Anyone remember LCD handhelds? Many people are familiar with Nintendo’s Game & Watch, and I remember playing Tiger games growing up, especially the Batman handheld that I beat numerous times. UFO Interactive has published Retro Pocket, complete with eight minigames, for five dollars, which should allow those feeling nostalgic for those types of games to relive that experience. Younger audiences might not know what an LCD handheld was like, so here’s a quick explanation: back in the day, you might see a handheld with a single background on it. Players would press buttons to move an object (usually a person or, say, a car) back and forth across the screen, lighting up LCD lights. Your job would be to attack bad guys or avoid objects. If it sounds simple, that’s because it was. In fact, here’s the advertisement for Retro Pocket so you can see first-hand what UFO Interactive is giving to gamers.
Retro Pocket is basically a collection of eight minigames: Candy Factory, Egg Drop, Fireman, Fuel Drop, Kung Fu Hero, Postman, Watch Your Head, and Whale Escape. Each game has two “sides,” or modes. One minor annoying thing about the game itself is that whenever you exit a game, it’ll take you to the game selection screen and put you on Fireman, regardless of what game you were on before then. I found this to be a bit odd, considering it’d probably make more sense to stay on the game you had just gotten out of, and was not pleased with having to cycle through all the minigames in order to get to the one I wanted, lest I accidentally pick Fireman… again.
Candy Factory, Egg Drop, and Watch Your Head are similar to the Game & Watch title Oil Panic. Basically, your job is to catch candy, eggs, or h-beams and put them away in different containers. In Candy Factory, Side A has you working two lines, and in Side B, it has you working on three. In other words, it doesn’t get much more complicated between sides. Watch Your Head is similar in that instead of the one coworker throwing h-beams at you on Side A, Side B has you catching h-beams from two coworkers. In Egg Drop, Side A has you simply collecting eggs, while in Side B, there are also snakes you have to attack by pressing A or B, depending on what side of the screen the snake comes onto. This actually does make the game a bit more difficult and probably the most enjoyable of the three games.
Fireman is basically Fire, and you play a fireman putting out fires and catching damsels in distress who jump out of the building. Side A has you putting out fires and catching falling damsels, while Side B doesn’t appear to be much different. You lose a life if a whole column of fire hits the building or if the woman falls to her death. Kung Fu Hero has you fighting off gang members who are throwing beer bottles at what is presumably your girlfriend. Side B is more difficult, with you having to deal with men traveling below the balcony you’re on to cut down the lantern that is hanging above your girlfriend’s hair. If you’re looking for a comparison here, any of the fighting Batman games will do, except in Batman you generally could do more than one attack.
Postman is, in a way, the opposite of the Oil Panic premise: this minigame has you delivering mail to three different people’s mailboxes while avoiding their dogs. On Side B, you only get three envelopes that you can carry, and the mailbox from which you get your mail switches between the left and right sides of the screen, making the game marginally more difficult. Whale Escape is basically Octopus remade, and it has you crawling over a whale, avoiding its spout and the random bird flying over, in order to save a baby that is trapped in the whale’s mouth. Side B adds in the addition and removal of the tail, which will cause you to fall into the water if you aren’t careful. This does not add much in the way of difficulty.
Fuel Drop is easily the most unique game of the set, and is the only minigame that takes the spirit of LCD gaming and makes it more modern. In this minigame, you rotate the oil drums using L and R to match the color of the drops falling into them. On Side B, the drops fall asynchronously, meaning that you’ll have to be a bit more careful when lining up your oil drums. I wish that more of the minigames in this set were like this one, as it was easily the best executed and most interesting to play. It is also the only one that feels unique.
That seems to be the main thing about Retro Pocket: it’s a lovely trip down memory lane, but there’s not much by way of current innovation to keep you interested. While mobile games and other handheld games owe a lot to notable LCD handhelds like Mattel Auto Race and the Game & Watch series, just giving us those to play isn’t going to keep most people interested for very long, given how much has changed in the twenty to thirty years since those types of games have been popular. The game I ended up sinking the most time into was Fuel Drop, and that was because I hadn’t played a game similar to it and it wasn’t like any of the other minigames in the game. When you look at the lineup, you’ve got three games like Oil Drop and one that’s basically the opposite of that idea, a Fire knockoff, an Octopus knockoff, and a game that’s kind of like the Batman game I played growing up, minus the variety of abilities you have. Fuel Drop is the only game that’s in a league of its own.
If you’re looking for a look back into the past and all its nostalgic glory, this is a good piece to get it, especially for only five dollars. The graphics remain true to the spirit of LCD handheld gaming, as do the soundtrack and sound effects. However, if you’re looking for something old with a bit of something new in it, this might not be the set for you. The pace of the minigames remain pretty slow for most of the games, even after you’ve been playing for a while and gotten a score high enough that the minigame starts to increase the speed. Fuel Drop, Kung Fu, and Whale Escape are worth the money, but most of the others are fairly bland, and quite a few of them are too similar in concept to honestly be considered different minigames. I don’t think this game has enough new ideas to it to hook people who aren’t already hankering for some LCD handheld action.
Control and Gameplay: GREAT
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Miscellaneous: ABOVE AVERAGE
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
If you’re looking for retro games in all their glory, go for Retro Pocket. It’s only five dollars, and UFO Interactive did a great job of making this game feel like LCD gaming used to feel. If you’re looking for a twist on the classics, however, this is probably not the best game to pick up. Fuel Drop, Kung Fu, and Whale Escape are worth the money, but most of the others are fairly bland, and quite a few of them are too similar in concept to honestly be considered different minigames. Anyone who didn’t grow up on LCD gaming is probably not going to understand what the appeal of these games were in the first place.