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VWN Product Reviews: Nightmares: The Bishop of Battle

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Site Shop > Nightmares: The Bishop of Battle




Nightmares is one of those very cheesy made-for-TV movies, that exist on a shoestring budget, a wing, and a prayer. It is horror genre, and it came out in 1983. Consisting of four short stories, each of which possessed an incredible, somewhat unbelievable premise, the film has all but sunk to the bottom of the bargain bin since.

However, the second of the four stories, ?the bishop of battle? is a noteworthy 80s attempt at a VR horror story, told in the days before VR was mainstream, so perhaps it does deserve a second look.



The Bishop of Battle


A young, blonde teenager called J.J. Cooney is a renowned videogame whizz. The scene opens on him and a friend, Zack Maxwell, walking into a mall arcade in a strange neighbourhood. It seems he needs to pay the bishop, and he needs cash to do this. The cash is earned by him and his partner hustling players in strange malls, pretending to be a bad player, and betting large sums of money on videogame scores, playing badly until the big money is bet, then cleaning house.

Chased out of one arcade by an angry mob, JJ escapes on a bus, and decides he has enough to pay the bishop. He heads to Fox Hills Mall , and is greeted like a hero as he enters his local arcade there. He heads for one video game in particular, the bishop of battle. Paying the bishop means he is going to insert endless streams of money into the game, in his quest to progress through the difficulty levels and unlock the legendary level 13.

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Bishop of Battle, Mid Levels


He repeatedly tries and fails to make it to the thirteenth level until the owner kicks him out long past closing time. No-one JJ knows has ever made it to level 13, and he hangs out with the best gamers in the state. Zack has long since left, having had a fight with JJ, over knowing once JJ gets on the game, he?s there all night.



The Interface: Joystick and gun all in one


Back at home, there is a row with his parents over continually falling grades. As his father puts it ?How do you expect to improve your grades when you spend all your time playing those damn machines?? They ground him, in an effort to cut his habit.

Sent to his room, JJ predictably immediately sneaks out the window. He takes a screwdriver with him.

At the mall, JJ uses the screwdriver to jimmy the back door of the arcade shop?s unit, breaking the door and the lock in the process. This being the 80s, there is no silent alarm, and apparently no guard either.

Inside, JJ reverently approaches the machine, turning it on, and walking round it whilst all the other machines stand silently, no-one else around.

Zack meanwhile, phones JJ?s parents, concerned. After their fight and leaving on bad terms, Zack had a nightmare about JJ, dreamt he was in trouble somehow, and was checking he got home alright. JJ?s mother tells Zack its fine, JJ?s there, sleeping, and tells him they?ll make up in the morning. She puts the phone down and goes to check on JJ. She panics when he?s not there, calling Herry, JJ?s father.



Level 12


The scene switches to the arcade, where JJ has just reached level 12. He continues through it, sweating and twitching, concentrating until he completes the level.

Level 1 was top down, and each level has been getting more and more realistic, until level 12 which was first person 3D. What could be more realistic than that? Well, the arcade machine starts shaking violently and then collapses in upon itself in a shower of sparks.

The Bishop?s voice calls out of the smoking mess ?You are very, very good, Earthling. You have just reached level 13. Welcome!?

A ray shoots out of the remains of the machine and engulfs JJ, sending him sprawling, shimmering in blue light. He finds himself on his back when the shimmer fades, holding the gun controller from the arcade machine. Dazed, he looks up as the first of the videogame enemies flies out of the rubble, and spins round the room, augmented reality style. Level 13 is in the physical world, as real as real can get.



Augmented Gaming


Instinctively JJ reacts, aims the gun and pulls the trigger. A bolt of white laser light erupts, strikes the vectorgraphic creature and blows it up in a shower of sparks.



A bit too real? A hit with the laser


JJ stares at the gun disbelievingly, but then a second creature emerges. He runs as the purple ship opens fire, missing him, its lasers striking another arcade machine, and blowing it apart.

He returns fire, but misses, his laser striking the opposite bank of arcade machines, which erupt explosively into a fireball. Both his and the enemies weapons are very real, and very deadly.

JJ makes a run for it as monsters pour out of the machine. As he closes the door behind him, the bishop of battle arcade machine rebuilds itself. Perhaps sensing the kill. JJ waits outside, terrified, his powerful laser weapon aimed squarely at the closed doors, but nothing comes out. Dropping the gun, he breathes hard, pulls himself up and sets off across the mall?s multi-storey car park, to get out.

Partway there, the air shimmers before him. It is the bishop himself, a disembodied green wireframe head floating in this air. He has come for JJ, and JJ threw the gun away! He stands there helplessly as the baron moves in, sinking to his knees as the bishop?s mouth opens wide, and sucks JJ in.

That morning, the mall opens and the video gaming addicts along with the store owner are horrified at the destruction in the shop. It looks like there was a battle fought there, every machine save one is destroyed; the bishop of battle, is unscathed and working.

Jack and JJ?s parents arrive, having checked the arcade stores one at a time. They find the carnage, and Zack sees the bishop?s screen. It is showing JJ?s image, above the maze. As Zack approaches, JJ shrinks, and the bishop places him on level 1, ready for the first player to insert a coin.





Because the DVD is hard to find, a series of three YouTube postings have captured the entire of Bishop of Battle. Because the copyright status is unclear, it is not known how long they will be up. They can at time of writing, be found here:

BISHOP OF BATTLE - part 1

BISHOP OF BATTLE - part 2

BISHOP OF BATTLE - part 3

 

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