A funny thing happened to me the other week. I picked up a copy of Earthworm Jim HD on XBLA (which you probably already know I love like kittens who deliver cake with little bakers' hats on), and suddenly, as far as my brain was concerned, it was 1994 again.
Now I knew Jim was a hard game, and I knew that the gameplay hadn't been changed at all for this new HD version, so I was expecting to get my arse immediately handed to me and have to learn it all over again. After all, I hadn't played it seriously in over a decade. But none of that happened. Cold, 16-bit instinct kicked in, as did a whole load of razor sharp memories of things I'd forgotten I'd ever known. Very strange things happened to my mind that day, so read click on, so that I can explain this curious case further. And then tell me if anything similar has ever happened to you.
Above: Me, calculating the exact blast angle perfectly
There I was, starting New Junk City for the first time in more than ten years. After that gap, Jim should have been all but a new game to me. But then the bassline of that first tune kicked in, and something mighty and ancient stirred, Cthulu-like, in the darkest corner of my brain.
It turned out that I hadn't forgotten my old Earthworm Jim skills. I'd just preserved them for the ages like some kind of mental secret weapon, sealed away and safeguarded to save future generations.
Every enemy behaviour pattern, every nuance of Jim's running and jumping physics, every tiny detail of the game's collision-detection and every exact angle and distance it's possible to hit a successful whip swing from... They didn't so much come flooding back as materialise instantaneously in my mind, filling my skull with their age-old lessons and hard-learned old-school instincts. All this knowledge was just there, sitting in my brain like a troll under a bridge.
Above: Me, calculating the exact powerslide angle perfectly
Maybe it's a thing that happens with older games. They were harder back then and required more precision, so we had to spend afternoon upon afternoon just mastering how to control the damn things, let alone completing them. Maybe that's why my Jim skills are so eternally locked into my brain. It would also explain why I'm masterfully better at the original Super Mario Kart than any version since.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Ever had a long-thought-forgotten game retake command of your brain and senses like this, as if no time had ever passed? Is there any game you know so well that you just can't not be good at it, no matter hard you try? Let me know. I find this phenomenon intriguing and would like to investigate further.