Category Archives: mobile

Groove Coaster Zero from Taito

From the company that brought you Space Invaders, and a few other titles, comes the latest mobile interpretation of rhythm games such as Tap Tap Revolution.  To put it succinctly, these types of game require you to tap on the screen along with the beat of a music track.  Their ancestry can actually be traced back to music games for consoles such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band.  In those games, you have plastic analogs to musical instruments with colour-coded keys to play in time with scrolling notes on the TV.  In the mobile world, your only instrument is your finger and the touchscreen.

Retro Computer Games Hit iOS

From Elite Systems Ltd., the guys who made the classic space exploration and trade game Elite in 1984, comes World of RETRO Computer GAMES, an iOS app featuring a collection of  near-100% accurate replicas of classic computer games.

Bruce Lee climbs the tapestry

And classic is the operative word here. In the free version of the app,  Datasoft’s action platformer Bruce Lee (1984) is provided free of charge, with three packs of three games each available as in-app purchases for 99 cents a pop.  Paying 99 cents up front for the app gets you all the game packs included, along with Bruce Lee.  Any self-respecting computer gamer from the 80’s will remember Bruce Lee, running and jumping through multiple screens collecting lanterns in order to open up secret doors in order to progress, all the while chased by a stick-wielding ninja and the green Sumo menace Yamo.  The game packs contain such gems as Freefall’s chess-by-way-of-Tolkien Archon (1983), Epyx’s one-on-one fighting game Barbarian a.k.a. Death Sword (1988), and the original The Bard’s Tale: Tales of the Unknown (1985) by EA.

My usual landing in Infiltrator

As almost always with these things when gaming on iOS devices, the app falters slightly with the control scheme, although this is mitigated somewhat through what Elite calls their iDaptive controls.  What this amounts to are contextual buttons that pop up in-game and are completely customizable by the user. You can increase their size and position, adjust transparency to see behind them, and switch from keyboard directional keys to a simulated joystick.  The stick is definitely a necessity for most of the games here, in particular for action games like Bruce Lee.  The ability to move controls to a more comfortable position is key to keeping things from getting too frustrating, although the low-resolution response of the joystick takes some getting used to.  Even with this stilted response, I’d have to say that the controls aren’t a dealbreaker with this one.  The ultimate workaround for the virtual joystick, of course, is to use ION’s iCade, a nifty mini-arcade cabinet that connects with your iPad via bluetooth and provides eight physical buttons and a solid joystick.  Retro Games supports the iCade, and using this feature makes all the difference in the world when it comes to controls in the game.

iPad controls done right

There’s so much to love here.  The games feel spot-on, and give one a visceral thrill to be able to play these classics on a modern mobile device.  There are separate apps for both iPhone and iPad, but the latter is the best way to go, as buttons get crazily cramped on some of the games on the small screen.  A much appreciated ability to save and load games at any time is another big plus.

It’s promised that 100 more games will be made available through in-app purchase,  touting such pleasures as Ozark Softscape’s seminal M.U.L.E. and Archon’s sequel, Archon II: Adept.  With a lineup like that, Retro Games should have the mobile classic gaming scene in its pocket.

Pinball Resurrected

Someone who grew up during the birth and golden age of video games would also have to be at least passingly familiar with the electronic pastime it replaced… pinball.  In practically every arcade there would be at least a few pinball machines vying for the attention of someone looking for something a bit more physical than Pac-Man.  I remember one of the troika of video game palaces here in downtown Toronto being the Pinball Spot.  After carefully traversing down the slick-tiled steep and dark stairway, one would be greeted by a huge square basement of video delights, as well as a long line of pinball machines stretched back along the left wall.  It was a pinballer’s paradise to be sure.

Hoping to recapture that sultry allure is FarSight Studio’s Pinball Arcade for iOS devices.  There is no shortage of pinball game simulations for game devices these days, so how does Pinball Arcade shape up against the competition?  PA’s main hook is the painstaking detail that has gone into the recreation of the featured tables.  Tales of the Arabian Nights is unlocked when the game is installed, with The Black Hole, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and Theatre of Magic available for paid download in-game.  These games range from between $1.99 to $3.99, and you can pick up all three in a pack for $8.99.  The app itself is 99 cents.  Other classic tables are promised in future updates.

Pinball Arcade, a virtual pinball app for Apple iOS

I thought I was the body table king….


The tables are great to play, lovingly constructed with no detail overlooked.  Each table also features a tutorial to take you through the scoring system, as well as an interesting text screen outlining the history of the machine.  Problems arise, however, with the game’s physics.  Pinball games are the epitome of ‘feel’ in coin-op amusement.  How the ball interacts with the flippers, the speed it travels around the board, and the player’s ability to influence these events are all critical elements to a pinball game’s success.  There is a tangible connection between player and pinball.  I believe it is possible to recreate this connection and ‘feel’ in a computer simulation, but Pinball Arcade doesn’t quite feel like it.  For all the love and care that the creators obviously poured into the tables, they skimped a bit on ball physics.  It moves wonkily quite often, changing speed or direction for no good reason.  The ball’s movement off the flippers feels a bit strange too, all of which equals a bit of frustration on the player’s part and failure to close that gap between the physicality of pinball and the cold calculations of computer simulation.

Wacky ball movement notwithstanding, I would still heartily recommend this app to all you Pinball Wizards out there.  Pinball Arcade sure plays a mean pinball.

Screen from Paperboy, a video game by Atari

Paperboy Delivers to the iPhone

If you hung around video game arcades in 1984, you most likely gave Atari Game’s Paperboy a spin. In it, you are the titular newsie, given a route on a street with certain houses that are your customers. Then you pedal madly down the street throwing newspapers as close to people’s stoops as possible, all the while avoiding speeding cars, angry dogs and bullies fighting in the streets.

Well, Paperboy has hit the iPhone in a very faithful adaptation. While it may lack the astonishing handle-bar controller that made the game in the arcade so unique and enjoyable, developer Glu Games tries its best to recreate the feel with tilt controls that take advantage of the iPhone’s positional sensors.

It’s 99 cents on the app store. Spread the news.

Tapper Remake: Tapping the Retro Love

Tapper is a game any denizen of early 1980’s arcades will remember fondly. It was a very successful arcade game released by Bally/Midway in 1983, featuring a bartender slinging the game’s sponsor’s suds, Budweiser, to thirsty patrons in various bar settings, from old-west saloons, to far-out space-stations. The official cabinet even featured Bud labelled pull handles as controllers.  Via the obligatory outrage over a videogame peddling alcohol to the poor innocents of the local arcade, Bally/Midway pulled the game and re-tooled it as Root Beer Tapper the following year.

A remake called Tapper World Tour has just been released on the Apple app store, a version for the iPad at 1.99 CDN, and one for the iPhone at .99, although these are introductory prices so you better belly up to the bar fast.  The game was developed by Square One Studios, founded by animation great Don Bluth and his long-time business partner Gary Goldman.  Bluth, most famously known to video game aficionados as the man behind the artwork for the classic Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace laserdisc arcade games, also provides the artwork here.

Artwork for the mobile video game Tapper: World Tour, artwork by Dragon''s Lair creator Don Bluth

You can always recognize the work of the great Don Bluth


The iOS version plays a bit different than the game you might remember from the arcades.  Here, you get multiple lives, instead of it being a sudden-death game-ender if you screw up throwing drinks or picking up empties.  Instead of using any kind of virtual joystick to move your bartender between kegs, you tap on the screen to move and then tap again to serve drinks, so this extra tapping  (kind of gives a new meaning to the title, eh?  Heh heh heh) to position yourself takes some getting used to.  There are also power-ups you are granted for playing the campaign mode, and these can be used in-game to, for instance, make a patron automatically give a tip, which if picked up will grant you another life.  Another change is that you control when the entertainment starts, used to distract the customers and give you some breathing space.  Also, while distracted, these customers will grab drinks thrown them, making things a bit easier than the arcade version, where you had to be careful not to whiff one right by someone watching the floor show.

There are lots of different locations and varied characters in the campaign mode, which has you travelling the world slinging drinks to all manner of barflys.  What might be even more fun though is the endless mode, where you can choose one bar from among those you’ve beaten in the campaign, and just keep serving it up to a constant, never-ending crowd that moves increasingly faster up the bar as you play.  It gets wonderfully chaotic after awhile.

Bluth’s artwork and animation gives Tapper World Tour a lot of character, both literally and figuratively.  It’s great to see him back in action, lending his inimitable style to a great update of a classic game.  For more information on Bluth and his most famous contributions to video game history, consult your local TDE article on the laser game craze of the 1980’s here.  As well, here is a video clip of the ColecoVision version of the original Root Beer Tapper, just another in a long line of great coin-op conversions done for that console.  Cheers!