Nos­tal­gia play


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.

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