Simon, the classic four-colour memory game, has managed to remain popular for decades despite countless other electronic distractions at our disposal. But all brands struggle to remain relevant through ever-changing fads, and in a valiant attempt to remain hip, Hasbro is now taking a cue from virtual reality setups like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
The new wearable version of Simon — out this spring, just in time to throw together a low-rent Daft Punk Halloween costume — immerses players in a memory-challenging rainbow.
Called Simon Optix, it’s similar to the Simon Air in that you don’t have to touch it — instead, it has motion sensors to detect the hand gestures of players repeating a coloured pattern. The big “upgrade” this year, however, is that you now wear the memory game on your head like a pair of VR goggles.
Virtual reality’s renaissance hasn’t exactly been the runaway hit Silicon Valley had hoped it would be, so we’re a bit curious as to why Hasbro decided to use it for inspiration. VR’s flop is partly due to pricey hardware, but also because of the monstrous and awkward headsets users have to wear. Simon Optix is a little sleeker than strapping a smartphone to your face, but you’re probably not going to want to wear and play it on your morning commute.
Infrared sensors that can detect hand motions replace Simon’s classic glowing buttons.
A series of infrared sensors around the headset can detect the presence of a hand, and while the game’s glowing buttons have been replaced with a series of red, yellow, green and blue LEDs that illuminate a see-through visor, the gameplay is essentially the same as the classic version. You’re going to look like you’re swatting away invisible flies while you’re playing, but it’s better than what happens to most people when they first try VR.
It’s also the first version of the game to support head-to-head multiplayer. You don’t have to stare into your opponents’ cold, fiercely competitive eyes while you play, but you’ll need to stay nearby, since the headsets use infrared signals instead of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
The toy is actually reminiscent of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called The Game where the ship’s crew find themselves hopelessly addicted to a head-worn game that seems eerily similar to Optix. In that TNG episode, the game had been created by aliens hoping to brainwash and infiltrate the Enterprise, but we’re going to assume that Hasbro isn’t secretly an alien race trying to infiltrate mankind.