The thrill of realising you can play the classic arcade games you grew up with on your smartphone is immediately gone once you actually try to guide Pac-Man around a maze using touchscreen controls. It’s so frustrating that you might consider carrying around one of these incredibly tiny arcade machines in your pocket, in addition to your phone.
When a game is specifically designed to be played using a touchscreen, like Angry Birds or Super Mario Run, it can be a very enjoyable experience, as directly interacting with on-screen characters enables some unique gameplay elements.
But games developed in the ’80s, when touchscreens were primitive at best, were designed around joysticks, buttons and other physical hardware. Replicating those controls as on-screen buttons means you’ll be constantly looking away from the game itself to make sure your fingers are in the right place. It’s an added distraction you don’t need when you’re trying to outrun a bunch of ghosts.
Super Impulse, the company responsible for making everything from miniature Rubik’s Cubes to keychain-sized versions of Stretch Armstrong, is coming out with a new series of four incredibly tiny arcade cabinets featuring officially licensed versions of Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Galaxian.
The prototypes we were able to try out at Toy Fair featured the same graphics as the original Namco arcade cabinets, in addition to a tiny joystick and a pair of buttons. Those controls felt far more clicky and stiff than the joysticks and buttons on the arcades we remembered playing as kids, but they still felt far more natural than using simulated on-screen controls to play these classic titles.
Each battery-powered arcade cabinet comes with just a single title, and even if you don’t wear glasses, you’ll probably find yourself squinting at their tiny, thumbnail-sized screens. Pricing and availability haven’t been finalised yet, but you can expect to find these tiny arcades in stores later this year, priced to be an impulse purchase while you’re waiting in line at the checkout and find yourself reminiscing about your Space Invaders days.