Ah, the 1990s - a time where game console technology was rapidly changing and most video games could be beaten in a single day. A time with colorful action figures and small hand-held tech toys in a pre-cell phone world. As kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s, we find ourselves missing some of the games and toys we used to hold so highly.
Luckily, we're seeing ports of classic games--and modern spins on older hits or classic toys--onto mobile platforms popping up more and more. Although they don't have quite the same feeling, they come pretty close. Here are three games for iOS that are sure to inspire nostalgia for gamers in the 90s.
The Other Brothers
With its combination of challenging platforming mechanics and iconic (if unlikely) heroes, the Mario Brothers took the world by storm in the early 80s. Now, three decades later, many of the same tropes that the Mario Brothers first pioneered are still alive and well. It's important to know your video game history when you play a game like 3D Attack Interactive's $2 The Other Brothers, which is really a love letter to not only to the Super Mario Brothers series, but iconic platformers of old. It's also, despite its seeming periodic origins, a great, challenging platformer in its own right with a classic art style and compelling world.
Mechanics Joe and Jim witness the kidnapping of a woman by two mafia types, and decide to give chase. Yes, they have overalls, and they attack enemies mainly by jumping on their heads, but aside from these not-so-subtle nods, the game draws from various sources and even muscles in some genuinely original moments. You can see level design that seems reminiscent of Earthworm Jim and Shank, but you'll also fight a giant mafia robot atop a boiling tide of minestrone soup--so there are some things that even seasoned vets will be surprised by.
I appreciate that the game doesn't take place on Chaos Isle, Marioland, or some other fantasyland. Your enemies are gun-wielding mafia hit men, police offers, rabid dogs, and varied environmental challenges, which makes the game a bit grittier, or perhaps real-world, then the bizarre imaginary lands conjured up by golden era platformers.
The health mechanic is a bit fanciful, if clever: When hit, your character releases all of the pigeons he has collected. Like rings from Sonic the Hedgehog, if you don't have any pigeons and are hit, you're dead. And pigeons are a bit more flighty than rings, so you'll have to move fast to reclaim health. Thankfully, the fictional cityscape that Joe and Jim occupy is like any modern city and pigeons are never too far away.
Each level should only take you a few minutes to complete, but you'll likely want to replay it to get the highest score possible and then unlock additional content, like the second brother, Jim. The missions are brimming with enemies, pits, water obstacles, mines, and dozens of other ways to die. You'll swim, explore sewers, throw wrenches, and utilize the various light sources in the game to better see your foes.
But if there's one complaint I have, it's that the level design is so cramped and the missions so short that the pacing seems too frenetic. You never get a chance to take a breath and strategize your next move, as there's always a chance a flying boulder will come hurling out of the darkness.
The soundtrack isn't particularly memorable other than being upbeat chiptunes fare, but the retro graphics make the game feel both familiar and distinctive. The street lights, rain, attack dogs, scuba divers and toxic waste all combine into a creative and fun world to explore.
As for the controls, I had some real difficulty with the default control scheme, which greatly resembles a digital version of the old Nintendo controller: a four-way direction pad and two virtual buttons. But since the game requires climbing segments, ladders, and other upward movements, the four-way directional pad is sticky and often led to frustrating game-overs. Once I changed the controls to the floating analogue option, the navigation problems largely disappeared.
While it's easy to dismiss The Other Brothers as a cheap parody of a classic game, that couldn't be further from the truth. The Other Brothers is a fun, imaginative platformer worthy of praise on its own, easily jumping into the conversation as one of the best mobile platform games of all time. With great art direction, a fantastic sense of humor, and a development team that seems ready to constantly build on the world with new content, I think these Other Brothers are worth a download.--Chris Holt
File this under "things that will make you feel old:" It's been 16 years since Bandai first came out with its uber-popular (and uber-annoying) Tamagotchi virtual pet. Now, in honor of the virtual creature's sweet sixteen, the company (now Namco Bandai) has released an even more virtual version of the virtual pet.
Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. for iOS lets you relive the joy of constantly having to feed, play with, and bathe a tiny pixilated alien who will eventually grow up into a whiny adult with a bad attitude (because, let's face it, you didn't take very good care of it).
To Namco Bandai's credit, Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. is a pretty perfect re-creation of the original Tamagotchi experience, but with a couple of iOS app upgrades. The main screen features an exact replica of the original Tamagotchi: A plastic egg-shaped shell with a small square screen and three navigation buttons. The first button advances you through the menu options, the middle button lets you select an option, and the last button is a cancel button. If you press the middle button when you're not in a menu, you'll see the clock. The screen is blue and pink, with eight small icons--seven of which are menu options, and the last is an indicator button to tell you that the Tamagotchi wants something.
The Tamagotchi itself is a small pixilated creature that hatches out of an egg. It goes through several stages--from baby, to child, to teenager, to adult. Errr...that is, it goes through these stages if you take care of it properly and it doesn't die first. To take care of the Tamagotchi, just listen for its obnoxious beeping (which you'll "hear" in the form of a push notification) and try to keep it fed, happy, well disciplined, and clean.
App view is a little easier to navigate, especially when playing a game.
Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. does have a couple of nice iOS upgrades to bring it into the 21stcentury. If you're not too keen on the eggshell casing, or you don't like to press a (virtual) button to cycle through the menu options, there's an "app mode" option. App mode zooms into the screen part of the Tamagotchi, so all you see is the creature and the surrounding menu options--no shell or buttons. Here, you can press the icons to select them, which is a lot easier than cycling through them using the buttons. The Tamagotchi also has a small amount of color in this mode, since it's bigger. There's also a "rock, paper, scissors" game instead of the traditional game, which involves guessing which way your Tamagotchi will turn.
As you raise more and more Tamagotchis, you'll unlock new cases and wallpapers. The cases will show when you're in traditional mode (they'll be the different egg cases around the screen), while the wallpapers will show when you're in app mode. Other in-app goodies include a picture-taking button, a help menu, and access to Tamagotchi's original instruction booklet.
If you ever owned a Tamagotchi, this app is a must-have. It's a great re-creation of the original virtual pet, and it will definitely take you back to a time in your life when you actually had enough time and interest to respond to the whines of a virtual creature. However, if you're currently asking yourself "Tamagotchi... what?" Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. probably isn't going to woo you with its constant push notifications and needy gameplay.--Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Back when I was younger, I loved My Little Pony--obviously, there's much for kids to love about these colorful miniature toy horsies. Fast-forward from the 1980s to 2013, and the franchise has gone through about four different generations; Its current iteration being Lauren Faust's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television show is popular not just with pre-teen girls, but with just about everyone else as well, and for good reason: it's adorable, witty, and well-written.
Now, Hasbro has teamed up with Gameloft to bring us My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic for iOS. While pretty ponies might lead you to believe that this free game is designed for young kids, its mechanics say otherwise.
Keep your ponies happy (and pretty!) by checking on their stats.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a real-time city-building game, similar to Zynga's popular Farmville. The purpose of the game is to build up Ponyville and bring back the lost ponies, which are presumably lost in the eternal night that has been brought upon the land by Nightmare Moon.
You start out with a mostly-empty plot of land. Main character Twilight Sparkle's library is already built, and from there you must build up Ponyville to bring back its citizens. You can bring Ponyville citizens back by building their homes (some ponies live with other ponies, such as the Apple family which lives together in a barn). As each pony comes back to Ponyville, they can work at a shop. Shops range from asparagus stands to mane salons, and have different tasks that require different numbers of ponies.
The game has three types of currency, including bits (primary), gems (secondary), and hearts (social). You earn bits mostly by having your ponies perform time-related tasks, like making pies at the cherry stand or lemonade at the lemon stand. These tasks are like FarmVille's crops: you have to come back and collect the bits at regular intervals, depending on the product. Unlike Farmville, however, the tasks do not expire and you can come collect the bits at any time.
Build up Ponyville draw new pony citizens.
Gems are earned by leveling up, and can also be purchased for real money. Both gems and bits can be earned by completing special goals, which are usually building-related tasks such as "building a cherry stand." Hearts are earned through the game's social feature: the more friends you have on Facebook or on the Gameloft Live network, the more hearts you can earn.
There's more to this game than just city building, though. There are three mini-games, which you will play as you level up your individual ponies. Your goal is to earn stars, which you can achieve by playing two mini-games: a ball-bouncing game and an apple-collecting game. When you fill up your star meter enough to get a star, you'll get to play a flying game (similar to Jetpack Joyride), before you can collect the star. But why do you need these stars? Higher-level ponies can work at higher-level jobs. For example, the first pony at a shop doesn't need any stars, but the second and third ones usually do. Each pony maxes out at five stars. The games are fun, but can grow a bit tedious.
My Little Pony also uses a sort of "fog of war" expansion technique. Since Nightmare Moon has bathed the land in night, you must expand your town one square of darkness at a time. While you can't build in darkened areas, you can see the rough landscape (including trees and rocks), and you can tap the trees to collect any bits that fall out.
Finally, the game has a larger goal: your job is to find the six Elements of Harmony, and activate each element by offering up shards of that element. Shards are collected alongside bits when timed tasks are completed, but can also be earned through challenges and an additional mini game.
Use in-game currency to build and decorate your city.
Clearly, there's kind of a lot going on in this game, but it works. Unlike other city-building games, there's always something to do in Friendship is Magic--you don't end up sitting around while you wait for your crops to grow, or for tasks to be completed. There are always ponies that need upgrading, trees to tap on, and mini games to play.
As much as I want to love this game, it has its flaws. It suffers from a bad business model--especially if children, and not "Bronies," play it. After the first few levels, ponies start costing a lot of either gems or hearts, both of which are difficult for children to get, since the former costs money, while the latter costs social networking friends. Assuming young girls aren't all over Facebook, hearts will be as difficult (if not more difficult) to nab than gems. You need at least 590 gems to grab the main characters, which will cost you about $50. (That's right: $50!)
The other issue this game has is that is crashes. All. The. Time. It also spams your device with push notifications (which mysteriously turn themselves back on, even after you've turned them off several times).
Basically, you're looking at a child-unfriendly app that spams you and crashes often. But an adorable, fun one! When it's working, at least.--Sarah Jacobsson Purewal