
There's a good chance that we will give it another go in the future, but this time, push for 1,000,000 points!
You can check out the accomplishment itself in the video below; it's a lengthy one, so you might want to skip ahead to around 1 hour 50 minutes for the kill screen itself!