As a gamer dad, there’s nothing better than when your child asks you to play a videogame. I remember when my son asked if I wanted to play Atari with him. It was the day after I hooked up an Atari 2600 and taught him to play Combat. It was short-lived. He likes games, but not as much as he likes trains. No matter how much I try to encourage him, he really doesn’t get into them. My daughter, however, jumps at the chance to play games with her old man. She’s only 3, but she’s always exhibited a keen interest in games.
But out of all of the older games, she most enjoys playing Donkey Kong. Finally, one day after work, she asked to play Donkey Kong, only this time she raised a pretty innocent and simple question: “How can I play as the girl? I want to save Mario!”
Mario is made up of four eight- by eight-pixel tiles. So each frame of animation is created with four tiles, each having three colors from the same palette. Two nights after my daughter’s request, I was knee deep in the Donkey Kong ROM, trying to make sense of the graphics. If I was going to replace the sprites, I needed to go all in. I needed to reduce Pauline’s height – she is three tiles tall to Mario’s two, a throwback to when Donkey Kong was going to be a Popeye game. I managed to reduce her height by taking some liberty with her design. I kept the head and hair pretty much intact. But, without any sort of onion-skin animation tools, I was animating blind with only the Mario sprites as reference.
Donkey Kong: Pauline Edition here.