To anyone who ever played any sort of videogame in the 80s, or if you even wanted to, or even if you DIDN’T but downloaded an emulator anyway because all the cheap hipster shops near you are selling tshirts with ropey graphics of FROGGER on them: you really, really should get Retro Game Challenge for the DS. Sure, it just sounds like another collection of retro mini-games, and that IS the basis of it but oh my, it is so much better than the sum of its parts!

You play the part of someone whose DS is hijacked by an obsessive gamer named Arino, who boasts of his supremacy in ALL GAMING! Indignant at your petty noughties gaming, he sends you back to the past to challenge him, turning you into a kid to take on child!Arino. This has the utterly charming effect of placing two little kids on the floor in front of a tv and gaming console on the bottom screen whilst the game gets played on the DS top-screen. The kids crawl about, sprawl on the floor, punch the air, exclaim out loud at the scary bits, howl in unfairness, fish out magazines for hints and tips (familiar to anyone who read eg SEGA FORCE et al – yeah yeah I’m a generation after typing out debug scripts, deal) and cheer on each other. It sounds nothing special at all but the down to earth charm of it, even the kids stumbling around on the floor and switching on consoles has gotten me OBSESSED.

The actual gameplay is passing through a series of retro-challenges, all new ones but fictionally provided for throughout the 80s, produced by a company called TOMATO. The first challenge is a Space Invaders Clone named Cosmic Gate (which I might have played until midnight last night and until my thumbs hurt, WHAT OF IT). I then unlocked a game called Ninja Haggle Man (!) but fear of RSI (grown-ups just don’t get it).

The utterly bizarre thing is that child!Arino sees Future!Arino through the TV screen… his first reaction = “omg, I’m a freak!” – I have no idea how this is going to pan out! Is Arino going to go on some sort of passage of redemption? Future!Arino is a crazed, maniacal and mean nutloop, and child!Arino notices this. But if, faced with the vision of the future, he changes, then how will we even play the game? And on taking on the challenges, will I myself, as the player, TAKE ARINO’S PLACE? Warghle! It’s like Back to the Future.

Wiki tells me the game is based on a Retro Game Master aka GameCenter CX (???????CX, GemuSentaa CX), which obviously I have never seen but it does look a step up or two from Gamesmaster. I’d much rather play this than something featuring the gurning avatar of Dominik Diamond (don’t even TALK to me about Dexter sodding Fletcher).

In a way, it’s like going back to the ideal gaming experience as a kid – you always get your go, you have a supportive friend to play with (even though at the same time he’s your nemesis), you have a your mum in the background occasionally talking about snacks and doing your homework (but she can’t stop you! hahahaa)! And of course, you get a whole bunch of crazy topics to talk to child!Arino about – when asking what you do instead of smashing controllers when you lose, you have the option to tell him that you “get up and meow”. As an Only Child, perhaps I could adopt this strategy when I find myself losing at videogames in the present?