January 2006 was a hard month for me. due to some less-tan-mysterious circumstances, I had been left without home internet access. It may come as a bit of a shock to you, but the internet plays a very big part in my life. It serves as my connection to music, games, socialization, literature, news, and much more. Not only that, but by now you've probably figured out that I write for at least one website. So a month without internet access really bummed me out.
Like many, when I'm unhappy, only one thing can satiate me. And that thing is cookies. But really, cookies have nothing to do with where I'm going here. Without the interweb, I was forced to find alternate methods to entertain myself. After blazing through my increasingly monstrous DVD collection, I realized that sitting idly at watching TV and movies all day wasn't going to be enough. No, I needed something more interactive. Something I could really get myself into. Eventually, it came to me that what I needed was a challenge.
So I set off into the dark depths of all the stuff I own. This eventually brought me to the computer. Since the internet was dead, the ol' compy wasn't getting a whole lot of use. Heck, it had gone for at least a week without use. So I booted her up and decided to scour my files for some much-needed diversion. I got to my ROM folder, and after smacking down all three MegaMan X games, cheating my way through the two SNES Castlevania games (you finish them legitimately, then you can berate me for cheating), and travelling halfway across Yoshi's Island, I finally found it. The challenge I was looking for: Mickey's Ultimate Challenge.
It stared me in the face for a minute, and then I decided that I would undertake this challenge. It was, by name at least, the Ultimate Challenge, so how could I say no? If I could prevail over the most ultimate of challenges, there would be nothing I couldn't do. So I loaded the ROM and braced myself for what was sure to be the hardest thing I would ever do (except for that time I went back in time and drew the Nazca lines all by myself while using my telekinetic powers to construct Stonehenge and slay the dinosaurs, of course).
The game started as one might expect, with developer logos and copyright pages all over the place. I didn't have to defeat any of them, and as such was a little disappointed. A real ultimate challenge would start the moment you boot up the ROM. Probably even before. So I pressed on.
The game then offered me two choices. Firstly, I was to pick between Mickey or Minnie as my avatar. While I have a tendency to pick female characters just as much as any other man, I felt it would be better to choose the buff, masculine character for this particular trial. After that, the game proceeded to offer me cake. I was ready to accept, too, but it quickly dawned on me that the game was more than likely trying to divert me from my goal. I couldn't have that, so I passed on the cake, as delicious as it would have been, skipped right past this "medium" thing, since I've been having no trouble with wayward spirits, and dug right into my challenge.
By this point, I had had more then enough of this preamble, but the game decided that it would continue trying to stall me. This time it tried to get me to read some sort of story about a story, probably intending to make me too confused or bored to continue. But nigh! I prevailed over the sequence of pictures and words, and with my head held high, I continued on my quest. I had passed the first test, but it was a simple one, and I was more than ready for the harder trials that were sure to follow.
I was caught off-guard when I discovered myself falling from the sky onto a tower of a castle. I got up and dusted myself off, wondering what the game was trying to accomplish. It was then that I met a guard patrolling the area. He informed me that I has arrived in the Beanwick Kingdom, but I could see past his armored exterior that he was really a weasel! If there's one animal I don't trust, it's weasels. But just as I was about to give him the old one-two, the ground shook violently below us and I cracked a joke about how the place should be called the "Jumping-Beanwick Kingdom". The weasel, clearly unamused by my knock at his homeland, informed me that the tremors were common in the land, and that if they continued as such, the place would be destroyed in a matter of weeks. I highly doubted him, but decided that if he was telling the truth, it would surely be a challenge worthy of being called ultimate to stop the earthquakes.
I could have sworn the weasel flipped me the bird when I turned to leave, but I wasn't able to catch him in the act, and it would have been a waste of my time to deal with him anyway. So I hopped off the tower and immediately came upon another problem: I wasn't able to jump out from between the two towers. It seemed hopeless for a while, but after examining all of my options and abilities, I discovered that I could perform not only a small hop, but also an extended jump. Why I would need two different jumps boggled my mind, but it was better not to think about it. I had no other discernable traits that might help me along the way, so I bounced back up to the doorway just left of the weasel's tower. I couldn't see anywhere that looked like a better starting point, so I entered the door.
Inside was a gigantic library, which I could have sworn was bigger than the entire castle was on the outside, nevermind the small tower in which it was located. Such an issue in proportions probably should have been looked into, but I had a challenge to seek out, and no too-big library was gonna stop me. So I wandered a little deeper in, and came across this snooty-looking thing that I had no idea what it was. A horse maybe? God could only tell, the damn thing was clothed in an outlandish green robe and decked out in some of the biggest bling I'd ever seen. I knew that talking to this slimeball was going to be a mistake, but I sucked it up, hoping maybe he knew a little about either where I could find a real challenge or how I could stop the earthquakes.
All the guy would tell me that his books needed sorting, and that he couldn't do it due to the fact that he'd lost his glasses and couldn't see well. Bastard asks me to do him a favour, yet refused to even tell me his name. But seeing as there may have been an ultimate challenge involved, I decided to help him after all. Sadly, the task of sorting books was not an ultimate challenge, but it definitely wasn't as easy as it sounds. See, there were books flying around all over the place, and my job was to step on the properly lettered-books to spell out a secret word. The task was dumb and made no sense, but the thing that I had the biggest issue with was the Daisy Duck statue with gigantic breasts. Is it just me, or does that strike anyone else as inappropriate? Anyway, after "sorting" the books, the horse-thing begrudgingly thanked me and handed me a book as a reward. A book. how is that going to help me stop the earthquakes? Pissed like never before, I stormed out of the tower and moved on.
I crossed over the top of the castle, thinking that maybe the opposite tower would contain something of value. On my way, I'm sure that damned weasel flipped me off again. I vowed to push him over the parapet if he did it again.
After a long hour of trying desperately to climb the small branches that served as ledges leading up to the eastern tower (How could I have given up? Getting up there was a small challenge), I finally made it up and in, but just as I walked in the doorway I was smacked with a blast of magic! I looked up and saw Donald Duck dressed as a magician. Then I realized that that foul fowl has shrunk me down to the size of a Japanese man's penis! My revenge would have to be swift and bloody, but first I would have to get back to my regular size. Donald informed me that he could reverse the spell if I helped him concoct the proper potion. Seeing as this was my only option, I hopped up onto his table and awaited instruction.
It was then that I noticed that the table was shaped like a small maze, and that there were potions laying about. Donald told me that if I could push all the potions into the hole at the top of the maze, they would create the spell he needed to restore me. So I did. Though it did take a while. For a while, it seemed like every time I got all the potions in the hole, the table's layout would change and more potions would appear. I'll admit that some of the mazes were tricky, but for the most part, they were just time-consuming. This was certainly no ultimate challenge. Barely a challenge at all, really. Anyway, I finally finished with the potions, and after Donald resized me, he apologized profusely and begged for mercy. I decided to spare his life since he was so pathetic, and as a thanks he handed me a pair of glasses. Hooray, more useless crap. I left quickly because I was beginning to change my mind about the whole "letting him live" bit.
After wandering around and pondering my next move a for a bit, the next logical step seemed to be to go into the main hall of the castle. After all, if anyone could help me with my ultimate challenge, it would be someone of high enough repute to be in the main part of the castle, and not the secluded towers. My hopes were dashed when I ran into Daisy Duck. She came up to me right away and pleaded for me to help her, and that she would reward me greatly if I did. Based on the "rewards" I'd gotten up to this point, I was tempted just to walk out and jump in the river, hoping for a hungry crocodile to happen by. Death sounded like a far better alternative to wasting my time on these rubes. But I couldn't give up on the ultimate challenge! So I decided to listen to her pleas.
Daisy told me that she needed to get all the portraits in the hall dusted before anyone noticed and reported her to the proper authorities. The problem was that she'd misplaced her special orthopedic shoes, and couldn't manage on the ladder. So I hopped up and dusted the shit out of those portraits. Unfortunately, the castle must have been designed by Ozwell Spencer, as there was a ridiculous trick to dusting these paintings. I had to dust two portraits of the same person back-to-back, or else they would quickly reclaim their covering of dust. It didn't take me long to get the job done, because I'm so smart and handsome, and as promised, Daisy gave me a reward. Only this time the reward was well worth it, she had stolen a gold brick from the castle treasury for me! I was rolling in it now. Slightly more encouraged to continue my quest, I set off again to see if there was anyone else that might be willing to score me some more dosh.
There was one doorway on the castle that I hadn't yet explored, and it was marked with a sign that said "drawbridge", and noticing that the drawbridge was up, I chose to venture in to see if I could get it lowered. There was a good chance that the earthquakes were coming from somewhere outside the castle, after all.
Inside, I met up with Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Much like Daisy, they were in a huge panic, and I knew that this was my opportunity to get m'hands on another one of those lovely gold bars. So I asked them what was up, and they replied that the drawbridge mechanism was stuck, and that they would be beheaded if anyone found out. Knowing they were in mortal peril, I told them that I would help them for a price. They agreed and told me that if I pushed down the nearby pumps, the backup mechanism would go into effect and would lower the drawbridge. So I took up the challenge.
In the end, it didn't turn out to be so much a challenge as a time waster. See, the pumps were also made up of a simple puzzle, and the whole ordeal played out like a big game of Simon. You know the one where the lights blink and you have to touch them in the right order? Yeah. A big pain in the ass. That's what it was. I fixed that drawbridge good, and all I got in return was a stupid glass slipper. Well, on the positive side, something that looks that valuable must be worth a decent amount of cash, right? So I wasn't entirely infuriated, but I was certainly unhappy that they weren't able to come up with one measly gold brick between the three of them.
Now that I had explored the entirety of the castle (it's not like there was much there. I've built more impressive castles out of LEGOs), I set out across the drawbridge to see what the rest of the Beanwick Kingdom has to offer me. Sadly, it only consisted of a well and a small blacksmith's shop. Which happened to be shaped like a shoe. What is wrong with these people?
Inside the blacksmith's shoe I found Goofy, who was clearly slacking off. Startled by my presence, he told me that there wasn't much going on since he had no metal to work with. I feigned interest in what he had to say for a while, and he asked me if I'd like to play a game with him. At first I was reluctant, but he promised a reward. Today's rewards have been mostly less that satisfactory, but I gave it one last try. Maybe this would be another big payout. Fate wasn't on my side, but I don't give up that easily.
Goofy's "game" was a poor attempt at copying Mastermind. He put some objects in a toolbox and had me guess what they were and what order they were in. Only, he just told me how many I had right, and not which ones were right. The bastard's loose comprehension of the rules made the game a lot harder than it should have been, as Mastermind is an easy frickin' game, but it still wasn't anything I would even dream of calling an ultimate challenge.
After defeating Goofy at someone else's game, I gloated for a while until he started jabbing at me with his tongs. I dodged his attacks with all the grace of Napoleon Dynamite, and Goofy proceeded to toss a hammer at me. While it just barely whizzed past my head, I figured that it was time to skedaddle, so I took the hammer as a victory trophy and got out of there before he was able to line up another toss.
Unfortunately, now I had met everyone in the tiny kingdom and ended up with nothing but a load of junk and a gold bar. I was no closer to my goal of finding the ultimate challenge, and there was not a stone I had left unturned. But just before desperation got hold of me, I was smacked upside the head with a brilliant idea! I remembered that the horse-thing jackass from the library had mentioned that he was missing his glasses, and it all suddenly came together. I was sure that everyone I'd met had mentioned needing something that was currently in my possession. With the grandest of ideas, I started my long journey back to the castle, where I could surely get something good by trading away all the excess crap I was carrying.
A short time later, I had revisited everyone in the castle, and sadly, things had just gotten worse. My notion to trade away my useless junk was spot-on, but I was less than ecstatic about what I'd gotten in return. Not one, not even two or three, but all four of the castle residents (aside from the weasel, who I did end up pushing over the parapet) gave me stupid beans in exchange for their precious goods. What good was this? I even went back to Goofy's and gave him my precious gold brick, and even he just gave me a lousy bean in return. I'd come to the conclusion that if nothing else, the people of this kingdom were horrible cheapskates. Pissed off, as I headed back to the castle to return some favours (if you know what I mean), I tossed the dumb beans in the well.
FOOM! The earth shook with all the force of a Bantha herd, the well exploded into a million little bits as a gigantic beanstalk grew from the hole. The beanstalk quickly rose straight up into the sky, so far that I could no longer see the top of it. while the whole scenario seemed a little overdone, I knew that the ultimate challenge laid wherever that beanstalk ended, so I hopped on up and climbed for what seemed like an eternity. I'm not an overly adept beanstalk climber, you see (it's one of the few things I'm not awesome at), and that thing stretched a many hundred miles into the air. This alone was really leading me to believe that the ultimate challenge was definitely waiting for me at the top, so as tough as the climb was, I persevered until I reached the clouds and the very top of the oversized vine.
At the top of the vine, as cliché as it sounds, was a giant. He was sleeping, so I was safe for the moment. But as he snored, the clouds, of all things, rumbled like my innards after a plate of extra-spicy burritos. It must have been the giant's snoring that was making the kingdom below shake so violently. Well, part of my quest was to stop the earthquakes, so it seemed like it was up to me to wake the beast. If that wasn't going to be an ultimate challenge in itself, surely enduring the wrath of an annoyed giant would be. There was no turning back now. I crept up to the giant, and noticed a sliding puzzle. It was hard to tell, but it seemed that his alarm clock had been trapped in the puzzle. That's the weirdest snooze button I've ever seen, but I guess that's just how giants do it.
I tinkered for a good fifteen minutes with that sliding puzzle. It was a tricky one, but fortunately I had mastered the art of sliding puzzles during my adventures on the high seas that were once the kingdom of Hyrule. Eventually, I did manage to free the clock, and it rang like not clock has ever rang before. I guess it had a serious case of the blue bells from being trapped in that puzzle for so long. the giant had been awakened, an as I had predicted, he was none too happy about it. He got up and was ready to crush me when suddenly everything started getting all fuzzy. Within seconds the world went dark.
I rose from my daze and the first thing I thought to myself was that the search for the ultimate challenge had been nothing but a big waste of time. None of the tasks I accomplished were anything but time-consuming and boring. The sliding puzzle that held the clock would have posed a slight challenge for any lesser man, but even for the most inept puzzle solver, it wouldn't have even come close to being hailed as the ultimate challenge. I was disappointed, and vowed that someday I would find the ultimate challenge, wherever it may lie. All I can tell you from this experience is that the Beanwick Kingdom certainly does not have anything that could even qualify as moderately challenging, and it's residents are all horrible, horrible cheapskates. Every last one of 'em. Don't ever go there, it's not worth your time. It would take you far longer to explore the place yourself and come back disappointed than it did to read this account, so you've dodged a bullet this time. Just remember, I won't always be here to save you from making bad decisions, but if I've kept one person from experiencing the embodiment of dull that is the Beanwick Kingdom, then I can go to my grave a happy man. This is the end of only a chapter in my tale of the search for the ultimate challenge, and maybe someday I'll treat you to the rest of the story. For now, though, it's PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME!
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