I don’t know how to label “my generation”, but it’s certain that someone in marketing has: Retro Game Challenge caters entirely to those spent a lot of time gaming in the 80s. If you don’t know what it was like, RGC will show you. If you do know what it’s like, there are plenty of laughs and subtle references to the era that will make you giddy with nostalgia.
In Retro Game Challenge, a crazy Japanese man sends you back to the 80s to be friends and play games with his former self so you can understand what it was like back in the days where you had to use printed manuals and magazines in order to succeed. In this game, you are playing as a kid playing video games. The entire time, you will hear your friend cheer you when you succeed and boo you (or the game) when you fail. At any time, you can pause the game and rush to the manual or magazines to use one of the cheat codes if you forget it. You can even write down notes in a blank notebook using the stylus.
So it’s all very literal. Your first game is a clone of Galaga called Cosmic Gate. Upon beating all the challenges, you then will play Haggle Man, a platformer. Throughout the game you can always go back and play one of the previous games, if you so desire. Two of them, the RPG Guadia Quest and the ultimate sequel, Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3, let you save the game within the game.
The games themselves are distinct. On the plus side, they are actually good and manage to improve on old formulas, which is a necessity considering the games are simple and patterned after games that are over 20 years old. Fortunately, the designers know their design history, so the games feel both old and new, letting you appreciate the game as a relic while understanding what it was like to anticipate and be excited for an 8-bit game.
On the downside, some of the games are repetitive. The two versions of Rally King are essentially the same (in order to make fun of an exclusive edition of Super Mario Bros. that was only released in Japan), Cosmic Gate is very simple, and the second Robot Ninja Haggle Man makes only minor improvements and features. The last two games, Guadia Quest and Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3, take quite a while to play through, but the game feels drawn out only from the challenges. If you were to sit down and just play through all the other games, it would only take a couple of hours, assuming you know how to play old-school games.
Retro Game Challenge is highly clever; it successfully melds past and present, and upon closer examination, it makes the sly commentary that with the exception of the Internet and online gameplay, very little about playing video games has really changed. But if you don’t really care for satire or commentary, or if you don’t miss or care about retro-gaming, Retro Game Challenge may not be for you. The game is one huge inside joke and half the fun is from getting that joke. If you don’t, though, you may feel unincluded and wanting to ditch the party.
ESRB: E for everyone. Extremely tame. The children of today probably can’t even tell what the images are supposed to represent in some parts.
Plays like: old but good 8-bit Nintendo games
Pros: Lots of hidden humor and metacommentary, games feel old and new at the same time, games are mostly better than the old ones they emulate. The magazines, manuals, and what your friend says are funny if you get them.
Cons: But the games still feel old, and some of them are repetitive and grinding and occasionally the challenge feels arbitrary. That arbitrary challenge and that grind are true to the way things were, yes, but would someone walk through the snow for miles just to see what it was like for his grandparents?