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Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone: 1975-76

Every week for the next couple of months, No D-pad will spotlight key games from the last 40 years of gaming.  Not only will this retrospective give readers a brief history of the industry, we will also point out notable classics and clones from that bygone era that are now available in the app store.  We hope you enjoy.

1975- While home gaming was growing in popularity due to the now infamous device known as Pong, a new type of game was entering the scene for computer gamers who wanted a more cerebral experience.  Graphical limitations and memory constraints confined games to small stories on single screens.  Expansive worlds found in contemporary FPSs and RPGs were simply impossible to create unless the experience came from the mind.  A few techno-savvy computer students decided to take up the challenge of providing bigger worlds and more plots to video games by spawning a new genre of games: text adventures AKA interactive fiction.

Left: screenshot from Advent Right: Frotz for the iPhone

Like an interactive book, players would read a paragraph or two about their surroundings and then proceed to manipulate their virtual world by typing messages back to the mainframe.  In many ways these simple IF-statement games laid the groundwork for inclusion of story development in all video games.  Although these early games were buggy, they evolved quickly into complex puzzler or in-depth character-driven mysteries.  The very first game of this type was a title called Adventure (also Colossal Cave); it is now available for free in the app store under the name Advent.  The app store also has a great collection of 255 other text adventures in one free downloadable package titled Frotz.

Dual stick controls over the years

Midway's Gunfight and the iPhone's Minigore: both are dual stick shooters

Other notable events from 1975 include the first-ever dual joystick shooter called Gun Fight by Midway.  This arcade title wasn’t a big hit at the time, but the idea of utilizing two controls– one for the movement of the player and the other for aim of the gun– had a monumental effect twenty-years later when the concept was shrank down utilized by both Nintendo and Sony in their home systems.  Now the dual stick is just a common to video games as Mario.  For a great dual stick experience on the iPhone check out Minigore or the upcoming Pirate’s Gold.

1976- Lots of exciting things were being developed in 1976, but not much found its way to consumers that year.  Breakout, designed by Apple’s own Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, is the notable exception.  Similar to Pong in design, the purpose of the game is to reflect an ever-bouncing all at a series bricks at the top of the screen.  Once all the blocks were gone, players would advance to the next level.  Super Breakout is now available on the iPhone.  But if you want something closer to the original, try the clone BrickOut.  Like the calm before a great storm, this year was slow for the budding video game industry, but things would quickly change.  The industry would soon experience major shifts that would set the course of video gaming for years to come.

Left: 1976's Break Out Middle: iPhone clone BrickOut Right: Super Breakout

Check back with us every week for more gaming history with our continuing series Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone.  For more in this series, click here.



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