It's taken me a week to 'fess up to this, because it's so embarrassing. But after all that complaining, it turns out...
...I wasn't even playing the right game.
Yes, I downloaded something called Sunset Riders but it actually turned out to be the Sega Genesis version. I only found out when I took to YouTube for a long-overdue playthrough after the round was over. No wonder I was so confused (and confusing) when Leto put up directions on how to set game parameters. So I don't even deserve the one or two points I got from competing in this round.
The good news is that I've really grown to like the Genesis version of the game. Playing it on hard is still a struggle but I get a little better every day. Still haven't played the version all of you were playing. My apologies to all, especially Leto.