Nonterraqueous

I’ve no shame in admitting that I bought Nonterraqueous because it had a really, really silly name.

Nonterraqueous. It’s a wonderfully videogame attempt at a Latin-esque wordmung, ‘not of the Earth or Sea’ the inlay proclaims with that sort of faux profundity we tend to imbue our most nonsensical of videogame things with.

‘Not of Earth or Sea’ Of air then? Or scones. Perhaps it’s made of scones. Whatever ‘it’ may be, is it a planet? A computer? A donkey. It doesn’t matter because just like many of the best pop songs can mean everything and nothing, who cares if Nonterraqueous is a nonsense? It’s a wonderful, intriguing, effective videogame name.

I’ve no shame in admitting I bought Nonterraqueous for its cover. A giant silver sphere smashes into an armed robot thing, exploding the robot’s chest as it does so. The word NONTERRAQUEOUS typed across it as if a bulletin, a report to someone, somewhere. To whom it may concern, the robot is smashed to pieces. Mission accomplished. Over.

Spheres are on of my favourite sci-fi/horror things anyway. The spiky blood siphoning of Phantasm’s spheres, the yeti controlling, window smashing Doctor Who variety (or the bonce hugging Shada variety), the Windsor Davies led Terrahawks variety. In videogames too, Equinox, Iridis Alpha’s Gilby, I’m easily pleased. Smash a sphere into a robot? Alright. This is acceptable.

I’ve no shame in admitting I bought Nonterraqueous because of the promise of over 1,000 screens. It’s 1985 and getting more than one still felt like a luxury. Of course, I had my doubts that they’d be 1,000 interesting screens. Still, worth a look.

I’ve no shame in admitting I bought Nonterraqueous because it cost 瞿1.99, the cheaper end of the videogame spectrum but not insignificant all the same when you’ve only a few quid to spend.

I’ve no shame in admitting it wasn’t the best game. It’s kinda obtuse, unfair and kills you on a whim. The thousands of locations? They’re pretty much indistinct. I could barely tell the difference between room 5 or room 16 or any other rooms. Playing it now and it’s vastly more unfair than I remembered it being and I remembered it being pretty unfair.

It’s been over thirty years since I first picked up Nonterraqueous, bought for all the reasons I listed above. Thirty and a bit years since I discovered it maybe wasn’t the best videogame ever made. I’m still pretty happy with my decision, with my reasons, to buy it. I still like it, unfair as it is.

Thirty years on and I still hold that each and every one of those reasons up there, separate or all together, are really good reasons to buy videogames. As anyone who’s eyeballed my Steam purchases at any point knows, I still do it. I still buy games because the accompanying art is cool, because it’s got a silly name, because it’s got a vague promise that verges on worthless but might be interesting, because it’s cheap. I buy games, often, because they’re there.

I dunno. I can see how being more discerning works for folks, I really can. It’s never going to work for me. I’ve forgotten plenty of really great games I’ve played over the years but I still remember Nonterraqueous, flaws and all. It’s one of many games that gave me a love for the slightly janky fringes of videogames, where maybe ideas outstrip talent, where maybe just thinking of something cool doesn’t mean it’ll end up cool but let’s do this anyway.

I love all that stuff, it’s the best thing about videogames as far as I’m concerned. You never quite know what you’re going to get but sometimes, you stumble upon something really, really great.

Sometimes, like with Nonterraqueous, you sort of don’t but it sticks around in your head, fondly, for years anyway because there’s more to a videogame than just how it looks or how it plays. Sometimes it’s just the right game at the right time and that’s okay.

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