I’m going to sound like an old fogey here, but I’ve got enough years under my belt to remember Nintendo’s pre-history. Before the NES invaded American homes, it churned out these little handheld obsessions called, rather didactically, Game & Watch systems. They offered up very basic, LCD-digit-based graphics on pre-rendered playing fields where you’d basically have to move a character from one part of the screen to another. Gameplay for these gadgets was almost always about reaction time and twitch reflexes, which, if memory serves made them all the more addictive. Of course, time and technology marched on and the LCD handhels of yesteryear became naught but fond memories.
You can revisit those memories now, though, thanks to the efforts of an industrious coder named Hipopotam. He’s assembled 17 of the once-ubiquitous handhelds on Pica-pic, where they’re playable in Flash. I remember spending nearly whole days on the Donkey Kong, Jr. game and it’s just as much of a ball-buster as I remember. As always happens when you look back through the history of a medium, cycles and trends become really apparent. So, for the people who decry licensed property tie-in games as a new abomination on, there’s a (surprsisingly fun) Terminator game by Tiger. That clamshell, multi-screen “Legend of Zelda” game stands an early precursor to the kind of thinking that gave us the Nintendo DS, leading to its latest descendant the shiny, out-this-weekend Nintendo 3DS. Overall, the minimalism inherent to most of these games serves as a reminder as to how little you need to make electronic fun, a tenet that’s resurgent in the current wave of light-mechanics casual and mobile games.
Either way, if you’re an ’80s baby like me, chances are you’ll go tripping off heavy nostalgia at the sight and feel of these games.