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5 apps for nostalgia

Here's another entry in our "Five Apps For" series, which identifies five iPhone/iPod touch apps that fill a specific niche, appeal to a particular crowd, or cover an area of interest. Enjoy!

As an aging child of the 70's and 80's (I'll be 40 in January), I'm feeling nostalgic for the past while cozying up to my own mortality. Call it a mid-life crisis, regression or what have you, but I'm thinking about the old days. This Etch-a-Sketch iPad case kicked the process into high gear and got me thinking about contemporary versions of the games I used to love.

After scouring the App Store, I found the selection sadly lacking. Every app I found (with one notable exception) resembled its ancestor only superficially. Still, I present them for your consideration. Here are five apps for nostalgia.

Speak & Spell

Update: Reader Rockey04 has pointed out iSpeak and Spell ($0.99). Awesome!

Who remembers typing out bad words with the good old Speak & Spell from Texas Instruments? I don't mean the 1986 model with that poseur membrane keyboard, but the '78 model with big chunky keys and that unforgettable voice: "That is incorrect. The correct spelling of...."

While there's no actual Speak & Spell app in the app store, there is Remix DJ : Speak EZ (Free). Its UI closely resembles that of the Speak & Spell and includes all of the original sounds, including that very same voice; over 200 samples in all. It's meant for DJs to use as a virtual instrument (you can't play any of the old Speak & Spell games), but for free it's still fun to hear the old sounds. Remix DJ: Speak EZ is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch.

Click Read More to see our remaining four picks.
Merlin

Oh, what a fantastic little device Merlin was. The Parker Brothers toy was among the first electronic handheld games, and over 5 million units were sold. It featured 11 buttons with LED lights and six game modes, like Tic Tac Toe, Echo and Blackjack 13.

Today, the App Store offers Magic Square (US$0.99), which simulates a single game, Magic Square, from the Merlin experience. The object is to press the buttons, each of which turns the lights on or off in a specific manner, until a pre-determined pattern is achieved. It's fun, but unfortunately Magic Square only offers the one Merlin game.

If someone made the real thing, I'd buy it in a minute (are you listening, Parker Brothers?).

Simon

I can remember rabid games of Simon with my friends Mike and Lou back in the day. Simon was a popular game put out by Milton Bradley in 1978; it featured four colorful buttons which led players through a simple game of Simon Says. The buttons flashed on and off in increasingly lengthy patterns which you had to replicate perfectly.

We found Simon HD in the App Store ($0.99), and it looks pretty good. The game sits on a wooden table and invites you to play. Tap the colors in the order in which they were presented. Unlike the old version, the beeps do not increase in speed, but we're not complaining for something that costs a buck.

Milton

"Hey hey hey, how many wanna play?" The sassy Milton by Milton Bradley was another memory game. Released in 1980, Milton challenged players to recall spoken phrases as opposed to patterns of light and sound.

Two players competed against each other. Milton presented two sets of buttons, red and yellow. The red buttons contained the first part of a word or phase, and the yellow ones the second part. The goal was to assemble a sentence that made sense. Get it wrong, and suffer Milton's wrath ("Absurd.").

Fans might want to check out Memory Milton ($0.99). We say might because the whole appeal of the original game was the voice. It sounded like a cross between Fat Albert and Wolfman Jack. The fact that the game didn't have a robotic-sounding voice was a big deal back in 1980. Unfortunately, the developers of Milton Memory went in the opposite direction and used a terrible happy-go-lucky electronic voice that detracts from the experience.

LED Football

Let's end on a high note. You don't know your way around a gridiron until you've lined up little red dots in the shotgun formation in preparation for a last-second Hail Mary pass. Of course, I'm talking about LED Football.

Originally released as Football by Mattel, the handheld game became wildly popular and was the first "thing" I remember desperately wanting to own. Fortunately, its modern day successor is worthy of the title.

LED Football Player Vs. Player HD ($2.99) is gorgeous. The UI is dead-on right, and the blips, sounds, gameplay and everything else are just what I remember. It's a must-own for anyone who loved LED Football as a kid.

So there you have it, five apps for nostalgia. As you can see, most of them need work. Since none of them are officially licensed, the developers can only go so far if they want to avoid trouble. While many of the Baby Boomer games have been ported beautifully (and officially), the games we Gen Xers loved still aren't the real deal. Come on, Milton Bradley! Let's build some real apps!

If you're looking for five more nostalgia apps, check out Commodore 64 (now with the return of the BASIC interpreter), Intellivision for iPhone and for iPad, Wooly Willy, Pong, Lite Brite and Street Fighter IV.

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