Review: Retro Pocket

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Once upon a time, before there were GameBoys and Game Gears, DSs and 3DSs, PSPs and Vitas, and long before the smartphone/tablet app boom, single-game LED handhelds sparked the popularity of portable gaming. Ah yes, the Game & Watch days, I remember them well. Donkey Kong and Green House carried me through many car rides as a youngster.

Retro Pocket is a DSiWare/eShop compilation of eight different games designed to emulate classics from the era of Game & Watch and Tiger Electronics. Whether you’re putting out fires and catching falling victims in Fireman, delivering mail while avoiding patrolling guard dogs in Postman, rescuing a friend from the prison cell of a whale’s mouth in Whale Escape, or picking up candies from a series of conveyor belts and placing them into bins in Candy Factory, these games are simple reminders of where modern gaming came from, requiring nothing more than quick taps of the directional buttons to move and maybe the occasional press of another button to deflect a projectile or light a fire that scares away a snake threatening to snatch your basket of collected eggs.

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Each game offers ‘Game A’ and ‘Game B’ modes, with the A option serving as an easy difficulty and the B option offering a harder alternative. Whichever option you choose, the games start off easy, but the gameplay speed gradually increases the longer you survive, which means memorizing the layouts and mastering the movement timing is the key to posting a high score worth bragging about.

A few of the games are overly similar, to the point of almost blurring together and cancelling each other out. Candy Factor, Egg Drop and Watch Your Head for example are all slight variations on the mechanic of catching a falling object and placing it into a container. But with eight games to choose from, each with a distinct theme, there’s ample variety to ensure that at least two or three will sink their “just one more game” hooks into you. Personally, Kung Fu Hero and Fuel Drop have done that for me. In the former, you protect a girl by karate chopping thugs and thrown bottles swarming after her from all sides. In the latter, you tap the L and R buttons to rotate oil drums to match the colors of falling drops of fuel. These are a blast, especially once the speed and difficulty ramp up.

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Retro Pocket’s single greatest achievement, however, is how well it replicates the presentation of an old LED handheld. The emulation is absolutely spot on, complete with appropriately bleepy-bloopy chip sound effects and the pre-printed ghost images in the background which represent the gameplay animations and serve as a visual map cluing you in on the paths of character movement and falling objects. With the greater might of the DSi/3DS compared to the older technology, you also don’t have to deal with the delayed movement response that always made Game & Watch games more difficult than they actually were. These games run fast, smooth and responsive, without dampening the retro impact. I only wish this were a built-for-3DS game, as it would have been neat to see how the 3D effect worked with the old LED look.

If you grew up in the 80s and have fond Game & Watch memories, you are the primary audience for Retro Pocket. But that doesn’t mean nostalgia alone is the only selling point. Yes, the compiled games are very straightforward, perhaps too much so for the modern gaming hipster, but they’re also incredibly fun in a quick pick up and play style that often leads to compulsive high score inner turmoil. For only $5 (less than a dollar per game!), Retro Pocket deserves a dedicated spot on your DSi or 3DS.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Perfectly emulates retro Game & Watch presentation
+ Old school pick up and play high score gaming
+ Great value at under $1 per game

Cons:
– A few of the games repeat the same gameplay mechanic

Game Info:
Platform: Nintendo DSi and 3DS via DSiWare/eShop
Publisher: UFO Interactive
Developer: UFO Interactive
Release Date: 9/20/2012
Genre: Arcade
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!