It's been at least 20 years since I last played, but my hands remember every move
It was there that I discovered Snow Bros. What is it about a game that captures a person's heart? Snow Bros is, to put it mildly, not a game that set the world on fire. But I was smitten with it from the very beginning. It was something about the combination of in-game physics, cheerful snowmen, wacky monsters, and the way that strategy matters more than your fast-twitch response time.
Snow Bros is usually described as being "very similar to Bubble Bobble." Your snowman throws blobs of snow at the monsters. When you hit them three times, they turn into snowballs. At this point, you have three options: leave the monster (the snow will melt, leaving it only temporarily incapacitated), throw the snowball (it will ping-pong through the maze until the monster hits a bottom wall and dies) or throw yourself at the snowball and ride it to the bottom.
The strategy is to get as high up the screen as possible, then throw a snowball-coated monster down such that it eliminates any other monsters in its path. When you do this, you get little powerups.
I don't know why I suddenly thought about Snow Bros this morning. But when I Googled it, there it was: available for free play right in your browser! I smiled when I saw the introductory graphics. Even though it had been at least 20 years since the last time I played it, I was able to effortlessly move from one level to another based on the paths that I carved out for myself back in the 80s.
Playing Snow Bros instantly transported me back to Hanger 18. The threadbare, sticky carpet. The mingled smell of sweat, overheated electronics, spilled soda, and popcorn. The ice cream sandwiches I used to buy from the vending machine. (We were pretty stoked when Hangar 18 got an ice cream sandwich vending machine!)
Returning to my all-time favorite arcade game also made me smile. In hindsight, I realize why I liked it so much: Snow Bros is, if nothing else, relentlessly jolly. From its smiling snowman to its grinning monsters and cheerful, up-beat melodies. Surrounded by games where people punched each other to death and monsters threatened the existence of the planet itself, Snow Bros was a happy little respite. (And I was darned good at it, too!)