My wife gets nervous whenever I mention arcade cabinets or pinball machines. It's an understandable sentiment, because a good friend of mine has a basement filled with over two dozen vintage machines. She knows that as soon as one sneaks through the door, more will undoubtedly follow.
Archie Jones faced a similar problem a couple of years ago. He wanted to build a multi-game arcade unit, but his wife didn't want a refrigerator-sized machine lurking in the corner. The result is the American Ace Arcade—a scaled-down arcade machine that stands just over 4 feet high. It's the perfect height for kids or seated adults.
The design looks absolutely beautiful and Archie just rolled out an affordable Kickstarter project for anyone interested in getting their hands on one. Pledging $40 gets you a set of plans, blueprints and full-sized templates to make cutting side panels a breeze.
If you're not quite so into DIY, a $300 pledge gets you a cabinet kit that assembles with only a screwdriver, and you can add a $150 pre-drilled control panel (USB arcade controller, sanwa joystick and happ buttons) and accessory kit (marquee lights, t-molding, plexiglass and marquee retainers). There's also a $250 personalized artwork option which gets you the side panel art, marquee and control panel overlay.
Once you have the cabinet assembled, what goes inside is up to you. You'll need to supply your own monitor, sound system and game board (PC-based MAME arcade emulator, JAMMA multi-game, or even a home game console).
The fit and finish of the American Ace Arcade looks first rate and it's an excellent alternative to buying a pre-built unit, which can easily cost several thousand dollars. The compact size makes it easy to accomodate in the corner of a family room and makes it absolutely irresistable to kids. And if you like the compact cabinet but want something that adults can play standing, it should be easy to build a small pedestal to raise the unit.
So what are you waiting for? Check out Archie's American Ace Arcade and let me know what you think!
I realize that chiptune covers of classic 80s songs aren't exactly new (someday we'll lay down a whole setlist of C64 SID chip covers of 80s classics), but this fresh take on the classic "This Charming Man" by The Smiths is just so right. Of course anyone can play any tune on any oddball instrument to get a laugh, but in this case the instrumentation and arrangement are perfection. How can this not have been a video game from the golden age? I dare you to get this tune out of your head, or to stop your d-pad thumb from twitching all day.
Okay, so what would a video game based on The Smiths be like? It would have to alternate between jubilance and murk, that's a given. I imagine you'd play the part of old Stephen Patrick Morrissey (his single-pixel pompadour bouncing with every skip). First level you'd have to slink quietly through a dusty library, trying to score dates with English Lit majors by dropping some Wilde, Keats & 60s pop queen references.
Spurned, you move on to an uncustomary bright London day looking for Shyness or Coyness (hoping they'll be nice, though they can also stop you). If you don't find Love, don't worry. The Bomb will bring you together. Hint: A+B+pause will give you even more tortured metaphors for "death". Avoid panic, the boy with the thorn in his side, hooligans (no matter how sweet and tender they may seem) and right when you think you have five seconds to spare - Bigmouth strikes again! In the bonus round, you upgrade your character to both son and heir, finding sadly that it's to nothing in particular.
After all of your travails (and moping), you can see the the other members of The Smiths at the far end of the screen. Reunion concert? Nope... it's just Johhny Marr telling you that the rest of the band are in another castle. Actually it's 1998 and the other two members of the band await you in a courtroom to press a lawsuit. A bit depressing and anti-climactic for a video game, I grant you... but this is The Smiths game we're talking about. It was really nothing.
Miss ol' Moz's voice? Here's a (sloooooow, but impressive) mashup of "This Charming Man" and something by that Lana Del Rey so many people are grousing about.
This year will see a lot of Atari celebrating the founding of the company 40 years ago. You can expect that we'll do our fair share here on Retro Thing, but you may also see some retro punters take a shot. Target has teamed up with General Mills to offer kid's cereals in classic packaging (again). The idea is to bring back some of that 70s vibe when all that mattered on a Saturday morning was slamming down some Lucky Charms, watching SuperFriends and edging up that Space Invaders score.
The nostalgic packaging is cute, but the "Atari Activities" promised on the box are a little pale. Let's ignore the fact that a sterile name like "Atari Activities" doesn't exactly sound "Totally Radical". of the box has some puzzles and riddles that I'm not sure would actually engage the kids who are supposed to eat the cereal, or even a retro gaming hound like me. There is an online version of Centipede you can play, so I guess that's something... but I was hoping for at least a lame 70's era cereal prize like an Atari sticker, or a patch or something. It would be great to have a little souvenir of so many years of Atari fun. I don't fault General Mills for cashing in on Atari nostalgia, but I am disappointed that they cheaped out so badly.
Todd Holcomb writes, "Here's my new Atari 2600 game that's a follow-up to the classic Atari game, Adventure. Featuring all new enemies, castles, and mazes, it utilizes the Pitfall II engine to produce pretty graphics. It will soon be available in the AtariAge store. Check it out in the development thread at Atari Age—you'll need the latest version of Stella or Harmony cart to play."
Because the graphics are based on the Pitfall II engine, it really pushes the limits of the 2600. I would have loved a game like this back in the day. Todd plans to release Epic Adventure on cartridge in early 2012. It's like being back in 1982... except better.
I'm surprised no one cooked up the idea of the Retrode 2 game adapter sooner. It's a little box that allows you to attach real Nintendo Super NES and Sega Genesis cartridges and controllers to your computer.
Once everything is hooked up, you can access the program ROM and SRAM (for game saves) on the cartridges using an emulator. A maximum of 2 Genesis and 2 SNES controllers can be connected at once -- you can even use all four controllers at the same time for some wicked multi-player action. You don't even need cartridges to play if you already have ROM images loaded onto your PC.
Retrode 2 measures 162mm x 80mm x 42mm and retails for $85. The package includes a USB cable and instruction sheet, and the manufacturer promises driverless operation under any OS with any SNES or Genesis emulator.
All in all, this is a neat emulation solution for people who don't like the idea of scouring the dark underbelly of the Internet for illicit ROM collections.
The Vic 20 computer made chunky 8 bit waves in the history of video gaming. Commodore offered a joystick that was an albino version of the ol' Atari CX-40 [see smaller photo]. The C64 hit the scene later, and became a gaming classic despite Commodore's issue of possibly the crappiest joystick ever - the notorious 1311.
An initial look at the Commodore 1311 might make you think it's got some interesting ideas in the design. It's smaller profile fits in the hand a bit better, and that centered wide fire button seems like it would work for lefties too. The your eyes fall on the triangular joystick. Wait, what?
Corners on a joystick? Three angles to dig into your vulnerable hand during a marathon gaming session? Why not just put razor blades in there? It doesn't just look nasty, it IS nasty. I remember being really excited when my best friend got a C64, and tried really hard not to weep at the hideous pain from this joystick. Oh yeah, and that narrow profile thing is the bunk too. I find diminished stability, making me push harder, bringing the pain faster.
Retro gamers have strong opinions of which is the worst joystick ever, but you haven't been to the front lines until you've suffered through this gaming abomination.
At first glance, the Game Theory Admiral looks like a first generation Game Boy Advance. It's around the same size too - it even has a pretty solid build. The cart slot is a little different, so what goes in there? Oh... the crazy adapter thing that was bundled in the box.
Then what? Looks like the right kind of slot for a Famicom cart. That's the original Japanese release of Nintendo's video game powerhouse. The cartridge is pretty small, so maybe this oddball arrangement can kind of work? I powered up the very peculiar setup, and yes - it does work. The screen is a backlit TFT - not the worst screen I've seen, but at this low resolution it's hard to make out the elements of the many games I tried. Audio is weird too, but that's common to most NES clones out there.
The Game Theory Admiral was alleged to include (mine didn't) small pigtail leads that adapt a full sized NES controller to connect to the portable. Two people trying to share a single tiny screen wouldn't work too well, but the GTA can output to a full sized TV. Kinda neat, but pretty much defeats the whole purpose of having a pocket sized game unit.
This is the cousin of a notorious portable NES bootleg called the Game Axe (which still trades hands for unreasonable money - pictured here.) The GTA is neat for a collector, but I wouldn't recommend it for really enjoying a game. The GTA is unusually sturdy for a bootleg (with the controller buttons and d-pad getting a special mention for being well executed), but the loopy design just invites trouble. Having that Famicom cart flopping around is just asking for a lost connection during an exciting game session.
The question you might ask is whether an American NES cart can play on the Game Theory Admiral. The answer is yes, but you wouldn't want to. Not only do you have to contend with the much larger NES cart, but there's extra height added when plugging in the Famicom slot adapter. Promising start, but really... this thing is just ridiculous.
Just stick with one of the newer portable NES units by Hyperkin or Yobo with better screens and (hopefully) better design overall. You'll also not run into the danger specified in the Game Theory Admiral's manual.
"Relevant Crazy Warning! When take a look at in the usualenvironment inside usually a certain flashlight that appear or a certainpattern, minimum amount the part of people will or crazy disease go into actionis take placed to temporary lose the consciousness".
You just can't afford to ignore a warning like that.
8-bit Dinosaur is our latest limited edition pixel t-shirt. It's yours free when you buy a Retro Thing Clear Classic USB joystick for $29.95.
But be warned - this bundle is only available for the next seven days. Try to get it after Wednesday, December 14th and I'll just peer mournfully over the top of my scratched old spectacles, mumble something inaudible and shuffle off into the kitchen in search of a late-night Popsicle.
When you plug the limited edition USB joystick (one of only 500) into your Mac or PC, it lights from inside with a brilliant red glow. It's the perfect partner for the Stella Atari 2600 emulator (free download) and is also compatible with Atari, Amiga and Commodore emulators. It even supports the MAME arcade system and modern games that work with a standard USB D-pad.
The 8-bit Dinosaur design is available on adult and kid's "cardinal red" shirts. Each pixel tee is screen printed on a heavyweight 6.1oz Gildan Ultra Cotton shirt in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by a genuine American named Rick. There's no digital tomfoolery here, nor are our shirts made by 3-week-old kittens slaving at gunpoint in North Korean sweatshops.
The 8-bit Dinosaur Joystick Package is a great way to declare to the world that you're an 8-bit gamer.
Includes a clear Atari-style USB joystick with red circuit board + bright red LED and a screen printed 6.1 oz Gildan Ultra Cotton tee. $29.95 + shipping.
Don't see an 'add to cart' button? Click here
We've also brought back our incredibly popular 8-bit Invader design for this special. These black shirts are available in adult and kid's sizes.
The 8-bit Invader Joystick Package pays tribute to the evil monsters that made video games so addictive during the early years.
Includes a clear Atari-style USB joystick with red circuit board + LED and a screen printed 6.1 oz Gildan Ultra Cotton tee. $29.95 + shipping.
Don't see an 'add to cart' button? Click here
The USB joysticks will ship to you within 24 hours for US orders. Rick will print the shirts late next week, so they'll ship separately the week before Christmas and likely won't arrive in time to go under the tree. International orders will ship as a single shipment.
So what are you waiting for? This is the best deal ever on Retro Thing schwag.
Chris Taber just sent me a link to his brand new $199 Analogue Arcade Stick. This stunning wooden work of art is compatible with all Neo Geo home consoles and features the same joystick and buttons that were built into the original Neo Geo arcade units.
It weighs in at 3.9 lbs and comes in ebonized ash or walnut. The heart of the controller is a Seimitsu LS-40 joystick topped by a 35mm black balltop, along with four 30mm game buttons laid out exactly where you'd expect to find them (and I do mean exactly). An additional pair of 24mm Start and Select buttons are hidden conveniently on the rear. The unit includes a 6 foot removable controller cord, too.
The only problem I can see is that there's currently a 5-7 week backlog of orders.
Atari's Greatest Hits package for the iPhone has scored over 3.5 million downloads to date. In response, the company has unveiled the same package for Android users. The core app is available for free download and includes Missile Command. If you like what you see, you can purchase all 100 Atari 2600 and arcade titles for $9.99, or mix and match from 25 4-game packs at 99 cents each.
My only complaint (apart from the obvious lack of physical game buttons) is that there's quite a lot of padding in the collection. For example, the Centipede pack includes the arcade versions of Centipede and Millipede along with their not-quite-so-fun Atari 2600 home equivalents.
Still, this looks like tons of fun for Android aficionados with a strong retro gaming streak and the price is more than fair.
You have to wonder how many times Atari is going to allow AtGames to trot out repackaged editions of the 2600. This itty, bitty version of the old workhorse includes five dozen titles and has joystick ports on the front instead of the rear. It also includes a limited edition Atari poster, two slightly miniaturized versions of the classic single button stick and, um, that's about it.
This time around it looks like they've stuck exclusively to Atari titles — there are no Activision classics like Pitfall on board. Still, you get a handful of essential 2600 games like Asteroids (with trippy mauve asteroids), Missile Command, Yar's Revenge (with a trippy neutral zone) and Centipede. Sadly, there's a lot of filler here as well — only a dedicated (or very bored) fan is likely to while away hours playing Combat, 3D Tic-Tac-Toe or Hangman.
I can't say I'll be trading in my Flashback 2 for one of these, but if you missed out last time this is definitely a fun way to step back in time by about three decades. Just remember — Buy Microsoft, then dump it and buy Apple before the turn of the century and you'll be laughing.
Woah. It looks like the iPad arcade cabinet thing is gaining momentum.
Taito is poised to release a Space Invaders iPad cab in October. It's designed to work with their Space Invaders HD app, naturally. The 31 cm tall cabinet includes built-in stereo speakers and a charging dock. There's also a headphone jack, in case you want to try out your new toy in your cubicle without the boss knowing. Or something
Unlike ThinkGeek's well-endowed iCade, the Taito cabinet features only a single button and the joystick. It remains to be seen whether other titles will be released to take advantage of the InvaderCade, but a Japanese list price of 15,800 Yen (over $200) may sharply curb its appeal.
Super Pixel Bros., the brainchild of Brad Slattery, is a reduction of the classic Nintendo game into its pure blocky essence. A reimagining of the original "Super Mario Bros.," Super Pixel Bros. boils down all the characters, blocks and other bits of the scrolling Mushroom Kingdom world into an 8-pixel-by-8-pixel handheld. Mario is a single pixel, as are the enemies and the projectiles you can fire.
"The game shares some similarities with the original, you just need to use your imagination since all the characters are represented by a single pixel," Brad writes. His version has 20 levels, based on the originals, and even includes boss fights. (Your single-pixel hero has to jump on his single-pixel nemesis a certain number of times before hitting the ground.)
He is working on plans to sell the PCB boards, which combined with off-the-shelf parts and his open source code would be enough to build the game. (A custom case might be fun to design yourself.) He also is working on a possible full-kit version. Either way, this is probably less of a beginner DIY electronic project, since it relies on tiny surface-mount components.
Still, with the challenging gameplay and the ability to make new levels, anyone willing to take it on could be in for some long-term fun.
[via Hack a Day]
I first stumbled across the Atari Video Computer System at Sears in 1978. I was amazed, but my parents regarded it with deep scepticism -- the console was expensive and the games looked like simple novelties that would be quickly forgotten. Annoyingly, they were absolutely right.
Atari managed to change their opinion in time for the 1980 holidays with the introduction of Space Invaders -- a surprisingly fun port of the arcade hit -- and a new lower price of $144.95 at JC Penny. They weren't the only ones to finally pull the trigger; Atari console sales quadrupled that year.
My parents' timing couldn't have been better, because that holiday season marked the beginning of the Atari VCS golden age. Here are my favorite Atari titles to hit store shelves three decades ago, in 1981. Interestingly, all were arcade ports.
Asteroids (1981, Brad Stewart)
Originally released in 1979, Asteroids was a challenging game to port to the 2600 because of the original's distinctive B&W vector line graphics. It turned out to be a tricky game to code and became the first VCS title to use a bank switched cartridge that allowed 8K of program code. The 2600's low resolution display gave the game a dramatically different look and feel than the arcade original, but the game play was close enough that it didn't matter -- it was a smash hit.
Missile Command (1981, Rob Fulop)
The best thing about the arcade version of Missile Command was the trackball used to aim missiles. The 2600 version had to make do with joystick control, and I'm sure many joystick shafts were broken as players subconsciously twisted their controllers harder and harder in an attempt to make the targeting cross-hairs move a bit faster across the screen. This was another VCS title that paled in comparison to the arcade original, but still offered game play that was fun enough to keep things entertaining.
Video Pinball (1981, Bob Smith)
Atari got surprising mileage from Video Pinball. It was originally released in 1978 as a coin-op, followed soon after by a standalone home console and finally the VCS port. The trick to beating the game is to stop paying attention while you play -- a good background conversation will help you to reach a high score every time (the same approach works brilliantly with Atari's Night Driver). Video Pinball looks nothing like a real pinball machine, of course, but Smith managed to simulate the physics of a real ball and the essence of the game. The biggest challenge for players was learning to use the joystick to control the flippers and plunger without nudging the table too aggressively.
Warlords (1981, Carla Meninsky)
Despite the heroic name, Warlords is actually a Breakout derivative. The playing field features four castles with protective shields under the command of a paddle controller or the computer. The cramped, fast-paced gameplay made it one of the most popular titles of the year and the ability for up to four players to join in made it great as a party game.
As good as these 1981 titles were, the best was still to come. 1982 saw the birth of Activision -- the world's first third party console developer, and perhaps Atari's biggest strategic miscalculation -- and the release of dozens of outstanding 2600 titles. But let's save those games for next year.
Classic Retro Thing