Listen in the Dark, It's More Fun That Way!
Sept. 14, 2022

Ep.154 – Ophiuchus - This Video Game is Playing for YOUR SOUL!

Ep.154 – Ophiuchus - This Video Game is Playing for YOUR SOUL!

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There's a new game at the pizza parlor... and it won't let you stop playing...

Ophiuchus by Dan Wilder

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Support us on Patreon

There's a new game at the pizza parlor... and it won't let you stop playing...

Ophiuchus by Dan Wilder

Get Cool Merchandise

Contact Us/Submit a Story

Music by Ray Mattis

Executive Producer Rob Fields

Produced by Daniel Wilder

This episode sponsored by

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Hey, my name is Darcy.


We aren’t familiar enough for last names, but after this we may be… who knows?


Anyway, we need to go back to that day if we are going to continue…


I hopped on my green bike with the banana seat… the one with the metallic paint that made it shine and shimmer like those flies you’d always see in the summer on piles of dog poop at the park.


But today there was no sun to make my baby pretty… just cold, gray clouds and plenty of rain… a real bummer I thought as I inserted the Ace card in my spokes.


Oh, that? We all did it… I don’t know why… some said it made our bikes make noise like a motorcycle, but I always thought that was a load of garbage… it was a trend, so we all jumped on it and did it, and that was that, plain and simple… and far be it from yours truly to buck a trend.


So, I jumped on my “green machine” and began peddling on into what turned out to be a pretty solid rainstorm… not uncommon for upstate New York in June… but you’re not here for the weather report I’d wager…


On and on I peddled. Why? Well, Billy McIntosh had claimed that Rocko’s Gas n’ Go accidentally received a rare arcade cabinet… and that was my thing… video games.


Now this being 1982… and this being a sleepy, backwards mountain town… it was a big deal with us kids when some pizza parlor or supermarket got themselves a new game… but for a gas station to get that game… that game whispered about in middle school cafeterias and under bleachers… wait, did I mention my Mono?


I got Mono that kept me in bed from mid-April to late-May thanks to an experimental French kiss I gave Sammy Finklemann behind the bleachers during third period P.E.


You can imagine that by June I was more than ready to stretch my legs and venture out… my first real excursion since April… before Sammy gave me his rather substantial cooties.


After checking in on Madge… that’s my grandmother by the by… she watches me in the summer while my parents do the 9 to 5 deal… which proved to be unnecessary as the combo of her “cough medicine” and her stories had sent her into a deep slumber on our overstuffed davenport, I headed out the front door.


So card, bike, rain…


I wheeled up to Rocko’s completely soaked, but undaunted to see if what I’d been told by my 8th grade cabal was actually true… and then I saw… it.


It practically glowed neon-hot as I threw down my kickstand and dragged my soggy bottom from the seat of my bike… my shorts now hanging heavy from the quarters in my pocket coupled with that drenching rain that just wouldn’t give me a break to stand under the rafters of the covered porch that surrounded Rocko’s.


Before I get to the juicy bits, let me get some basics about “the game” out of the way…


The cabinet was called “Ophiuchus” and it was supposedly some unholy combination of Space Invaders and a Tarot deck. Also it didn’t display any manufacturing info; no Williams, No Bally-Midway, no Namco, no nothin’.


While that was odd enough, the rumors from the underground game ‘zines and schoolyard scuttlebutt painted this thing out to be some sort of government sponsored training device created to determine who among the world’s citizens would be best recruited to fight some sort of evil alien invasion… but c’mon, that’s just the jazz you throw on somethin’ to get quarters in slots.


In truth I suspected this was merely a new game being tested anonymously by one of the big boys, who left their name off in case the game was a steaming pile.


In an act of willpower I can’t believe I could perform, I walked past that machine, it’s cabinet decorated with a vinyl silk-screened image of a Victorian seance… all Ouija boards and crystal balls, but the image being revealed by the psychic was of an alien firing a flintlock laser gun… and a mummy of all things loomed in the background.


I chuckled at that one as I opened the screen door flapping weakly in the light breeze kicked up by the rainstorm… a storm that now made the air ripe with the barf-inducing scent of displaced earthworms.


Yo Rocko, I came to check out the new game my man!”


No answer.


Maybe he stepped out for lunch or something… I mean this isn’t the town where you need to lock anything up, everyone is everyone’s shirt tail relative, and no one would touch a thing… the honor system is alive an well here.


Speaking of which, I grabbed one of those fruit pies the superheroes are always hawkin’ in the comic books and a root beer, chucked some random coins on the counter and strolled back to that most holy of “holy grails”.


I took a moist quarter from my pocket and let the quarter slot take it away. I heard it land in the machine’s cash box… and it sounds as if I am the first one to actually play Ophiuchus.


Damn it! I forgot to check out the attract screen… oh, well.


You know the drill; black screen, blocky white text, and the barest whisper of a story to fire our imaginations as we stare into the ol’ cathode ray tube… and this one was a doozy!


As far as I can recall it went like this:


In 1899, on the eve of a new century a group of friends gather at the Victorian mansion of Edgar Winchell; iron magnate and devotee to the paranormal. As the clock struck midnight, Edgar and his guests discovered through divination’… that means using magic to see crap…


Okay that last bit was me, in case anyone reading this doesn’t know that ten dollar word.


Anyway the story continued: ’…discovered through divination that there was a hidden sign of the zodiac: Ophiuchus, the 13th Sign!


At that point a zodiac wheel flashed on the screen… the graphics were impressive too, this may be a blast after all!


The story started up again as the screen faded to black.


But their findings were a two way street, and those that lived in the mystery constellation discovered us that night as well… ‘


White light pulsed as the speakers crackled forth their best approximation of thunder. Okay, I admit it… I jumped.


When that business ended the screen showed an image of who I assumed to be Edgar looking in his crystal ball. Man, these graphics… again, you get my undying adoration whoever you are that made this thing!


Suddenly an alien hand exploded from the crystal ball and grabbed Edgar’s face as the speakers unleashed an approximation of a human scream. Now that I had seen before… or ‘heard’ would be more accurate I guess… Wizard of Wor had a speech synthesizer, and that game was like two years old already.


Next image was of his guests surrounding a sarcophagus… like right out of ancient Egypt and stuff.

Then the scene changed to a rendition of the guests unwrapping a mummy… I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s definitely rad!


The screen goes black again, and the speakers come alive!


We must free him… our blood is the way!”


Animated ‘blood drops’ hit the black background as the speakers play a sample of a rainstorm.


I’m calling it; this is the game of the year… maybe the entire decade, and I haven’t even actually played it yet!


A face formed pixel by pixel from the darkness… it was like the face of an angel, but metallic. It’s eyes were hidden behind two red glass domes, and a single metallic horn jutted forth from the helmet that covered nearly it’s entire head… the closest I could tell ya to imagine would be that Jet Jaguar robot from Godzilla versus Megalon that played on WWOR every Thanksgiving… but the face was more like a robot human wearing a fancy motorcycle helmet, rather than a sleek robot like ol’ joltin’ Jet.


The background began pulsing… black, blue, red, white, black, blue, red, white as the speakers crackled.


Henshin! Cyborg Othello Pharaoh Ace!” blasted the cabinet.


Then this insane theme played… and although the words sounded garbled I believe it went like this:


Ancient hero from the sky,

Do your best, give it a try,

Your destiny is here,

Arise and bring fear,

To the devil from beyond space,

Cyborg Othello Pharaoh Ace!’








Then it all went black again. I took a bite of fruit pie, resulting in a perfectly square piece of goop covered apple to fall on the cabinet. The sugary mass caramelized as it hit just left of the joystick.


I hope this thing doesn’t ignite before I get to play.


It was at that point that I grabbed the joystick and readied myself for the game to get underway!


A representation of our cyborg hero appeared on screen as various aliens, mostly based on marine life, began forming a phalanx that steadily descended down the screen… Space Invaders with a twist, very, very cool indeed… but then everything was flipped upside-down!


The aliens broke ranks and began marching around Othello as the game then appeared to be a Robotron 2084 clone… which is a good thing, ‘cuz that was one of the best games out this year.


First thing I noticed is that the controls would get a bit to get used to… you see in Robotron, the left joystick controls movement, while the right controls the direction you fire… here there was a more standard set-up; joystick to move, button to fire… and your lasers went in whatever direction you faced.


A few alien casualties in and it actually felt intuitive. So far, so good!


I honestly have no idea how long I played on that quarter… long enough for the rain to stop and start again… long enough to finish that fruit pie…


and long enough for the sun to begin to set.


At some point I thought it was mega-weird that Rocko never came back… but a new wave of attackers pushed that, and all other thoughts, from my mind. Only this war mattered.


I played through the night… I couldn’t stop… not during the foggy morning… or the endlessly rainy afternoon… then the sun was going down again…


In a brief flash of clear thinking I wondered again about Rocko… and why had no one come looking for me when I hadn’t returned home?


Then the next wave came… Sequence: 17, 665… does this game have an end… or at least some sort of killscreen?


I was closer to getting my answer than I thought.


Sequence: 18,666 was just about to begin when the screen exploded in pixel vomit. I think I killed the game!


That’s when I got that sharp pain in my palm.


I removed my hand from the joystick, and it came loose with a long ‘shluck’ sound.


My hand was bleeding, and I looked at the joystick just in time to see a needle slip back inside the black ball atop the controls… a ball I had just noticed was decorated with a candy-apple red upside-down pentagram. Those things were all over the news… parents concerned a board game was making their children into Satan’s servants. Crapola through and through!


Anyway… I couldn’t possibly have played the game that long… maybe that’s why no one’s name was on it… maybe it makes kids hallucinate or something… that would definitely require more play testing to keep the mothers of America from having a collected conniption.


I looked into the screen, but it had gone black… that’s when I saw Rocko walking up behind me. It had probably only been like five minutes after all.


Rocko looked confused maybe… or was it sad?


Anyhow, I turned to face him, but he looked strange, like an image off TV filled with static.


Darcy… Darcy… I can barely see you!”

Rocko reached forth a static filled hand and it went right through my shoulder causing Rocko to explode in a shower of… pixels? Okay now I know this game is makin’ me psycho…


The speakers shook me from my shock.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne?’


Happy New Year’s… I guess…


It was then that I realized that when the song ended a sample of church bells had started… and as the sounds slowly faded in the speakers the sound of bells grew louder and louder behind me… but there wasn’t a church with bells like that in this county… or the next one over for that matter…


I turned around, and that’s when someone grabbed me and dragged me back… and while you’d think I’d collide with the cabinet, I didn’t.


I did however find myself lying in a hallway of sorts.


The hall was comprised of a fleshy, living material with circuit boards, tubes, wires, and other electronic business connected to it…


I walked on and I reached a pair of thick organic curtains that parted so I could stroll through… which to be honest was all I could do!


I stepped forward and found myself on a small rocky planet maybe the size of a couple houses smooshed together. The sky was a brilliant combination of multicolored stars blinking like Christmas tree lights adrift in a puddle of cotton candy puke; all swirling primary colors punctuated by spots of inky-black outer space.


Somehow I could still breathe, and I stayed on the planet as I walked, so gravity was some sort of thing here…


I walked on and came to a large rock on top of which sat Cyborg Othello Pharaoh Ace, strumming an electric guitar which he had plugged into himself via a port near his left shoulder. The sound seemed to be amplified and spread by his helmet.


Smoke swirled around his head as he played a really rad solo… all arpeggios and finger gymnastics.


As I came around to the front of him I noticed a large hand-rolled cigarette dangled from his metallic lips. A grody habit, but hey Darcy Reed isn’t one to tell a… a… I don’t know quite what he is, but he was older, and probably dangerous… and hey, I told ya my last name, what do ya know?!


He finished his solo, knocked a huge ash from his cancer stick, and looked at me with those red-plastic bug eyes of his.


Hey kid. I’m… “


Cyborg Othello Pharaoh Ace.” I finished his sentence with a tone I hoped seemed confident and not like I was going insane… which I was now positive had happened in no uncertain terms.


Yup. And you?”


I’m Darcy… Reed, of Earth.”


He chuckled lightly and flicked his cigarette away… which contrary to logic drifted skyward. It floated farther and farther away before it’s cherry end became a distant red star.


So Darcy Reed of Earth… you like video games, yeah?”


I do… I particularly enjoyed your’s… minus some kinda gnarly hallucinations.”




Yeah, it seemed like I came unstuck in time.”


Oh, that’s because you did. When are you from again?”


Well, it’s 1982 currently.”


He seemed to contemplate that for a minute.


Hmm… I died Saturday the 26th of April, 1986 in Pripyat.”




Yeah, I’m a ghost… or will be… time kind of means nothing, and when you are clued into that everything becomes one long day. Look let me break it down for you… the Unicorn Unit, the thing that makes me change… was sent to Earth centuries ago in order to be a preventative method against the Dagonites… that’s those fishy fellows you battled in the game… “


I nodded.


Anyway, 2686 B.C. the Dagonites showed their faces in ancient Egypt… I melded with a Pharaoh, defeated the invasion, then went into slumber until Edgar’s social club woke me up when they noticed Ophiuchus… home to the Dagonites… and Professor Fl’qed, creator of the Unicorn Unit. I managed to meld with a young socialite… Mildred DuChamp and defeated the New Years Eve Invasion of 1899.”


This is all a bit much… I just wanted to play a new game and eat some empty calories dude… “


Well, it gets more… much from here on I’m afraid… “


Okay, just pull the bandage off… “


The next invasion happened in your future… in 1986. Dagonites decided what they needed to distract the world… and me… from their latest invasion attempt was a disaster of some kind… and they blew up a reactor in the Ukraine. I melded with a secretary from the steno-pool… and I lost.”


You lost?”


Yup, I lost. The Dagonites infiltrated the Russian government, and the whole thing was chalked up to negligence… and then the Professor had a great idea; a contest of sorts… to determine who could wield the Unit successfully, sent back in time through an unstable, virtually unusable portal… to prevent what happens in 1986.”




Ophiuchus… a modern ‘sword in the stone’… and you won.”


So what happens next?”


That’s up to you.”


This is all a bit heavy for a twelve-year-old girl.”


Actually, I believe that’s crap.”


You do?”


I do. A female… not a child, not yet a woman… there’s a lot of powerful, angry energy there.”


Well, you may be right… but on the other hand, I just want to eat junk food and play video games.”


Ha, ha… fair enough Darcy Reed of Earth.”


Just let me think on it… I need my ‘happy place’ I’d wager.”


Couldn’t hurt.”


I closed my eyes tight.


When I opened them I was in my bedroom… lying in bed with a well-read Star Wars comic on my chest. I rolled over and discovered I’d spilled an entire package of Reese’s Pieces on my bed.


I shrugged, popped a few of the candies in my mouth, and went to turn on my Atari.


It was then that I saw my hand was encased in a kind of shiny, black leather material.


Oh, right…


The walls of my room collapsed and I remembered where I was; R’ltai, the Dagonite home world.


I’d gone to my happy place again to help ground myself for the upcoming fight… it always seemed to help keep my mind clear in battle.


I touched a nearly invisible button on my helmet and my words blasted forth; amplified and made to sound like the voice of an angry god!


I have arisen to bring fear to the devil from beyond space”


The Dagonites before me trembled a bit at that, but drew their weapons all the same.


I am Cyborg Othello Pharaoh Ace!”