From Street Fighter to Sonic the Hedgehog: 10 of the best retro games | Games – Blog – 10 minute

Pac-Man
In difficult times, nostalgia can be a balm, and sometimes you want your games to be totally uncomplicated. Currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, the original iteration of Pac-Man still rules. It is a simple game – gobble the dots, avoid the ghosts – but the genius is in the details: did you know that each ghost behaves slightly differently according to their personality?Smartphones and consoles
Final Fantasy VII
A landmark game for storytelling with big swords and bigger hair, Final Fantasy VII might look a bit rough these days but the tale it tells is still rich and absorbing. There is a fancy, beautiful-looking remake available now, but the original version is much cheaper, still pretty great, and hits that 90s nostalgia spot.Smartphones and consoles
Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
Were you even a teenager in the 90s if you didn’t spend hours beating up your friends in Street Fighter II? This collection of beat ’em-up classics includes all the most popular Street Fighter games and many more besides, so whichever one was your favourite, you’ll find it here, alongside reams of interesting museum content.PC and consoles

So long, suckers … Day of the Tentacle Remastered. Photograph: LucasArts
Day of the Tentacle Remastered
Chase a power-hungry tentacle through history by solving obscure puzzles and chatting to weird characters. With a whole portfolio of witty old LucasArts adventure games to choose from (Monkey Island, anyone?), it’s hard to pick just one to recommend, but Day of the Tentacle wins out because it’s the most endearingly weird, and its remaster is the most skilfully done.PC, Mac, consoles and iPhone/iPad
Donkey Kong
Ever fancied yourself as a bit-player in The King of Kong? Until a couple of years ago, you couldn’t play an arcade-perfect version of this notoriously brilliant man-v-ape platform game without buying an actual arcade cabinet, but thankfully now you can leap over barrels, scale girders and smack things with a hammer for just a few quid on Nintendo Switch.Nintendo Switch
Sonic the Hedgehog
Who needs film-quality characters when you can have Sonic, whose twin personality traits are “blue” and “fast”? Sonic’s azure skies, bright greens, sparkly soundtrack and super speeds transport you back to simpler times, and cutting quick paths through these glossy, colourful landscapes still feels exciting.Smartphones and consoles

Chief whip … Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Photograph: Konami Digital Entertainment
Castlevania Anniversary Collection
These speedy, demanding, sprawling gothic action games have you whipping vampiric hordes into shape through forests, castles and clock towers in medieval Europe. It’s amazing even now to see what the early Castlevania games could do with a few colours, detailed pixel art and intricate, spooky chiptune music.PC and consoles
Super Mario World
There are few things more purely joyful than jumping Mario around Nintendo’s colourful and meticulously well-designed video game playgrounds. Stuffed with fun power-ups and secret routes that were the stuff of playground legend, this SNES classic is the best of the old-school Mario games, and marked the first appearance of cheerful green dinosaur Yoshi.Nintendo Switch, Nintendo SNES Classic
Doom 64
Forget cinematic stories that justify why you’re about to spend several hours shooting things in the face. This is old-school Doom: guns, demons, mazes of oppressive corridors and coloured keys. The new rerelease of this under-appreciated version of Doom is nicer to look at and smoother to play, but it doesn’t mess with the core appeal of shooting and strafing.PC and consoles
Streets of Rage 2
You might have seen some chat about Streets of Rage 4, the first new game in this beloved series of comic-book brawlers for 26 years. If you want the unreconstructed retro experience, though, play Streets of Rage 2. Fly-kicking your way through numberless small-time thugs in grimy, neon-lit streets seemed so edgy at the time, but now it is oddly comforting. Smartphones and PC

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Move over, Fortnite: how Valorant became the next big competitive game | Games – Blog – 10 minute

On a Tuesday in early April, viewers around the globe watched streamers on Twitch play one particular game for a combined 34m hours, smashing established live-streaming viewership records. The game in question, Valorant by Riot Games, has been averaging hundreds of thousands of daily spectators ever since, quickly displacing Twitch stalwarts such as League of Legends and Fortnite.
Valorant is a ready-baked esport: a competitive shooter designed to be watched as well as played. After a few weeks with Valorant, I’ve found it to be a careful mix of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s meticulous but rewarding gunplay and Overwatch’s characters and soft-edged charm.
This combination – complemented by expensive anti-cheat measures and super-fast servers – has made it an easy sell for hardcore players. Many professional crack shots are jumping ship from games such as Apex Legends and Fortnite, the most notable departure thus far being 2019 Overwatch League MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won, who revealed in April that he was leaving Blizzard’s hero shooter behind to focus on Valorant.

Yet for the casual player like me, Valorant still has a lot to offer. While I might not be the most accurate shot, I can still be useful in other areas. My preferred character, Cypher – one of nine in the game right now – has the tools to provide match-winning information about the enemy team through careful camera placement and pesky tripwires. It turns every round into a battle of wits as well as accuracy, weaving personal narratives into a conventionally cold competitive format.
The game’s slick design has enabled its meteoric rise on Twitch, but a crucial difference between this game and previous contenders is that almost no one could get their hands on it for weeks. Valorant spent almost two months in a very limited closed beta stage, which ends today on 28 May, and the digital keys to the virtual kingdom were a hot commodity. Riot Games’ clever marketing scheme was to let streamers give away keys to their viewers, incentivising millions of people to watch the game being played in the hopes of gaining access for themselves.
This led to an initial boom, but it didn’t take long for things to turn sour. Top streamer Dr Disrespect was caught fraudulently advertising beta keys, and some players with access took to eBay to trade their accounts for profit. In an attempt to keep the system fair, Riot swept its player database, banning many account sellers, and later opened up giveaway drops to all streamers with beta access instead of a curated few. But then people started streaming prerecorded footage of their gameplay, claiming that they were “live-playing” Valorant, trying to bring in more viewers.

‘Team game’ … Valorant. Photograph: Riot Games
Under lockdown, when viewers may have more free time than usual, Riot’s approach has created a perfect storm of hype. But it has also left some debris in its wake. While writing this, I watched a houseful of streamers play the game in shifts to a drop-desperate audience in the hundreds – yet the chat was devoid of conversation, beyond viewers pinging the watch-time command to expose the nauseating amount of hours they’ve spent watching and hoping for access. I’m not sure this is what Riot had in mind when it kicked off this campaign.
For those who snagged a coveted beta key, the watching and waiting was worth it. Having played Counter-Strike for almost two decades, Kai Powell spent roughly 50 hours waiting for Valorant access over three or four days. “I like that Valorant feels different from other hero shooters because the abilities supplement the gunplay,” Powell tells me. “If you look at Overwatch, you’re locked into whatever weapons that character comes with.”
Natalie Flores has spent more than 1,500 hours in Overwatch, but now plays Valorant on a daily basis. “Valorant is a team game, but doing well individually is enough to lead your team to victory,” Flores tells me. “Too often, I’m doing well in Overwatch, but my teammates will deny constant opportunities to coordinate attacks together … even if it ends in a victory, the process leading up to the win was so exhausting that it usually doesn’t feel rewarding!”

Instant hit … Valorant. Photograph: Riot Games
Yet like many competitive esports – including Riot’s own League of Legends – Valorant already has a toxicity problem. (A recent example posted to Twitter shows a Riot developer being hit on and then harassed while playing her own game.) “Riot will need to focus on creating some structural changes or else many people, especially people of colour or women like me, won’t stick around,” Flores says. “And we make up a too significant portion of every game’s player base for any company to ignore.”
With the recent introduction of a ranked mode bringing structure to competitive play, Valorant’s success appears to be a foregone conclusion. Esports organisations such as Sentinels, T1 and Ninjas in Pyjamas are stocking teams with ex-Overwatch and Counter-Strike professionals as we speak, and given the streaming numbers, it’s hard to accuse any of them of jumping the gun. Riot will have an esports giant in its roster when the game launches next week.

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In video game stories, it’s often side quests that are most meaningful | Games – Blog – 10 minute

It is a narrative standard in role-playing adventure games: the hero is pitted against a Big Evil, who has a strategic or chaotic hunger to destroy the world we know. From Shinra’s greedy harvesting of the planet’s resources in Final Fantasy VII Remake to Ganondorf’s quest for power and destruction across more than 30 years of Legend of Zelda games, the stakes are always astronomically high.
But what really makes these fictional realms worth saving? Role-playing games need to offer more than a sequence of linked events toward a monumental finale. A world is made of people, not just objectives.
This is where side quests come in: the tiny stories that make the emotional texture of a journey richer and fuller. Whether we’re talking role-playing epics such as Final Fantasy and The Witcher, or indie adventures such as Night in the Woods and Iconoclasts, it is off the beaten path that the stories gain their power.

Side quests are not just portals to smaller adventures, they are demonstrations of kindness

Across a lifetime of playing video games, I think most often of these side quests: lost animals, medicine in need of delivering before the ingredients expire, underwear retrieved from a bedroom where it shouldn’t be, baby rats that must be fed every day, hiding a cursed fiance and his panicked bride in the nights before their wedding. All of these tiny stories are alleyways off the main drag of the quest, but ones I happily get lost down. I prefer a Cloud Strife who will stop to help a child in a slum find her lost cats to the one who would power through undeterred to his climactic battle. I prefer a Geralt who will gamely search for an old woman’s favourite frying pan or a Fallout 4 Sole Survivor who’ll assist a bunch of sailor robots as they launch their rusty ship for one last voyage.

Small fry … this humble pan forms the basis of a whole side mission in The Witcher 3. Photograph: Witcher 3
This is the kind of hero I would be, I think. I hope. I am interested in ways that we can play games and save worlds without violence, ways in which gameplay utilises curiosity, helpfulness and generosity as power in the place of a gun or a sword. Side quests are not just portals to smaller adventures, they are demonstrations of kindness.
In Paper Mario: the Thousand-Year Door, a starkly underrated RPG, we are invited to spend time keeping the ageing mayor of a village of Koopas company, or assembling a cake for a psychic who lives beneath the central town of Rogueport. These simple, transactional quests elevate the adventure, giving the world and its oddball creatures an independent life. And there is no rush: the princess will still be waiting in another castle when we are done.
The transgressive indie adventure Undertale turns the stuff of side quests into the main thrust of the game: talking to the monsters lets you pass them by safely. Rather than electing the simple input of violence, the game asks you to consider conversation and engagement instead, mercy as the ultimate display of heroism. In this way, every encounter becomes a tiny story of its own: a healing operation, a brief journey taken.
The first real side quest that impacted me profoundly when I was growing up was a classic within a classic. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, on the Nintendo 64, Kakariko Village. Upon arriving at the game’s first town, we are asked in simple terms by a stressed-out girl called Anju to help her find her chickens. She can’t go and get them herself because she can’t touch them – they’ll make her sick. So off you go. Though we have the burden of an entire kingdom on our young shoulders, a heavy sword, and an even heavier quest, we help her. We trek up behind the windmill, clamber over fences, thrash open boxes, and for a few minutes, we are just a child, running after chickens. In return, she gives us an empty glass bottle and sends us on our way.

Simple pleasures … there is more to life in Legend of Zelda than saving the world from Ganondorf. Photograph: Nintendo
The bottle, though not a weapon, becomes one of the most useful items in the entire game. Later, we use it to hold ingredients for medicine to help another citizen of Hyrule. It can hold potions, and milk, to heal us, too. The chickens weren’t even that hard to find.
In the shadow of huge plot devices like destiny and impending doom, it is important that adventure games give us the chance to yield to tiny, human interactions. We must be given space to heal the citizens of the world, as well as the world itself – to find beloved pets, gather ingredients, solve disputes. To put down your sword, and offer your hand instead.
• Sarah Maria Griffin is an author from Dublin, Ireland. Her most recent novel is Other Words for Smoke. She tweets @griffski.

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Minecraft Dungeons review – hours of fun for locked-down families | Games – Blog – 10 minute

When the idea to make a Minecraft spinoff was first batted around at Mojang Studios, a dungeon crawler game must have been one of the first suggestions. From Gauntlet to Diablo, this genre has always featured dank subterranean lairs, treasure chests and warrior skeletons – all beloved Minecraft components. The signature blocky visuals also work well, ensuring that Minecraft Dungeons will look familiar to fans as they hurtle through dioramas of hack-and-slash fun that rearrange themselves each time you play.
The plot is paper thin: a vengeful loner discovers a treasure that turns him into a powerful mage and duly begins a reign of terror over the Minecraft kingdom. The game can be played alone, but it is most enjoyable to play its co-op mode, which can be enjoyed on a console or online. In this mode players work together to bring down waves of skeletons, slime monsters, and giant spiders, reviving fallen allies as they go. With four players taking part, each equipped with magical weapons, the screen is soon awash with arrows, explosions, lightning bolts and freeze rays in a confusing but exciting light show. As Gauntlet veterans will recall, it’s the hidden rhythms of this genre that are really delightful; the anticipation of the next wave of enemies, the anarchy of battle, then the delicious gluttony of loot collection.

Intuitive fighting … Minecraft Dungeons. Photograph: Microsoft
Fighting is highly intuitive – one button for melee attacks, one for ranged weapons. You start with a basic sword and bow, but soon unlock more powerful weapons such as spears, battle hammers and rapid-fire crossbows. You can also earn enchantments for your weapons, giving them new attacks – a poison cloud or lightning strike, for example. Armour and artefacts imbue you with their own special abilities, from lasers to healing auras. The generous cornucopia of defensive and attacking options add a rich seam of strategy and planning to the chaos of the levels.

From the first encounter with a cute skeletal archer to the final mega battle against the Arch Illager himself, Minecraft Dungeons is a delightful thrill ride of a dungeon game. The levels are filled with detail, from lush pixellated woodlands to deep red stone caverns where clattering mine carts rush through the narrow tunnels and torches flicker on craggy walls. Each level has a clear path to the end, but there are plenty of side routes to explore, along with whole cast of baddies and bosses including the terrifying Endermen, accompanied by horror movie music, and necromancers who generate hordes of zombies.
Minecraft Dungeons is enlivened by a sprightly, varied score, theatrical sound effects and many references to the original Minecraft. If you aren’t charmed by the baby zombies rushing at you, arms outstretched, or by the collectible anthropomorphic dungeon keys that run away in terror when you’re attacked, then you have had your soul extracted by a sorcerer.

Minecraft Dungeons isn’t exactly an epic challenge. You’ll be able to complete a basic run-through in an evening, though escalating difficulty levels bring up ever more powerful and interesting weapons and items. Plus, as the levels are partly random, they’re never quite the same when you return, adding to the replay value. Some players will find it galling that the game map shows an unavailable area that will be available to purchase later on.
It’s also a shame that we see none of the main game’s focus on player creativity. Between each level you’re returned to your training camp where you can buy new items and practise with fresh weapons, and it would have been a nice touch to be able to build your own little castle there. But as a retro-tinged hack-and-slash jaunt with plenty of Mojang character and humour, Minecraft Dungeons is a hugely diverting treat that’ll provide hours of fun for locked-down families.

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‘Transcendentally boring’: the joy of job simulation games | Games – Blog – 10 minute

There is no escape for me this time. The rear axle of my pick-up truck is wedged on a boulder protruding from the mud in the middle of a deserted backwater road in Michigan. I’ve tried to attach a winch to a nearby tree to pull myself out, but it’s not working. I will have to abandon the vehicle, fit up another and try again. This load of timber is not going to deliver itself.
I am playing Snowrunner, the latest in a series of painstakingly authentic offroad delivery simulator games in which players have to haul goods through a variety of unforgiving landscapes at speeds that would shame a garden snail. Before each trip you have to select exactly the right vehicle for the job, fit the correct tyres and work out your likely fuel consumption to the nearest millilitre. On the frozen roads of northern Alaska, there is no room for shoddy planning.
Over the last five years there has been a renaissance in serious job simulator games. Titles such as Euro Truck Simulator, Bus Simulator and Train Sim World have attracted huge fanbases and critical acclaim, each replicating its profession with unremitting attention to detail. In an entertainment sector where ludicrous power fantasies rule, where players get to be space marines, ancient warrior princesses and football superstars, it seems antithetical that 25 million people have bought Farming Simulator, a game in which your main challenge is to harvest a successful wheat crop.

Devoted following … Bus Simulator 18. Photograph: Astragon
But it is the very precision of these games that has attracted such a devoted following. “Throughout development we gather a lot of questions,” says Julian Mautner at Stillalive studios, the team behind the Bus Simulator games. “When you turn the ignition key once, which functions of the bus actually work, and which icons on the dashboard light up? What happens afterwards when you turn it into second position? These are the details our players really care about.”
According to Mautner, the studio has a partnership with its local transport company, IVB (Innsbrucker Verkehrsbetriebe), which they regularly visit to inspect real-life buses and take hundreds of pictures. “We also talk to the bus drivers about their everyday challenges, about special situations or tricky manoeuvres they had to execute,” he says. “That provides us with immensely valuable insights into the workings of a transportation company.”

In an unpredictable world, it is calming to open the doors of a bus at the right time, to give the correct change

Meanwhile, the coders accurately simulate all aspects of engine performance – gear changing, torque, acceleration – using information from manufacturers. The audio team makes more than 1,000 recordings of sounds from all around different buses. The artists recreate interiors exactly. As Mautner explains: “Nowadays we aim to get actual 3D data for the cockpits, because replicating the details from images and blueprints often led to small inaccuracies that the community noted.”
The landscapes are vitally important, too. With truck and train driving simulators much of the appeal is the scenery that whizzes past as you’re hauling goods from Berlin to Bonne, or driving a Great Western train to Cornwall. “Real-world references are essential for the world creation,” says Ondrej Dufek, a project leader at SCS Software, the creators of Euro Truck Simulator and American Truck Simulator. “Google Earth, Maps and Street View are a vital tools and sources of photo references. On YouTube, there are also videos from truckers who drive across various states and countries, commenting on their surroundings and pointing out interesting stuff. Information about elevation, economy, industries, markets, traffic density, freight routes, weather, even demographics – everything is important and helps us decide what roads and cities to put in our world.”

Not just for pernickety obsessives … Train Sim World. Photograph: Dovetail Games
“Sometimes we’ll take photos straight against a wall so our artists can see what kind of brick is being used,” says Matt Peddlestone, a senior producer at Dovetail Games which makes Train Sim World. “As you go down a route, the supplier of the brick changes because the bricks are being made locally and the colours of the building will change. We want to capture that.”
It’s easy to think of hardcore sim fans as pernickety obsessives, but there is a quiet joy in interacting with these lovingly replicated systems of lights, switches and signals. In an unpredictable world, it is calming to open the doors of a bus at the right time, to give the correct change, to set the heating system correctly, to obey the traffic signs. It is gratifying to see a button, to press it and to know something will happen.
“I play simulators because by their nature they are internally consistent,” says fan Melissa Harper. “If you’re playing a game and you’re in a cockpit, and you can’t press all the buttons, that absolutely slaughters the experience for me. But in Microsoft Flight Simulator, you can press all the buttons, and they all do something. That’s SO satisfying, and then you can learn what they all do.”
Her favourite example is the ultra hardcore Stormworks: Build and Rescue, where you run your own sea rescue service. “It’s the most brutal game I’ve ever played,” she enthuses. “You have to make the whole plane yourself – and all those hundreds of buttons? You have to place them by hand! The developers just toss you into a ridiculously complicated editor and say, ‘Hey, it’s only aircraft, propulsion and electrical engineering, how hard could it be? F*** you.’ It is my favourite game.”

First build your own aircraft … Stormworks. Photograph: Green Man Gaming
All the simulation developers I spoke to know that some of their players are professionals in the field being simulated. The Train Sim World developers are quickly told when a siding has been placed in slightly the wrong position, or if a certain signal outside Stratford never shows a green light, only ever yellow because that’s the way it’s been wired. “Drivers send us tips,” says Dufek. “What truck stops and unique landmarks we should include, which parts of the roads are infamous for their difficulty (steep climbs, mountain passes).”

Beyond all this, simulators have an emotional and nostalgic value. Train Sim World lets players drive historical trains and journeys, which has allowed retired drivers to rediscover routes they once travelled every day. Fishing: Barents Sea Simulator was inspired by the life of co-creator Goran Myrland’s grandfather, a fisherman in 1950s Norway. “He owned a classic boat just like the Follabuen, which is in our game,” says Yasemin Hamurcu, COO at Misc Games. “He spent months with his crew on the rough sea to find the best catch, to earn money and provide for his family. His wife always worried about him, hoping he would come home safely.”
I have friends who drive for hours in Euro Truck Simulator, using the game’s real in-game radio app to pick up local stations. For me, Snowrunner has been almost hypnotic – it’s given me longer to take in the scenery, to get the feel of rural North America. Many players aren’t here for the authenticity of the equipment of the simulation minutiae; they’re here to experience a landscape in their own way, in their own time. A slow and steady escape.

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The game that ate the world: 40 facts on Pac-Man’s 40th birthday | Games – Blog – 10 minute

It was on this day in 1980 that one of gaming’s most iconic characters made his debut. To celebrate, here are 40 facts about the ravenous yellow circle and his proud, pill-popping legacy …
1. Pac-Man was created by game designer Toru Iwatani – he was just 24 at the time. The idea for the character came to him when he removed a slice from a pizza.
2. He was also partly inspired by the onomatopoeic phrase paku paku meaning “chomp chomp” and the kanji symbol for the word taberu meaning “to eat”.
3. In 2010, Iwatani told Wired that Pac-Man particularly targeted female players. “When you think about things women like, you think about fashion, or fortune-telling, or food or dating boyfriends. So I decided to theme the game around ‘eating’.” There is absolutely nothing problematic about this statement …
4. To make the game more kawaii (“cute”), Iwatani designed the ghosts in bright colours and gave them large doe-eyes.
5. The ghosts are called Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde and they each have their own personalities based on AI routines. Blinky constantly chases Pac-Man, Pinky attempts to ambush him, Inky is randomised depending on Pac-Man’s position and Clyde will get close to the player then attempt to flee to the bottom left corner, potentially cutting off escape routes.

Arcade adventure … Pac-Man. Photograph: Adam Berry/Getty Images
6. The idea of eating a power pill to give Pac-Man super strength came partly from the cartoon Popeye and his love of spinach, and partly from the Japanese concept of kokoro (“spirit”) or life force. It’s considered one of the first examples of a “power up” in video game history.
7. Pac-Man manufacturer Namco installed the first machine in a movie theatre in Shibuya, Tokyo, on 22 May 1980.
8. The game was only a moderate success until its blockbusting US launch the following October.
9. It was originally called Puck Man, but the US distributor Midway was worried that the word Puck could easily be modified by mischievous vandals into something ruder. Hence, Pac-Man.
10. The game features short animated sequences between levels, showing Pac-Man being chased by the ghosts. This was one of the first examples of a non-interactive video game “cutscene”.
11. Martin Amis was a fan of the game and in his 1982 book Invasion of the Space Invaders claimed to have spent weeks in “a Pac-Man-fed stupor […] unwilling and unable to think about anything else”.
12. Within a year of Pac-Man’s launch, 100,000 units had been sold and 250m games were being played every week. Pac-Man became gaming’s first marketable mascot, with licensed merchandise including lunchboxes, joke books, T-shirts, board games, pyjamas and, for the romantic gamer, Valentine cards.

Inspired by pizza … Toru Iwatani, creator of Pac-Man. Photograph: Elvis Gonzalez/EPA
13. A strategy guide to the game, Mastering Pac-Man by professional blackjack player Ken Uston, sold more than 1m copies.
14. With its simplified maze and blocky visuals, the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man is widely considered one of the worst arcade-to-home console conversions of all time. Although it sold 7m copies, the game was so wretched it has been widely blamed for the 1983 video game crash, alongside the similarly poor title, ET.
15. Japanese toy manufacturer Tomy made a famously beautiful, handheld Pac-Man game in the shape of an enormous yellow blob with an LCD display. This advert for the device is quite a rush.
16. The tribute song Pac-Man Fever by artists Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia reached number nine in the US charts in March 1982. An album of video-game-inspired songs followed. It was not good.
17. The game’s distinctive electronic music and sound effects were also an inspiration to early hip-hop pioneers. Notable examples include Jonzun Crew’s Pack Jam and Newcleus’s Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song).
18. The game gave us this Marcus Brigstocke joke: “If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.”
19. In 1981, Japanese manufacturer Shoei released a terrible “erotic” version of Pac-Man called Streaking. It was later heavily featured in the movie Joysticks, which belonged to the 1980s teen sex comedy genre popularised by Porky’s. Here is the movie trailer. Please don’t watch it.
20. The movie also featured preview footage of Super Pac-Man, Namco’s official sequel to the original game.
21. In a 1982 episode of the sitcom Taxi, Louie (Danny DeVito) installs a Pac-Man cabinet in the garage and Jim (Christopher Lloyd) becomes addicted to the game. The scene is effectively a how-to guide and an advert for Pac-Man rolled into one.

22. Pac-Man was a major element in the appalling Adam Sandler comedy Pixels, with Toru Iwatani getting a cameo as an arcade repairman. But let’s just forget about that, shall we?
23. In 1999, Billy Mitchell became the first person to obtain a perfect Pac-Man score of 3,333,360, eating every dot, power pill, ghost and bonus on every level without losing a single life. However, Mitchell was later accused of cheating by video game records supervisor Twin Galaxies. The record was equalled by David Race in 2012.
24. It is impossible to score higher than that because of a bug in the game that turns the screen to gibberish on the 256th screen.
25. The success of Pac-Man inspired US distributor Bally Midway to create a series of mostly identical sequels: Ms Pac-Man, Pac-Man Plus, Jr Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man (which added a mini pinball table under the monitor) and Professor Pac-Man.
26. Professor Pac-Man was a quiz game depicting Pac-Man in a mortar board and glasses. It was not a success.
27. In 1982, Hanna-Barbera produced a Pac-Man cartoon series. It features Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, their child Pac-Baby and their cat Sour Puss as they attempt to elude the evil Mezmaron who is obsessed with power pills. The intro sequence is a work of hallucinogenic brilliance.
28. In his book Trigger Happy, writer Steven Poole suggested Pac-Man was a precursor to survivor horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill due to its confined, maze-like map, supernatural enemies and emphasis on evasion.
29. In corporate parlance, “the Pac-Man defence” is a strategy in which a company targeted for a hostile takeover attempts to turn the tables and purchase the acquirer.
30. Ms Pac-Man is widely considered a better game than Pac-Man, due to the more varied maze design and improved ghost AI.
31. However, it is most remembered for the image on the side of the game cabinet, which depicts Ms Pac-Man with high heels, red lipstick and fluttering eyelashes, making her the decade’s most bizarre and confusing sex symbol. And, bearing in mind we’re talking about the 80s, that’s really saying something.

Unlikely sex symbol … Ms Pac-Man
32. In the Friends episode The One Where Joey Dates Rachel, Phoebe gives Chandler and Monica a pristine Ms Pac-Man cabinet as a late wedding present – a generous gift as it would have cost about $2,500.
33. Namco has regularly attempted to update and expand the Pac-Man concept. Sometimes this has worked (scrolling platformers Pac-Land and Pac in Time, and the isometrically viewed Pac-Mania); sometimes it really hasn’t (risible party game Pac-Man Fever and mystifying off-road driving sim Pac-Man World Rally).
34. Pac-Man has also appeared as a playable guest character in many other games, including Everybody’s Golf, Mario Kart Arcade GP and Street Fighter X Tekken. He stars as the world’s cutest racing car in Ridge Racer Type 4.
35. Swiss tech company ClearSpace is developing a satellite capable of orbiting Earth and gobbling up space junk. The project leader nicknamed it “the Pac-Man system”.
36. In 2004, New York University students created a real-world version of Pac-Man entitled Pac-Manhattan, in which a player dressed as Pac-Man had to run around the city avoiding students dressed as ghosts. The game used mobile phone GPS signals to track their positions.
37. French street artist Invader has created several mosaic works featuring the Pac-Man character and ghosts, notably in Paris and Bilbao.
38. For his spring/summer 2009 collection, fashion designer Giles Deacon dressed the models in gigantic Pac-Man helmets and had dots painted along the runway.
39. In 2012, Pac-Man was one of 14 video games brought into the collection at MoMA in New York and displayed in its architecture and design gallery.
40. Toru Iwatani returned to Pac-Man in 2007, co-designing the brilliant Xbox title Pac-Man Championship Edition, which adds a time limit and an endlessly transforming maze layout. It was a fitting end to his Pac-Man odyssey.

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Can virtual reality help get you through lockdown? | Games – Blog – 10 minute

Right now, it feels as if there is no escape. We’re stuck at home for most of the day, our only respite coming from the odd stroll around the block.
But make a list of the things you miss most from your pre-lockdown life and chances are you can probably do some form of them in virtual reality. From travelling abroad to exercising outside, and even visiting friends, it’s all possible if you’re willing to strap on a headset.

Consumer VR technology, although still not perfect, has improved a lot in the past couple of years. The most advanced headsets are the HTC Vive (or its more living-room-friendly variant, Cosmos, from £500), Valve Index (£920) and Oculus Rift S (£400), all of which boast very high definition displays, extraordinary responsiveness and intricate controller tracking – but they’re expensive, quite complicated to set up and they need to be attached via cables to a high-end PC.

There are alternatives. PlayStation VR (£260) plugs into a PS4 console and provides a decent though comparatively low resolution experience with a really vast range of games, including platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission and epic space exploration sim No Man’s Sky.

Explore space or climb a mountain while your partner is watching TV … Oculus Quest, an all-in-one headset with wireless controllers. Photograph: Facebook/Reuters

Our favourite, though, is the Oculus Quest (from £400), a powerful standalone headset that requires no connection to a PC and feels as comfortable and unintrusive as the tech currently gets. It comes with two wireless controllers that track your arm movements accurately, and the setup process is intuitive: you simply use the controllers to draw out the usable space in your living room, and an external camera makes sure you don’t get carried away and trip over your coffee table.

Apps such as AltSpaceVR have let me meet strangers with weird avatars in virtual hangouts – as unsettling as it sounds

Being freed from a bulky PC opens up the possibilities of VR as a casual home entertainment option. It means you can sit on your sofa (or in bed) and explore space or climb a mountain while your partner is watching TV. Over the past fortnight I’ve been happily trawling YouTube, Amazon and Oculus for short 360-degree VR movies (mostly available for free), and have spent many happy minutes swimming with sharks and gatecrashing LA pool parties. Quest has also made energetic games like the excellent Beat Saber and SuperHot feel safer because you’re not worried about tripping over a cable that’s coming out of your head. Apps such as AltSpaceVR have also let me meet strangers with weird avatars in virtual hangouts, which has been as unsettling as it sounds.
Recently, I may have taken my interest in VR technology a bit far by accepting a Roto VR Chair on loan from British tech startup Roto VR. It looks like a sports car seat mounted on a circular plinth, but it comes with an ingenious head-tracking device that you attach to your VR headset so that the chair rotates in the direction you’re looking.
At first the movement is rather unsettling, but as you get used to it, it adds a rather wonderful sense of being physically present in a world, which is perfect for virtual tourism apps as well as multidirectional games such as Robo Recall. The head-tracking rotation is also meant to cut down on VR motion sickness because it reduces the disparity between the screened activity and our body’s sense of where it is and what it’s doing. (There are also foot pedals to control forward and backward movement, although few games currently support this feature.) It’s expensive at $999 (£800) – Roto VR says most of its pre-orders have been from universities, businesses and arcades – but perhaps if the lockdown goes on much longer, many more living rooms will have one.
Even without a revolving chair, VR games and experiences are now providing a true sense of “presence”, the holy grail of the technology – and for a few minutes every day, I have genuinely forgotten that I’m standing alone in the living room in my pyjamas swinging my arms about.
Here are some of our favourite lockdown apps for VR:
Everest VR: Journey to the Top of the World (Oculus TV; Oculus and Samsung Gear VR)
Jaw-on-the-floor VR documentary with crisp visuals. A must-watch emotional journey from the Alps to the Himalayas, following mountain climbers. If you see just one 360-degree video, make it this one.

Supernatural (Within; Oculus Quest)

Bored with indoor exercise? This cardio fitness app will transport you to stunning photorealistic landscapes for a workout. Put on a fan to feel the breeze, as you bop to pacey daily routines, each accompanied with energising music. We tried it out before launch – it’s a tremendous amount of fun and very sweaty. Similar to Peloton, Supernatural has a library of on-demand fitness programmes. New sessions are released every day, each with a virtual coach who hovers in front of you.
VTime XR (VTime Limited; multiple headsets)
Straightforward but nifty app that will go some way to address what for many people has been the most challenging aspect of lockdown – the inability to visit friends and family in their homes. Upload 360 photos of your dining room and you can recreate a dinner party for up to four people.

Astonishing views … The Climb is an authentic climbing simulator. Photograph: Crytek
The Climb (Crytek; Oculus Quest and Rift)
A thrilling rock-climbing simulator, which feels surprisingly similar to the real-life experience, with players having to select the best route and regularly apply chalk to their hands. Best to do short sessions as you might get a little queasy. Oh, and don’t look down.
Ultrawings (Bit Planet Games; multiple headsets)
Surprisingly decent flight simulator considering the current limitations of VR graphics. Island-hop from airport to airport in a microlight, glider or aerobatic plane.
Bigscreen Cinema (Bigscreen; Multiple major VR headsets)
Several VR apps offer the option of playing films, but none recreate the full experience of heading to the movies like this one. With several blockbusters playing at any one time, enter a cinema lobby with friends and see what’s on. Spillable popcorn and soda included.
Rec Room (Rec Room; multiple headsets)
Rec Room is your go-to app for fun group activities. The visuals are undoubtedly cartoonish, but when you’re splurting off rounds in a paintball game or playing virtual dodgeball with others around the world, you’ll soon forget. Also included are escape rooms, although maybe lockdown is already claustrophobic enough.
Job Simulator (Owlchemy Labs; multiple headsets)
Some of you might even be missing the office by now (ahem, parents?) Job Simulator goes some way to recreate the experience of pre-pandemic employment. Don’t be put off, though, it’s not for workaholics. If you like, you can spend your time throwing coffee mugs at the boss.
Nature Treks VR (GreenerGames; multiple headsets)
A nature exploration and relaxation app recommended to us by VR developer Sam Watts of Make Real: “It has a series of calming interactive scenes you can chill out in and influence, with a yoga breathing mode.”
Sansar (Sansar; Multiple headsets)
Basically, the VR version of experimental virtual world Second Life, now sold by Linden Lab but still in development by much of the same team. “Great if you’re looking for more realistic graphics,” says Dan Page of VR firm Opposable Group. “Its major focus right now is music, but there are all sorts of socials and podcast recordings that regularly take place on the platform.”
The Room VR: A Dark Matter (Fireproof Games; multiple headsets)
A brilliantly designed and truly engrossing VR take on the award-winning smartphone puzzle game series, where you explore an archaeological museum deciphering hidden codes and unlocking intricate devices.
Half-Life Alyx (Valve; multiple headsets)
The long-awaited new addition to the legendary sci-fi shooter series is an absolutely stunning showcase of virtual reality technology, putting you right in the middle of humanity’s fight against alien invaders.
Other games to tryWe also recommend: ridiculous comedy romp Accounting+; surreal wildlife adventure Paper Beast; heartwarming action puzzler Moss; the atmospheric Star Wars demo Vader Immortal; and the frenzied multiplayer co-op experiences, Star Trek Bridge Crew, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and Spaceteam.

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If Found… review – moving coming-of-age tale framed by rugged Irish coast | Games – Blog – 10 minute

An emotional and richly detailed reflection on growing up in mid-90s Ireland, If Found … tells the story of young Kasio’s difficult return home from university through the pages of her journal. Delicate illustrations depict a world slipping away from her: sometimes they’re animated with a stop-motion quality, flickering on the page; sometimes they’re filled with impressionistic colour, a window into Kasio’s psyche.
But rather than helping to write these pages, we are asked to erase them, using a finger or mouse to rub the screen to assist Kasio in processing this painful period of her life. From fraught exchanges with her mother to packed venues pulsating to rock music, events are scrubbed from the diary using this simple, tactile interaction. Where most video games ask players to contribute to on-screen mayhem, If Found … is about subtraction and its minimalist tools produce affecting results.

As the story is relayed through Kasio’s matter-of-fact writing, it becomes clear that she’s adrift, not just from her family and friends but the wider community. Even during its lightest moments, such as Kasio’s exchanges with her squatter pals in a punk band, loss is a constant presence – perhaps inevitably for a game about expunging the past. Letting go is a process tinged with melancholy, but it can also be cathartic, something that the game demonstrates poignantly when the erasure is inverted towards the end and the diary begins to fill with new thoughts and events.
Despite its heavy themes, the game exudes fondness for the region it depicts. Wind whips across sandy beaches, chippies host late-night chats between friends, and Kasio gazes at stars through a broken roof while a house party rages below. Gaelic and local slang pepper the dialogue, alongside a helpful glossary. The sense of place, strength of writing, evocative art and elegant interactions make If Found … a moving drama, beautifully capturing the growing pains of early adulthood.

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Virtual fans? Premier League looks at options for empty stadium games – Strategy – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The Premier League is exploring the use of audio effects and computer generated ‘fans’, to improve the viewer experience of watching behind closed doors games.
The league voted on Monday to allow teams to return to non-contact training in small groups from Tuesday and hopes to be able to clear contact training next week as it steps up ‘Project Restart’.
Germany’s Bundesliga returned to action on Saturday without any major hitches, which has encouraged the Premier League. However, CEO Richard Masters says they are looking at ways to improve the television experience of watching games in empty stadiums should the league return as planned in June.
“I think we’ll take a different approach, not better, but slightly different approach about the behind closed doors product and that was one of the things we were able to talk to clubs today, the direction of travel on. We have group of clubs and broadcasters together on that,” Masters told reporters.
The absence of fans was highly noticeable on Bundesliga broadcasts with players’ shouting the only noise to be heard other than the voice of the commentator.
Sources with knowledge of the discussions have indicated that all options are currently on the table, including adding crowd noise and the use of computer generated (CGI) fans to replace the images of empty seats in the stadium.
No decision has been taken on whether to use such technology, with concerns that any changes do not make the game appear too far away from the reality of what is unfolding on the pitch.
“In terms of the precise nature of what we are planning, we haven’t really talked about it with the wide group yet so I don’t want to share too much of the plans,” said Masters during a conference call with reporters.
“But obviously the big issue is that if there aren’t fans in the stadium, what does the viewing fan at home, what’s his experience like? And how different is it to a normal Premier League production and that’s the question we’re seeking to answer,” he added.
Augmented reality
A number of companies offer technology, including augmented reality products, which could add crowd noise and the impression of a crowd to broadcasts.
“The idea is to protect the integrity and experience of the game, by turning the attention away from the empty stadium, and instead replacing it with appealing surroundings to make the game more interesting, and as close to reality as possible,” said Gudjon Gudjonsson, CEO of one such company, OZ Sports.
“These are times to explore and experiment, to make sports even more appealing and to bring it closer to the latest developments in esports,” he added.
Oz Sports declined to discuss whether they were in talks with the Premier League. “OZ Sports can confirm it is in discussions with multiple sports bodies, not limited to football,” the company said.
While the league and broadcasters evaluate all the options, the focus for now though is on the players returning to their training grounds on Tuesday.
Initial training will be in small groups, no bigger than five players, and with social distancing rules enforced in and around the facilities.
Players will also be tested regularly with the first set of results expected to be made public on Tuesday.

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Fortnite Party Royale is the most fun you can have in the metaverse | Games – Blog – 10 minute

My son is dressed as a giant banana and he is throwing hamburgers at me. I am making my getaway on a solid gold quad bike. For once, neither of us has access to automatic weapons.
No, our home schooling regime hasn’t taken a dark turn. This is Party Royale, the brand new Fortnite mode, where deadly violence is banned and where the emphasis is on messing about and engaging in non-lethal competitions – but mostly messing about. It’s only been live for a few days but already it feels like what the early-millennium online social experiment Second Life could have been if it had been built by game designers rather than Californian internet eggheads.
Launched on 8 May with an in-game party featuring live performances by Steve Aoki and Deadmau5, Party Royale starts like any Fortnite: Battle Royale session – with dozens of online players landing on a remote island. However, instead of then running about searching for guns before shooting each other until only one remains, Party Royale players can do what they like. It’s a smaller environment than the main game, but it still has rolling fields, meandering rivers and a little town crowded with fast-food joints. Vending machines distribute paint guns, plunger bows and other comedy projectiles with which to assault players, but no one gets hurt – you just get covered in glossy gloop or burger sauce.

Epically failing at a quad bike challenge in Fortnite Party Royale Photograph: Fortnite
Dotted around the place, there are also lots of little challenges. Over here you can clamber onboard a speed boat and whiz through a series of markers to set the fastest time possible; over there you can jump through a time rift and then swoop through a series of aerial hoops – like the classic Nintendo game PilotWings. Each activity has a high-score table for players to aim at, so there is still a competitive element, but while we were playing no one seemed that serious about it, judging by the number of quad bikes and speed boats careering into the scenery.
Epic Games says that it will hold regular live events and there is a dedicated concert area; once again this brings Second Life to mind. That vast online metaverse experiment, which launched to much fanfare and fascination in 2003, was billed as an explorative virtual social space with its own culture and economy – and over the next decade many music artists and theatre groups gave virtual performances within its ever-changing world. But the technological demands of the service, together with the impossibility of moderating such a huge space, led to problems and controversies from cyber fraud to riots to flocks of flying penises.

Second Life is still going, and there’s a VR equivalent called Sansar, but it’s a lot quieter now, and it’s definitelt an adults-only space. Party Royale, where the visuals are bright and toy-like and most communication is through the medium of short dances such as the famed Floss and Electro Shuffle, feels much more like the Red Bull-guzzling little brother to Second Life. It’s the virtual world as bouncy castle.
Currently, all you can really do is pop in for an hour and race about the map with a few friends, firing each other out of the cannons on the pirate ship in Buccaneer Bay or throwing burgers at strangers from a speeding boat. But in the future, Epic clearly wants to run events and competitions, and this would be an amazing venue for film trailer premieres.

Fortnite Party Royale is crammed with racing challenges, each offering a high score to beat Photograph: Fortnite
Players can’t build in the mode right now, but that could change. Maybe Party Royale could be combined with Fortnite’s creative mode, allowing players to construct their own buildings and racing challenges. There are currently phone booths around the map where you can change your outfits, but perhaps participants will one day be able to design and trade clothes, custom emotes or spray paint tags.
We’ve seen something like this before, in the form of PlayStation Home, a gamified online multiplayer metaverse that arrived for the PlayStation 3, a year after its launch. For a few years, PlayStation owners could decorate their own virtual clubhouses, explore a virtual shopping mall and make real-life purchases from fashion brands and furniture companies. Millions of PS3 owners gave the service a try, but it never attracted the player interest or commercial support it needed, and closed in 2015.
But now, with 350 million players who are used to hanging out in a vibrant, ridiculous online world filled with dancing bananas and cartoon skirmishes, Party Royale could be the experience that finally realises the idea of a playful, mass participation online metaverse. Right now, with a whole generation of teenagers desperate to go anywhere where their parents can’t or won’t follow them, it’s pretty much a godsend.

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