REVIEW – Retro Pocket (DSiWare)

Old Old School

RetroPocket

Before Nintendo’s original Gameboy became popular, Tiger released a number of portable LCD handheld games which were an evolution of Nintendo’s original Game And Watch series.  With graphics mimicking a digital wristwatch, these games were very simple and based around getting a high score as opposed to being narrative focused like most modern games of today.  With this said, Retro Pocket‘s niche audience will most likely see the largest amount of appreciation from nostalgic gamers.  Like Megaman 9 and 10, this is new old school.

At its source, Retro Pocket is a mini game compilation made up of 8 original retro LCD style games.  It is not hard, however, to see where Retro Pocket drew its inspiration from.  Fireman has a similar theme to Game And Watch Fire.  Whale Escape harkens back to Octopus.  And Candy Factory is a new version of Oil Panic.  Further, each game is playable with two difficulty settings just like original Game And Watch games.

Whale

The developers captured the look, feel and sound of these classic styled games with great accuracy.  With only a single frame of animation, the player can distinguish movement by the ghosting background character frames.  Very basic beeps and boops make up each game’s soundtrack and the entire presentation creates the illusion of holding a classic LCD game. Yes, these are truly new old games.

Perhaps it is nostalgia talking, but I will admit that I am a sucker for these old style classic games.  Not only do I own all Nintendo Game And Watch Gallery Gameboy games, I even earned the official replica of Ball.  But even though I have a soft spot for these new classic games, I cannot ignore the fact that Retro Pocket suffers from a more technical perspective.  For example, the player can mistakenly go back to the main menu if the B button is pressed from the Pause menu – there is no confirmation before quitting.  Also, there is no option to save a game in progress and there isn’t really a reward for getting a high score.  Using the original Gameboy version of Game And Watch Gallery as an comparison example, there were both a classic and modernize version of each game and reaching  higher scores rewarded the player with Stars that could be spent to unlock new things.  Here in Retro Pocket, all 8 games are unlocked from the start but there is no other incentive to keep playing beyond beating your own high score.  Online leaderboards could have been an easy answer to this issue.  Also, the menu system is inconvenient.  The player navigates between games by using the d-pad but the only way to select a game is to tap the touch screen.  Why can’t face buttons be used to confirm or cancel?  The majority of the game also takes place on the bottom screen while each game’s logo is placed on the top screen; this just seems like wasted real estate.

SelectScreen

All Nintendo Game And Watch Gallery games had consistency.  For example, every 200 points would earn an extra Star to spend in the options menu, reaching 1000 points was always the high mark to shoot for, and the difficulty ramped up the closer the player got to each 100 point mark.  Here in Retro Pocket, some games will easily yield 100’s of points in a short amount of time and the difficulty continually increases with a higher score instead of slowing down then increasing again like in Game And Watch. If each game was played individually, any player can take it for what it is.  But since this in a compilation title, it would have been nice to see some consistency between all games. Each game also has a five digit place holder for the high score meaning it is possible to earn well over 10,000 points for any given game. It is a shame these big scores cannot be shared with friends.

Retro Pocket is probably the best UFO game to be released in a long time, or maybe even ever.  And just to be clear, this is a five dollar DSiWare game which is also playable on 3DS systems.  However, this niche game will only have a niche audience as players will either like these LCD games or they don’t.  But even though I am a fan of these old style games, the absence of features, technical issues like not being able to save and return later, and the lack of bonus incentives like unlockable content or online leaderboards makes the overall game suffer.  But for about five bucks, this is actually a great way to experience classic LCD style games outside of downloading Nintendo’s Game And Watch Gallery titles from the eShop Virtual Console.

6.5/10

Not As Good As: Nintendo’s Game And Watch Gallery games

Also Check out: Johnny KungFu, Game And Watch 1, Game And Watch Collection 2

Wait For It: Retro Game Challenge 2

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