Retro Gaming With Kids: Let Your iPhone Take You Back

Filed under: Toys, Gadgets, Kids' Games, Tween Culture, Gear Guides: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Activities: Big Kids, Gear Guides: Big Kids, Activities: Tweens, Gear Guides: Tweens

Retro Gaming

Go back to the days of blips and pixels. Illustration: Christopher Healy

However you feel about them, video games make up a huge part of today's kids' pop-culture diet. But to many parents who grew up on the barely-2-D blips of "Pac-Man" and "Space Invaders," the epic hi-def sagas that spin from Xbox 360s are like a foreign language they just can't seem to get a grasp on.

But if you've got an iPhone (or iPad or iPod Touch), you can leave the16-button mega-controllers to the middle-schoolers and get back to basics with some of the same old-school quarter-eaters from your youth. Retro gaming can not only be a great way for PlayStation-phobic parents to connect with their kids, but it can also provide the kids with a lesson in the power of simplicity. Strangely, there are no great adaptations of "Pong," but here are some other games of yesteryear that have found a new life in the App Store.


"Pac-Man"
To refresh your memory: The little yellow power-pellet chomping guy is perhaps the iconic video game figure of the 1980s, so if you're unfamiliar with him, you may unfortunately be a lost cause.
How the game has evolved: Aside from the graphics being crisper and clearer than they ever were, this is a near-exact replica of the "Pac-Man" games you used to find nestled between Skee-ball machines and automated fortune tellers. You have a choice of controls: Virtual joystick, finger swiping or steering by tilting your iDevice (not recommended).
Does it hold up?: The addictive gameplay was the reason this game was such a mega-hit when it first appeared -- and that gameplay hasn't changed. So, yes.
Price: $4.99

"Space Invaders"
To refresh your memory: You're a little triangle-ish icon, moving left and right in a feverish attempt to shoot down the pixilated monsters that descend upon you in straight lines.
How the game has evolved: There have been several updated and upgraded versions of "Space Invaders," but here, you get a very faithful adaptation. The "lasers" shot by the aliens still look like raining fusilli. You can even choose to play on a monochromatic screen (ah, that takes you back). Again, you have three control choices: Virtual joystick, touch-and-slide finger control (which works awesomely), or tilt control.
Does it hold up?: Personally, I don't think Space Invaders was ever the kind of game you could spend hours playing, but as a nostalgic novelty, it actually feels more fun than ever.
Price: $4.99


"Frogger"
To refresh your memory: You're a frog who first has to cross a heavily-trafficked five-lane highway, and then use lily pads, logs, and turtles to hop across a swiftly-flowing river.
How the game has evolved: You can choose to play with newly-upgraded graphics that give the game a semi-three-dimensional sheen, or the classic visuals in which all the cars had rectangular tires. To make the frog hop in different directions, you can swipe a finger anywhere on the screen; it actually works better than a joystick.
Does it hold up?: Whenever you make it all the way to the other side of the river only to die because you accidentally jump in between lily pads at the end, you'll feel a very familiar kind of frustration -- the kind that makes you immediately want to try again.
Price: $0.99


"Q*Bert Deluxe"
To refresh your memory: You're a round thing with a snorkel-like nose who has to hop across a tower of cubes, changing the color of each, while avoiding bouncing balls and snakes.
How the game has evolved: Here, too, you get to choose between smoothed-out "new" graphics, or the old ones where the crinkled edges of the cubes made them resemble ravioli. There's a virtual joystick for movement, but you can swipe anywhere on the screen to make it move.
Does it hold up?: There's definitely an eye-hand-coordination aspect to "Q*Bert," but at heart, it's a strategy game, and should appeal to lovers of puzzle games today.
Price: $1.99



"Dig Dug Remix"
To refresh your memory: You're a little guy with an air pump who digs tunnels in order to find and inflate goggle-wearing monster balls. Yeah, it didn't make much sense then, either.
How the game has evolved: The "remix" in the title refers to the fact there's an entirely new "Dig Dug" game in here -- one with polished graphics, new enemies and new level designs, but still the same 2-D gameplay. However, the original is also here, looking and playing just as it used to.
Does it hold up?: The original Dig Dug was, and still is, fun but repetitive (something you could probably say about almost every arcade game from the '80s). The "remixed" version is a blast, though.
Price: $2.99

Related: "Toy Story 3" Revolutionizes the Industry - The Video Game Industry, That Is

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.