Conquering A Cosmic Record On Cosmic Alien - A Chat With Petr Prokop

TJ Denzer,

November 2, 2018 4:20 AM

Petr Prokop set a Twin Galaxies record on Cosmic Alien, a nearly 40-year-old game with a 6-year-old previous record. We spoke to him and other experts about challenging one of the rare Universal arcades that goes over 1 million points.

On September 22, 2018, Czech Republic’s Petr Prokop and his friend, Martin Kolar, went into a two-day session of arcade gaming at the ArcadeHry. Though the venue hosts 171 classic arcade machines, Prokop had his eyes set on one. He was about to challenge Universal’s 1979 machine, Cosmic Alien, for a record held for six long years by Justin Baxter. After two long days of play, Prokop landed at a score that didn’t just defeat Baxter’s record, but nearly broke a million points, landing him firmly in top spot of the Cosmic Alien world leaderboard on Twin Galaxies. The entire session was submitted for viewing and adjudication on September 25 and accepted officially on October 1, 2018.

Cosmic Alien is Universal’s take on Galaxian, which was itself the predecessor of the popular Galaga. One of only 51 arcade machines released by Universal, Cosmic Alien is also part of a rarer breed of Universal’s machines that allow for a possible million-point score. Though no one has taken it to that level yet, Prokop came closest with his impressive record of 933,900. What brought Prokop to this venture? According to Petr himself, it was a fond rediscovery of a game from his youth and a hobby shared with a childhood friend that turned into a fun rivalry.

“I remembered Cosmic Alien from a video arcade in the city I live in,” explained Prokop. “It was in about 1988. In those days, I did not play it very often, mostly watching others. I rediscovered it recently few years ago on emulator. In Czech Republic, we have a community web pages where reached records are saved, similar to Twin Galaxies. I reached 100,000 points and got a first place in their boards. That was noticed by my childhood friend and he started to play Cosmic Alien as well. This had caused a rivalry and competition. He got 120,000 points, I got 140,000 and so on until we got to 300,000 points.”

With this rivalry running between them for a while, helping them to push their scores in the game ever higher, Prokop and his friend eventually felt that they could achieve something truly great: overcoming the record of 502,950 set by Justin Baxter on Twin Galaxies back in May of 2012. When their scores reached a certain point, they decided to make a show of it in the run where Prokop would achieve his high score.

“At some point, we agreed to beat Justin Baxter's record on the Twin Galaxies board,” Prokop continued. “When we had both got to more than half a million points, we got the idea to organize two-day session to beat the record. The session was held at the biggest arcade in the central Europe, ArcadeHry, with huge support big support of the owner of the museum, Mr.Jan Orna.”

Under the lights and sounds of ArcadeHry and on video for what all viewers would get to see, Petr Prokop and Martin Kolar played at the game for two days, first one-upping Justin Baxter, and then chasing each other to be the best.

“First day of the session, I got 757,030 points,” Prokop explained. “Second day, Martin broke it with a score of 757,060 - 30 points more! The same day I reached the final 933 900 points. Big thanks to Martin. Without him I would have never got those points. It was the competition between us that got us here. It was all in the friendly atmosphere and we had a great time.”

Martin Kolar (pictured center-right) has been in close competition with Petr Prokop for the top spot on the Cosmic Alien boards. Kolar's 757,060 may not have beaten Prokop, but both have promised that better scores are coming.
Martin Kolar (pictured center-right) has been in close competition with Petr Prokop for the top spot on the Cosmic Alien boards. Kolar's 757,060 may not have beaten Prokop, but both have promised that better scores are coming.

The scores set by Prokop and Kolar put them at the first and second place of the Twin Galaxies record board for Cosmic Alien on Arcade. More than that, they showed off something fascinating in live play. During his session, Prokop pushed the level counter up so high that it rolled back to zero and didn’t proceed any further. Play still continued, but the level counter remained at 0 after that point. According to Twin Galaxies alumni and multiple record holder Robert T. Mruczek, Prokop may be the only player to have ever been recorded to achieve this.

“Petr achieved 600,000 points on his first ship!” gushed Mruczek. How hard is this? Mruczek goes on to explain. “Unlike Galaxian, in Cosmic Alien after 4 waves, your ship starts each wave midway between the bottom of the screen and the bottom of the pack, thus putting you closer to the pack. Additionally, ships can travel under you, and then back up. The problem, however, is that you can only fire up. Once you get to the advanced waves, incoming enemies can shift directions as you fire upwards, so simply shooting at the enemies is no longer sufficient for becomes a question of when to shoot them.”

It’s not just dealing with enemies you can’t hit either. Mruczek goes on to explain the random elements that players must play against as they shoot for high scores.

“Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the game,” adds Mruczek. “is that every now and then an incoming enemy zooms down quickly towards you, far faster than you can react. It can even change directions not just once, but twice on rare occasions, making strategy go out the window and pure luck come into play when that happens. It's this game's equivalent of the ‘wild barrels’ in Donkey Kong.”

Despite all of this, Prokop came prepared to keep all aspects of the game under his control. Though no one has accomplished a recorded arcade play of the “Screen 0” moment on Cosmic Alien, Prokop knew about it thanks to his research on M.A.M.E.

“I did know about the ‘screen 0,’” claimed Prokop. “I had seen it on emulators. Still, it was a surprise to me that it had not carried on counting.”

Prokop and Kolar’s efforts weren’t an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hungry for more either. Petr Prokop not only believes his record could be beaten soon. He encourages the challenge.

“I do not know how long my record will hold as Martin is as good a player as I am,” confessed Prokop. “I am convinced that we will be able to break a million points.”

Prokop and Kolar hosted their efforts both in front of live viewers at the ArcadeHry, on recorded camera, and via livestream as they played out for friends and fans.
Prokop and Kolar hosted their efforts both in front of live viewers at the ArcadeHry, on recorded camera, and via livestream as they played out for friends and fans.

Achieving a million points in Cosmic Alien would be a feat indeed, as only a handful of Universal games allow this opportunity and even fewer million-point score marks have been achieved on the ones that do according to Robert Mruczek.

“Thus far, I believe that only Mr Do!, Mr Do's Run Run, Lady Bug, and Nova 2001 have reached the 1M mark. Cosmic Alien would become the 5th of the Universal arcade library with recorded million-point scores if Petr could pull it off.”

Just as well, Petr implores the previous record holder, Justin Baxter, to join in the hunt as well, having cited him as a reliable source for the possibility of a 1 million point record in Cosmic Alien.

“In an interview in 2012, Justin Baxter stated his certainty about a million-point limit to be broken in Cosmic Alien,” Prokop explained. “I would like to appeal on him to improve his score or challenge him to break my record. I would be happy if there was more players with a high score to enter the competition.”

For now, the record belongs to Petr Prokop. That said, with such an invigorating new bar set, his rivalry with Martin Kolar electrified by their new high scores, and a call out to original record holder Justin Baxter and all other comers, the nearly four-decade old game that is Cosmic Alien has exciting new reasons to be an arena for score chasers. Congrats to Prokop and good luck to all who go after the top of the hill currently helmed by him.

Be sure to check out Martin Kolar’s spectacular run of Cosmic Alien as well!

(All images, featured image and video provided by Petr Prokop)


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