On June 2, 2019 TG member Michael “LUMBO” Lombardi set up to record a session of gameplay at the legendary Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, Illinois near Chicago. The game? Taito’s 1985 arcade cabinet, Mat Mania. Armed with a newly-developed strategy and an iron will, LUMBO clocked a +12-hour session and achieved an amazing 9,999,990 points to max out the game for the first time in recorded history and fully conquer the Mat Mania record leaderboard, We caught up to LUMBO to chat about what went into his preperation and how this new record came to be.
You can see the record performance in full just below.
Choosing To Pursue Mat Mania
The first question that immediately came to mind was simple. Why Mat Mania? For that question, LUMBO had a story for us going all the way back to when he first played it.
“I remember playing it for the first time in 1986 at a bowling alley in Berwyn, Illinois called National Lanes, that my father would take me to when little league baseball season was over,” Lombardi explained. “It was there for about a year and one day it disappeared, replaced with Kung-Fu Master. I was able to play it in the 90’s again with MAME but it didn’t capture the feel of the original arcade experience or nostalgia from my childhood.”
It seemed Lombardi was out of luck for some time when it came to a proper Mat Mania experience. However, years later, he would chance upon the game again when it was revealed and added to the Galloping Ghost’s extensive library of arcade games.
“Galloping Ghost owner Doc Mack had just recently put Mat Mania out to the arcade floor as a Monday Mystery Game in early April of 2019, making it at that time, game number 709,” Lombardi further explained. “He had the PCB since he purchased the original 114 games for the arcade back in 2010 but the PCB needed to be repaired and stayed in the vaults until this year. I went to GGA about a week after it was introduced to the floor. It was like old times again. Pete Hahn shared a pile driver strategy with me and I also discovered how wrong I was playing the game for years. I never really paid attention to the score and always thought you received a bonus for how quickly you defeated an opponent.”
Every step of the way, LUMBO was thrilled to rediscover the game and even learn new things about it that he was unaware of on his initial experiences. Ultimately, it led him to set his first goals with the game.
Challenging Mat Mania Leaderboards
Replaying Mat Mania on an original arcade had set a fire in Michael Lombardi and he was set on pushing the boundaries on what could be done with the game. At first he just intended to practice, but as he learned what he needed to do, success in his efforts came quicker than even he expected.
“After learning Pete’s strategy, I figured why not be the first to break the house high score and get a million points,” Lombardi claimed. “I practiced at home to see if anything changed in the later matches but, the difficulty caps out. I went to GGA on April 29th. 2019 to practice. I only played one game and had no clue that I would be breaking the record. I stopped playing at 3am on April 30th. 2019 losing on purpose to Golden Hulk with a score of 5,305,750 which took about 8 1/2 hours.”
Though he had more than enough to overcome the previously recorded TG #1 score of 5,000,150 by RAC Carpana, Lombardi couldn’t record a significant portion of the run, making that initial score unofficial in accordance with both Galloping Ghost and TG recording rules. Even so, LUMBO was unphased by it.
“Doc wouldn’t accept the score, but I was totally fine with that. I had a goal of achieving six million anyway.”
With a benchmark in mind and an understanding of how to do it. Lombardi’s next effort would come only a month later.
“On May 5th. 2019, my first official world record run was streamed fully, but I only achieved a score of 5,113,000 and lost to who else, Coco.”
Lombardi refers to Coco Savage, who proves to be one of the more unorthodox and unpredictable opponents in the game. Where the rest of the Mat Mania cast has fairly understandable formulas to them, Coco is tougher to handle and can easily put an early end to any run at the game. Where much of the game’s difficulty reaches an absolute height at around two hours in, Lombardi explained that Coco was always a big threat.
“You screw up once against Coco and you might not get a chance to do another move,” Lombardi described. “When I practiced at home, I would purposely make errors against Coco to see if there was a way to recover. If it’s early in the match you can recoup. Later in the match, your only hope is for him to throw you out of the ring or for him to do a flying body press into the ropes and hope that you get up in time.”
Nonetheless, while Lombardi was initially okay with his result, friends and fans pushed him to take the barriers of Mat Mania and its highest record further.
“I felt good about beating RAC Carpana’s original nearly thirty-three year old record from 1986,” LUMBO explains. “Everyone was very positive about what I had accomplished but there was one comment on Facebook that got to me a little. It wasn’t exactly negative but it wasn’t really positive either. It was this and my smart-a** friend, Greg Kraj, who taunted me and gave me the motivation to try again and max out the score.”
Prepping For the Big One
With a new goal, Lombardi started even further research on Mat Mania. He already had a strategy, but there were a few other things to nail down. First was whether or not Mat Mania even had a cap. No one had ever maxed out the game before, so Lombardi was going into uncharted territory.
“I originally practiced on PS4’s version of Mat Mania,” Lombardi explained. “This version allows you to save. I wanted to see if the score capped out. I played for about a week on PS4 to find that answer out.”
Once he knew there was a limit, Lombardi then set into creating a new strategy for himself that he could employ alongside what Pete Hahn had already taught him. Going back and forth between Hahn’s strategy and the new one was key to staying in the game according to LUMBO.
“The old strategy was to do the pile driver loop and accumulate as many points as possible,” Lombardi described. “It’s safer but takes about one hour and ten minutes for each one million points, I think. The new strategy was to weaken opponents with punches and the elbow block, then pile drive, get three turnbuckle jumps in, and then the flying body press for the pin. It was all about getting the 5,000 pin points as quickly as possible.”
By combination of these strategies, Lombardi felt ready to play, but as any marathon runner knows, gameplay is half the equation. LUMBO knew that he was going to be in for a long session if he wanted to max this one out and Mat Mania doesn’t offer any lives, so if you get pinned once, you’re done. The game doesn’t offer any breaks, so there was a lot of consideration that needed to be taken if one was going to play that long non-stop. Thankfully, Michael Lombardi also had some understanding of how to handle that as well.
“I fasted the night before, and in my younger days I bounced and worked security for retail stores. I know how to hold it when I need to and who would’ve thought it would be useful one day doing a twelve hour eighteen minute world record,” said Lombardi of the physical duress. “I also tended to stay close to the ropes because if you do make an error when fatigue is setting in, you always have a chance of them throwing you out of the ring which will allow you to recoup.”
Even so, a public arcade setting can be chaotic and there are a few points where Lombardi almost lost his composure.
“You can hear me at certain points getting upset with the wildlings that were beating up on The Grid game,” Lombardi says of his record run. “I don’t like players abusing games that Doc and the rest of the staff at GGA put so much time into restoring and maintaining. I also got pegged with the foot of a chair that some kid was running around with in the lumbar area of my back when I was going up against Coco. I was pretty angry. When the chair incident happened, I almost had to quit. It took me about five matches to get back into the zone.”
Nonetheless, Lombardi persevered than any and all challenge both inside and outside the game and eventually turned in his official 9,999,990 performance, capping the score appropriately in a final match against Coco Savage around the 12 hour and 18 minute mark. The record and bar for Mat Mania was set as high as it would go. Michael “LUMBO” Lombardi was officially recognized as the champion of the Mat Mania leaderboards on June 14, 2019.
What Comes After Mat Mania?
After passing the test that Mat Mania presented to him, Lombardi has his sights set on a few other opportunities. Notably, LUMBO plays an actual part in Galloping Ghost Productions’ own Dark Presence - a 2D fighter based on the old school style of early Mortal Kombat, but shot in high-definition 1080p.
“The game will be playable for the public on July 20, 2019,” Lombardi explained. “I play Titan in the game and I need to get more familiar with Titan’s combos so I’m not getting my a** handed to me.”
Beyond that, Michael Lombardi has also considered chasing down a couple other titles, including the beloved TRON series.
“TRON (arcade) is a life-long achievement I have always wanted and Punch Out! (arcade) as well. We will see what the future holds.”
After the fact, LUMBO also wanted to give a shout out to former Mat Mania TG World Record holder RAC Carpana with respect to the 33-year-old record that sat at the top of the list. It was a fight well-fought and a record well-earned. TG congratulates Michael “LUMBO” Lombardi his achievement and appreciates his time speaking with us.