Helping those less pro become more so.

Pro tip: Play Minesweeper with your package manager

If you use Linux at all, you're familiar with the concept of a package manager. It's the program that your system uses to keep track of most everything installed on your system, and allows you to add, remove, and change them around.

But, they can sometimes be used to kill time.

If your operating system is based on Debian, like Ubunto or some such, then your package manager is APT. If your package manager is APT, then you can use a frontend called aptitude to manage your programs installed on your computer.

Nothing too exciting, right? But, if you get bored, you can press CTRL+T to open the menu, where you see the option "Play Minesweeper", so you then press P and get:

You can use the arrow keys to move your cursor around and Enter to test a square for a mine. I don't really know any more of the controls since I am actually pretty bad at Minesweeper...

But, it's good for a short distraction while you're doing boring sysadmin stuff.

Pro tip: Shrinking buildings for fun and profit

If you're playing SimCity and throw down some residential zones, you might notice that they start out by putting up these little single-family dwellings

You can demolish them individually, which seems kind of pointless, really. But then you can put something in the hole, like a Police station.

Then you demolish the whole residential zone. The zone goes away, and so does the part of the building that was overlapping it.

It still protects the city as well as the whole building did, and you can put stuff in the extra space, like parks, to increase the value of the land. And with a little planning...

That block in the middle is a Fire station. It only takes up one block, but still protects as well as it would if it were full size.

Pro tip: Toss a banana peel out of bounds

The original Super Mario Kart's Battle Mode was really fun, even though I got lambasted regularly when I'd battle people online with my XBand modem.

But I did spend enough time with it to discover some really odd quirks. For instance, get yourself a banana peel and maneuver yourself to this spot on Battle Course 1.

Then hold Up and press A to throw your banana forward. Normally when they land out of bounds they disappear, but not this time, oh no.

It's still there, and what's worse is that if you use a feather to leap out of bounds, say to avoid a red shell, and you land on that peel, it will count as being hit, costing you a balloon.

Pro tip: Keeping your magic levels maxed

In Secret of Mana, magic is handled kind of oddly. Every time you meet up with an elemental, you get access to their spells and then, in short order, you find its corresponding seed that you need to seal to complete part of the main quest. Each seed that you seal raises the maximum level of the spells you can cast, which makes them stronger, but to do that gets kind of tedious. You gain levels by simply using each of the elementals, but each additional level takes progressively more uses, and the new elementals that you meet start out at level 0. And that means you've got a lot of grinding to do.

But, let's assume that you do take the time to keep them all maxed out. What does that get you, other than the strongest casters in the game?

Excellent question!

Once your characters' skills with an elemental reaches the maximum of Level 8, weird stuff starts to happen. Their casts start to behave oddly, and just plain look cooler. You'll know when the effects go off because the game pauses for dramatic effect.

This works for defensive spells, too, but they're not quite as exciting to see in picture form. I haven't really bothered to find out if the spells get any stronger or not, because I was too distracted by their pizazz. But I don't really think it matters a whole lot. I just consider it a bonus for people who took the time to keep their guys in tip-top condition.

Pro tip: Alternate uses for Ether medallion

There are lots of times in the Super NES Legend of Zelda game where you will find a situation like this:

It's pretty obvious that you need to get across that chasm, and it's also pretty obvious that there is a quantity of invisible flooring in some configuration, since there are enemies standing on the gaping nothingness. Usually, though, when you find a place like this, there are lanterns that you have to light which will illuminate the floor somehow, but what if they go out before you get across? Or, worse, what if they're not there to start with? You could create a fake block with the Cane of Somaria and walk slowly across the floor, pushing the block in front of you and then use a piece of graph paper to map out where the pitfalls are. But that sounds way too tedious and far too much like work for me.

What you might think about doing is using your super-handy Ether medallion. Which will damage enemies in the vicinity, but also has the side effect of lighting up the room and momentarily revealing the floor's layout.

Now, as long as you can remember that floor layout for the ten seconds it'll take to cross it, you're in great shape. Or, if you're like me and forget halfway across, just use it again for a refresher.

Pro tip: Make some people fight their doppelgangers

The original Street Fighter 2 (no 'Super', 'Turbo', 'Championship', or whatever) was pretty much the launchpad of the Street Fighter series proper. It was pretty basic, you have your eight characters, each person picks one, and then you fight it out to determine who's the best button-masher.

And, just like in real life, both people couldn't pick the same character to fight in the same battle... even though this was available in the 'Championship Edition' of the game that was making the rounds in the arcades.

But what if, after seeing the Capcom logo fade in and before it fades out, you take controller one and hit Down, R, Up, L, Y, B? Do you hear a funny sound? You do?! Great!

Now, when both people try to pick the same character, they're able to, and whoever picks second gets snazzy new clothes.

Who says fighters can't be fashionable?

Pro tip: Asking for help sometimes works

Generally, Castlevania games are hard. Your Belmont is just about the most unwieldy thing on the planet. He's about as nimble as a cinder block. The enemies, on the other hand, are extremely agile, powerful, and sitting in really unfair positions. And what all that means in games like Castlevania 3 is that you're going to see this a lot.

Kind of disheartening to see, really. Especially since some of the later levels are absolutely brutal and will suck up all your lives even before you get to the boss of the stage.

So, you do what anyone would do in that position, you call out for help.

Which never works, but it makes you feel better, right? Except... What's this?

Yep, you now have ten Belmonts in reserve instead of the paltry 2 that you normally get.


Just remember to put the name back in when you go to enter in the passwords that you're given to continue your progress.

Pro tip: Play Earthbound with one hand

Yeah, Earthbound's a great game and everything. Really. But, wouldn't it be awesome to be able to play the game with one hand, leaving the other free to do... other stuff?

Turns out that you totally can do that.

Just use the control pad to move (duh). You can then use the L button to check/talk to/generally interact with everything in the world. Then you can use Select to bring up your status screen,

then hit L to bring up the rest of your menus. From there you can use the control pad for navigation, L for 'confirm' and Select for 'cancel'.

Now, I'll admit that this can get a little tedious when you have to do stuff like inventory management, but it's totally possible to play this game with your left hand while your right hand is otherwise occupied (*snicker*).

Pro tip: How to get in an inaccessible room in Ganon's Tower

While going through Ganon's tower in the Super Nintendo Legend of Zelda game, you'll notice that there's a sealed door across a pit.

It's trivial to unseal the door, just chuck a bomb across, but how do you get Link over there? There's nothing to grapple your hookshot to. There are two ways that I know of. One is to set another bomb next to you and let the explosion send you sailing over the gap, but that seems a little ham-fisted to me. A more elegant solution is to press A to start your dash, then turn to face the wall just before you actually start moving, done right, you'll smack the bricks on the walkway and bounce across the gap without actually costing you any hearts.

And since it's kind of hard to get the timing down from just my description, you can see it in action here.

Pro tip: How to kill a Goomba more than once

The Goombas in the original Super Mario Bros. games have kind of a rough existence. All they can do is walk slowly toward Mario in a not very menacing way. Even rougher is that there's a glitch (or maybe it's a feature?) that lets you kill them twice. This is actually kind of tough to pull off.

First, find a place where there's a koopa in a shell, something for it to ricochet off of, and some Goombas. Like in World 3-2, for example.

What you have to do is kick the shell away from you, then quickly start stomping Goombas.

On its way back stomp some Goombas, and if the shell collides with one of the flattened Goombas, it'll get killed again. Brutal!

To explain it a little better, I've created a short animated .gif here to show it in action.

Man, sucks to be those guys.

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