It’s a heck of a month for players of a certain vintage. For all that this is a medium defined by, and inextricably wedded to, the forward march of technology, developers aren’t afraid to use more powerful hardware to riff off the past, rather than look to the future.
Some do both. To those of you grey enough about the temples to remember when it was your imagination, rather than a procedural algorithm, that filled in the blanks between Elite’s stark vectors, No Man’s Sky (p106), despite its problems, feels like a childhood dream come true. Though, admittedly, we don’t remember fantasising about being a spacefaring carbon-gatherer.
If you’re a little too young for that to resonate, first of all, congratulations and enjoy it while you can. Then, perhaps we can point you to Unbox (p118), which doesn’t so much pay tribute to the mid-’90s 3D platformer as completely reprise it, albeit with a lick of 2016-era polygonal paint and a sprawling approach to level design that 32bit-console processors could never match. Playing a little closer to that visual template is the, er, ‘lo-fi’ Metroid Federation Force (p114), a sort of spiritual successor to Metroid Prime that loses out to its 14-year-old predecessor in more than just aesthetics. Warp back 30 years and offer an Elite player No Man’s Sky and they would bite your hand off; likewise a
Banjo-Kazooie fan for Unbox. Yet travel back a quarter of a century and offer an arcade-goer a Pac-Man game in which you can jump, fight bosses and – heavens – brake and they would probably send you packing. It shouldn’t work, yet Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is this month’s star: a game that drags an old idea into the present, kicking and screaming, and gets almost everything right. Perhaps the future looks bright after all.