Friday, July 20, 2012

My iPad has Become a Portable Classic Arcade!

It's so weird how I get into rediscovering some random aspect of my life and then it completely consumes me for a while. I guess that's the curse of us nostalgia-addicts. We often spend our time reminiscing on some subject from our past and the next thing you know, you're bitten by the bug and are now trolling eBay or whatever, trying to recapture that elusive glimpse of how it used to be.

I've done this recently with classic video games. Usually, my video game playing has been limited to the time-sucking awesomeness that is Skyrim. But lately, I've been going old school.

It started with a visit to a local ice cream place that is packed with old video game cabinets, then it led to me breaking out the Atari Flashback 2 for some classic home console fun, and now, thanks to the modern day miracle that is my iPad, I can practically carry around an entire vintage arcade anywhere I go.

The best arcade pack that I've downloaded so far is the Atari Greatest Hits app. It includes accurate retro versions of Pong, Red Baron, Space Duel, Super Breakout, Tempest, Warlords, Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone, Black Widow, Centipede, Crystal Castles, Gravitar, Atari Force Liberator, Lunar Lander, Major Havoc, Millipede, and Missile Command.

Playing these games again is like stepping back into my local arcade in 1981. I can almost smell the cigarette smoke and lane oil (my arcade was in a bowling alley). Heck, the sounds alone are like an auditory time machine. Just hearing the bleeps and bloops of games gone by has me picturing quarter-plunking kids in Star Wars baseball caps and knee-high striped socks running from cabinet to cabinet.

Some of the games in this pack are a mystery to me, but here are the ones that really took me back...

Tempest... Oh how I loved Tempest. When I was a kid, this was the game for me. next to Galaga, this game probably got more of my quarters than any other game. This was probably due to the fact that you could almost never get on the lone Pac-Man or Donkey Kong machines, which were usually being ruled over by a frightening horde of smelly teenagers. So I was often left with no choice but to seek solace in a less popular game. This was how I discovered Tempest. Playing it 30 years later, I'm happy to report that it still holds up. Due to the nature of the iPad, however, I have to admit that I miss my spinning wheel.

Asteroids was another favorite of mine. Playing it again these days kind of shows its age. It's not nearly as fast-paced and exciting as I remember it. But this was probably the very first arcade game I ever played, so it's nice to revisit.

Centipede was always 3rd on my list of all-time favorites. Again, like Tempest, I miss the rolling ball controller, but such is the price one pays for having an entire arcade on an iPad. I've actually been playing the heck out of some Centipede on my Atari Flashback 2 (sitting on the shag carpet of my downstairs den, as the Gods intended), but now that I've got the arcade version on my iPad, I'm worried that my Flashback may collect dust. Well, no... I can still play Adventure on it.

Downloading the Atari app and sinking back into the warming miasma of video arcade rapture inspired me to go looking for some other arcade versions of my favorite classic games.

I just downloaded the lite versions of both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. Talk about a time warp! Those sounds must be ingrained into my soul. I had a blast playing these games again, but I'm not quite sure I want to shell out $4.99 each for the full versions of the game, when I just got Atari's Greatest Hits (with all of those complete games in it) for free. but maybe I'll break down eventually.

Sadly, I've yet to find a decent classic Galaga download. There is a Namco Arcade pack, that says it's free, but then you have to pay 99¢ per game, which wouldn't be so bad if the UI wasn't so horrible. There is also a 30th Anniversary Galaga pack, but it doesn't include a classic version. 

And what's up with there being no Donkey Kong iPad apps at all?! I can't have the ultimate arcade in my backpack without Donkey Kong! Or Dig Dug! Or Zaxxon!

Oh well, I guess I'll have to make due with what I have so far. Besides, if anyone had told 9-year-old me that one day, all of these games I kept feeding quarters into, would all be on a magical little touch-screen device smaller than my Trapper Keeper, I would have told you you were nuts. And then I would have told the bowling alley manager that some creep from the future was bugging me.

Anyway, thanks for reading. I gotta get back to my games.