Unless you’ve been living under a rock or chained to your desk at work for the past three years, you’ve noticed the resurgence of classic arcade games, both in console bundles and retro-themed arcades. For all the next-generation graphics and bloom effects, it seems, five-pixel sprites are just as hot. Maybe it’s the popularity of That 70’s Show. Maybe it’s retailers’ rediscovery of bellbottoms. Maybe it’s the increasing age of the average gamer and our continual pining for a simpler time, a time without physics processors, utility bills and taxes. Nah, it couldn’t be that. I’ll blame it on creative marketing.
Whatever the reason, JAKKS Pacific has also brought classic arcade games back to our living room, and it doesn’t require a console. In fact, these games just require a special joystick that plugs directly into your TV. Called TV Games, these joysticks bring old-school gamers back into our formative years while bringing younger gamers who didn’t get a chance to play these classics a greater appreciation for just how far videogames have come.
Ms. Pac Man TV Games is the package we’ve just finished caressing, and let me tell you, it brings back some serious memories. Memories of microwave dinners eaten on a Dukes of Hazzard TV tray. Of bad haircuts received while watching Queen music videos. Of top-down shooters done not to capture a sense of nostalgia, but to capture the most fascinating technology available at the time.
Far from the eight-button, two-thumbstick controllers of today, the Ms. Pac Man TV Games system looks like a classic arcade joystick, but it still has rather diverse controls. For Galaga, Xevious, Ms. Pac Man and Mappy, the joystick moves in four directions. For Pole Position, the fifth game included in Ms. Pac Man TV Games, the joystick twists to support steering. Two buttons shift up and down or fire bullets and missiles, nothing more, nothing less. And the last button, which actually has no in-game function, serves to take players back to the menu, from which they can then select their game of choice.
The games are each perfect replicas of their respective originals, from the graphics on down to the gameplay. This leads to some good and bad moments. The gameplay, for example, it as refreshingly simple yet addictive as you remember, but the response time of Ms. Pac Man’s controls is just as iffy as you remember as well, so you need to be really deliberate and forceful. This will be a rude awakening for gamers who’ve gotten used to today’s responsive controls, but the more you play with TV Games, the more you’ll realize it controls (or fails to) exactly like the joysticks of yore. In the process, you’ll also remember why, and how often, the joysticks of yore needed to be replaced.
With that said, the Ms. Pac Man TV Games control is surprisingly durable, and the four-battery-powered case lasts longer than you’d expect its $20-$30 price to last. The model we tested plugged directly into the television, but JAKKS Pacific also has a wireless version of Ms. Pac Man TV Games, if you’re averse to wires. We can’t vouch for the system’s durability, of course, but if it’s anything like the wired version, it should provide for many “Prepare to Qualify” mumblings.
Ms. Pac Man TV Games isn’t going to win any awards for innovation or graphics, but it’s not supposed or designed to. Instead, this is designed to capture the classic gaming scene of the 1980s, something it does perfectly. If you’re sick and tired of the next-gen posturing and want to be teleported back to a time when everything, especially videogames, was simpler, Ms. Pac Man TV Games is calling your name.
- Emulation: 9
- If it weren’t for the HDTV, I’d have sworn I was back playing on the 13-incher in the `980s den.
- Graphics: N/A
- They look like they’re supposed to: old and chunky, but oh-so-classic.
- Sound: N/A
- It’s amazing how “plink, plink, plink” sounds the same 20 years later.
- Overall: 8.5
- It perfectly captures these five arcade classics, but you’ll be surprised just how quickly you tire of them.
— Jonas Allen