Whether you still bust out your black turtleneck in tribute to Steve Jobs or are a PC instead of a Mac, it’s hard not to see the appeal of iPhone and iPad gaming. Like it or not, these devices have revolutionized home and handheld gaming, leaving companies like Nintendo and Sony scrambling to avoid losing customers to the allure of Apple. For fans of 1980s arcade games, these devices allow trips back in time thanks to a variety of vintage favorites available. Either through modified versions of games like Pac-Man or fantastic exact replicas of titles such as Dragon’s Lair, there are tons of classics waiting for your time and money in the iTunes store. Yet being a complete bastard, this still doesn’t quite cut the mustard for me. There are still titles from yesteryear that haven’t made their way to iOS devices as of yet. If you are the type of person who finds this unacceptable, today’s Daily List is for you. Here then are seven suggestions for games that should be revived for the iPhone and iPad. Of course, these are just my personal picks. So be sure to mention your favorites in the comments!
7) Little Computer People
A few years after he revolutionized home gaming with Pitfall, David Crane further expanded the possibilities of the medium with Little Computer People. More of a sociological experiment than a game, the curious title allowed users to interact with a computerized being who lived in his own adorable pixelated house. Depending on the luck of the draw, your little computer person would range from gregarious to cranky. But no two characters were exactly the same (in his programming, Crane set out to ensure that every game presented a slightly different experience). While not a game changer in the videogame industry, the impact of Little Computer People can be seen in The Sims, Animal Crossing and the “virtual pet” phenomenon of the 1990s. Today though the game is nothing more than a footnote in Activision’s storied history. The title was ahead of its time when it initially hit stores in 1985. But if this were only available on iOS devices, I think it would be clear that the world was finally ready for the game’s miniaturized wonders.
6) Jet Grind Radio
If you’ve been to Toys “R” Us lately, you may have noticed Hasbro’s Cuponk offerings — throw a ball into a cup games that were apparently designed for people too lazy to play beer pong — priced for clearance. Featuring art from Tank Girl and Gorillaz artist Jamie Hewlett and irreverent packaging, the various Cuponk sets were carefully manufactured to be as hip as possible so that they would catch on with kids and college students. Like OK Soda before it, the corporate approach to edginess inherent in its design failed with its intended audience. Now Cuponk sets sit collecting dust. The same fate very easily could have met the Sega Dreamcast classic Jet Grind Radio. The graffiti, music and mischief on display in the game (known as Jet Set Radio elsewhere in the world) should have been as much of a mess as Epyx’s misguided Break Dance for the Commodore 64. As it turns out, Jet Grind Radio was as wild and inventive as the trends it was imitating. If the above fan-produced video is anything to go by, the game would be a natural fit for the iPhone. With Sega gasping its last breath, it seems like the perfect time for another company to swoop in and buy the Jet Grind Radio license. Let’s hope this happens, because DJ Professor K would rock handheld gaming.
5) Parappa the Rapper
A few months back, there were rumors that everybody’s favorite rapping videogame dog would make a comeback on the PS Vita. Don’t count on it. Sales of Sony’s handheld device haven’t exactly been shattering records so far, and Masaya Matsuura’s masterpiece –incredible though it may be — is a niche title at best. Where Parappa could shine again is on iOS products. Unfortunately, there are legal hurdles and licensing issues that would have to be overcome here. Plus, dormant franchise or not, it’s not likely that Sony would be eager to give one of their popular characters over to the juggernaut (and powerful rival) that is Apple. Still, stranger things have happened. Maybe one day you will be able to have the phrase “butter butter butter joins the bowl” lodged in your head or be able to mimic Chop Chop Master Onion from the comfort of your iPad. As Parappa himself reminds us, you gotta believe.
4) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Given the popularity of text messaging, it’s downright shocking that there has yet to be a resurgence of interest in text-based gaming on the iPhone. The greatest example of vintage graphic-less titles is still Infocom’s legendary The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Described as a piece of “interactive fiction” rather than merely just a game, the title was created with the direct involvement of Douglas Adams. As a result, the finished project wound up being as fun and frustrating as it was waiting for a new Adams book to hit store shelves during his lifetime. (Just ask anyone who ever tried to score or a babel fish or reach the surface of Magrathea). A free release like of the game through iTunes like the one available via the BBC’s website would be ideal. Yet it seems unlikely that this will happen in the near future. But the news isn’t all bad: Hothead Games is currently working on a real-life Hitchhiker’s Guide app that promises to feature narration by Simon Jones.
First off, let me state the obvious: Siri would be so much cooler if she sounded like Seaman. His voice is the perfect blend of soothing and sarcastic that blows Siri’s condescending pissiness away. Anyway, a port of the Dreamcast oddity is allegedly in the works for the Nintendo 3DS. Not good enough. You see, Seaman was born (hatched?) for the iPhone and iPad. Being able to talk with the creature through the devices would be more natural of an experience on Apple products than with the original game’s awkward microphone accessory. In the Sega version, you would have to use the joystick in order to control your avatar to tap on Seaman’s aquarium. The Apple touch screen allows you to eliminate the middleman here, with the rest of the joystick’s controls being equally iOS adaptable. Another advantage to playing the game on the iPhone would be the possible implementation of Siri to remind you to feed Seaman (the most irritating aspect of the original game would be if you forgot to play for a day or two, when you returned to it narrator Leonard Nimoy would invariably greet you with the news that “Seaman has died”). Okay, technically that’s cheating. Rather that then spending weeks talking with a computerized fishman only to have the damn thing die because you were busy playing Draw Something though.
2) Maniac Mansion
If my apartment full or Star Wars figures and credit card bill full of debt have taught me one thing, it’s this: George Lucas loves money. So why aren’t the classic Lucasarts games available for the iPhone yet? Sam and Max Hit the Road. Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders. Full Throttle. Day of the Tentacle. The Secret of Monkey Island. Etc. These were all seminal experiences in the life of any self-respecting gamer. Obviously all of these would translate well, but my personal favorite remains Maniac Mansion. It was the first point-and-click adventure I ever laid my nerdy hands on, and it opened up my mind to not only the creative potential of videogames but the comedic. With the notable exception of laughing my ass off whenever my brother got stuck in a pit while playing E.T., I never thought that games could be funny. Be it the strange kinkiness of Nurse Edna or the sublime pleasure that came from nuking Weird Ed’s hamster, Maniac Mansion was crammed with comedic possibilities. And it still is. Honestly at this point, I’d be willing to forgive George for the prequels if it meant I could have Razor with me everywhere I go.
1) Every Classic Arcade Game That is Otherwise Available Through Emulation
Well, duh. Admittedly this entry is a bit of cheat and more than just a little naive given the complexities involved in actually making such an idea a reality. If the success of the iTunes store has proven one thing it’s that consumers are more than willing to shell out cash for unfamiliar games. As a result, tons of upstart indie developers have released truly innovative titles. So it is logical to think that classic games would be even more successful, right? The rusty side of this double-edged sword is how many companies are selling clones of classic arcade games to cash in on the fact that the real thing isn’t available. There’s something sad about the fact that Kung Fu-Master (and its awesome chuka-chuka theme music) isn’t available for the iPhone but a no-frills take on the game called Kung Pow is. I still spend a good chunk of time playing it, but I always feel a sense that there’s something missing. Were I a less lazy man, I could emulate it using MAME. Though instead of having to do all the copyright infringing footwork that would put that on my phone, I would much rather have the option of giving Data East a few bucks through iTunes. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Obviously there’s more profit for companies like Nintendo to make their vast libraries available through their own channels. But I defy you to find any Super Mario Bros. junkie who wouldn’t buy it for their portable device and still pony up for it again through the Wii Shop Channel. Corporate concerns aside, there’s also the complexities of licensing and the actual porting of games from various manufacturers — some long gone — so that they play properly on iOS products. So while I may want to relive the button-mashing fun of a game like Aliens (see above) on my way home from work, it is probably never going to happen. That’s okay… albeit a little irksome. You see, we are currently on the threshold of an age where every type of entertainment will be available on demand through streaming, clouds and other services that are far too complex for the average man to think about without getting a migraine. But we aren’t quite there yet. So maybe the next time you get ready to tweet about how shitty it is that Popeye isn’t available to play during your subway ride, take a breath, turn off your phone and breathe. Everything will be available somehow sooner or later. Have patience my friends.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.