away your XBox!
Plug-and-play games are cooler, cheaper, less trouble
John “jaQ” Andrews
Video game consoles are
getting more and more expensive.
The latest consoles
announced recently by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will debut this
Christmas season at prices approaching $300.
Not to mention the
games themselves. You want to actually play, right? Each game sets you
back about $50 when it’s first released. Wait a few months and you might
find it on the discount rack.
But if you’re not going
bleeding-edge anyway, why not go retro? Today’s video games suffer from
horrendous complexity, long loading times and disappointing sacrifices
of fun to the vengeful god of Better Graphics. The mid ’80s to early
’90s are considered by many to be the Golden Age of gaming, and now,
through the miracle of ever-decreasing memory chip costs, you can relive
those heady days. And not get shackled to one gaming console.
games have been around a couple of years now, but they’re just starting
to explode in variety and capability. The basic concept is a controller
(or two) that has a few games built in and connects directly to your
television. It may be powered by batteries or have an AC adapter. You
never buy game cartridges or discs — the hardware and software are
inseparable. Best of all, they’re cheap: most can be had for under $20.
Atari was one of the
first to release a retro collection of games-on-a-controller. It looks
just like a classic Atari 2600 joystick with a few extra buttons for
power and such. Ten games, including Asteroids, Centipede and even Pong,
are stored on a memory chip inside.
Atari followed up with
the Flashback Classic Game Console, a two-player model with fifteen 2600
games and five 7800 games, including Saboteur, a game that’s never
previously been released.
Of course Atari
couldn’t stay the only player (ha!) for long. Radica has since
introduced several themed Arcade Legends games, like Tetris and Space
Invaders. The Tetris game has two controllers and offers five different
modes of play. Space Invaders includes Phoenix, Lunar Rescue, Qix and
Colony 7 as well as the title game.
Jakks sells a whole
slew of games, and actually packages the first Atari offering. Jakks
offers both retro collections from Atari and Intellivision as well as
new licensed games with Spiderman, Star Wars and Spongebob Squarepants
themes, among many others.
Jakks controllers are
often shaped like a character’s face, so you’re grabbing Spongebob’s
nose and mashing Darth Vader’s chest buttons. It can be somewhat
disturbing, but fun if you can look past the design element.
You might also find
various casino games stuffed onto a plug-and-play unit. While they
really don’t have the retro appeal of these other games or the cheapness
of, say, a deck of cards, they might be useful for practice before your
big trip to Vegas.
Possibly the greatest
thing about these games is that they’re simple fun. Easy to set up and
easy to play, they’re a welcome change from the big-budget, brand-new,
complex games of today.
John Andrews, also known as jaQ, is not only a technical wiz but he also
writes and sings his own songs. Each week in Hippo he examines some
facet of the gadget/techie world and offers his advice for how to get
the most technology bang for your buck. Have questions for jaQ? E-mail
him at citizenjaQ@softhome.net.