Vintage PC Games find app afterlife

Sep 30, 2009
Games

Growing up, I never had video game systems such as Sega or Nintendo. Thankfully, by the early nineties I had access to a computer – and the games that came with it. So I was thrilled to find some of my old favorites have been developed into iPhone apps. Game on!  Old timers One of […]

Growing up, I never had video game systems such as Sega or Nintendo. Thankfully, by the early nineties I had access to a computer – and the games that came with it. So I was thrilled to find some of my old favorites have been developed into iPhone apps. Game on! 

Old timers

One of the oldest PC games seeing a rebirth in the iTunes App Store is SimCity ($4.99), which was first released in 1989. Electronic Arts has created a faithful adaptation of the franchise, which looks like an updated version of SimCity 2000, in which you plan, build and manager your dream city. It’s a downright addictive game.

Many iPhone users will remember sitting in the back of a classroom playing The Oregon Trail on an Apple II. The Oregon Trail ($4.99, also available in a free version) is the classic tale of the journey from Missouri to Oregon where players forded the river and died of cholera as the days and miles passed. Although the app version is based off the original game, first widely released in 1978, Gameloft’s version has made significant changes both in graphics and in creating more microgames including hunting, fishing, wagon repairing and gold panning.

First-person shooters

The Duke Nukem 3D ($1.99) app is a complete port of the 1996 version of the game of same name. The app has two different modes of control, but, sadly, both are terrible. Users can tweak sensitivity and enable TapShoot to avoid having to directly aim at targets (really, really hard to do with the iPhone) but this seems like something the developers should have already figured out. With another update or two, Duke Nukem has the potential to be as good as its original PC incarnation.

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Wolfenstein 3D Classic ($1.99, also available in a free version), on the other hand, is an exact replica of its 1992 predecessor, and playing it made me feel like I was back in Omaha, Neb. using a Packard Bell. The control placement can be customized to your liking and the tilt sensitivity can be set to your discretion. Secrets open by running hero B.J. Blazkowicz into their respective walls, which makes them easier to find, but let’s face it—you remember where the chaingun is anyway. This app will not disappoint fans of the original.

Point-and-Click Adventure

As one of the best-selling PC games ever, Myst ($5.99) had big shoes to fill. Cyan Worlds lived up to expectations with their app version of the beloved game. The game is identical to the first version, which means no, it’s not going to be any easier than the first time you tried to play and got so frustrated you threw the CD across the room and never finished it. Just try to control yourself this time around because that iPhone or iPod Touch is a lot more expensive.

Many of the other adventure games available for iPhone and iPod Touch rely on a modified version of ScummVM, which was the framework designed for the LucasArts adventure games. Inspired by LucasArts games, Flight of the Amazon Queen ($4.99) is the tale of pilot Joe King and his adventure into the Amazon. The app ports the DOS version of the game and features full voiceovers and subtitles. You can use the “original” controls, dragging a cursor icon to select items, but iPhSoft has also implemented touch controls developed specifically for use on the iPhone. FOTAQ developers have also ported over 1993’s Simon the Sorcerer ($4.99). Simon is a teenager who finds himself transported into another dimension. The app version stands up to the original and features full voiceovers and touch controls.

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One of LucasArts’ original games is also making a splash in the App Store: The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition ($7.99). The people behind Monkey Island, which was first released in (can you believe it?) 1990, have completely overhauled the game, featuring new graphics, controls, a remastered soundtrack and full voiceovers. The new controls take some getting used to, but if new isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Swipe the screen and you’ll find that the original version of Monkey Island is lurking underneath.

If your favorite vintage or abandonware game (ahem, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, ahem) isn’t available for iPhone yet, don’t lose hope. The success of these apps should be indicative of the fun to come.

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Kathryn Swartz

Kathryn Swartz is a freelance writer/editor who doesn't know how people lived pre iPhone. She attended the Missouri School of Journalism.

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