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Relive the LCD Handheld Age

Bored? Why not indulge in some classics from an age when you had to buy a whole new handheld to play a different game?

By Pete Davison. Published 8 months ago

We have it pretty good these days when it comes to handhelds. On both the 3DS and Vita, you can download as many games as you have storage space for, and have quick and easy access to them without ever having to change a cartridge.

There was a dark age, though -- an age where a single handheld device played a single game, and nothing more, and if you wanted to play anything else, you had to buy a whole new system.

Okay, that's not entirely accurate; these handheld LCD games, of which Nintendo's well-known Game & Watch series was just one brand of many, never marketed themselves as multi-game systems -- they were more toys that happened to allow you to play rather simplistic games, their functionality limited by the fact they were using the same technology as that found in digital watches. You could see how they worked when you put in a new battery and set the clock that was inevitably found on them -- the illusion of "animation" was created by the system just lighting up Mario-shaped segments of the complete display, and changing the battery usually caused all the segments of the display to light up simultaneously for a moment.

Part of the challenge in these games is working out what the hell you're supposed to do.

Despite their technological limitations and simplistic gameplay, though, many of these little handheld games made for extremely addictive experiences ideal for whiling away a few minutes at a time. They were, in effect, the mobile phone games of their day -- not intended to replace more substantial experiences, but satisfying and enjoyable in their own right.

In case you ever wanted to remind yourself of some of the classics, a website called Pica Pic -- the work of Polish digital studio Hipopotam -- allows you to browse through a lovingly made digital recreation of a variety of handheld LCD games, including some Nintendo classics, and actually play them using your computer keyboard to simulate the physical controls.

The games on offer range from well-known Nintendo Game & Watch titles like Donkey Kong, Octopus and Zelda to more obscure Japanese titles like Ncha! Bycha, Tiger titles such as the officially licensed Terminator LCD game and other offerings from manufacturers from around the world. In total, there are 26 games available for you to play, all of which include online leaderboards and customizable controls, along with an authentic "clack" sound when you push the virtual buttons. Many of them also allow you to view the original artwork and packaging, too, allowing you to wallow even further in nostalgia.

As ever, USgamer takes no responsibility for any wasted time that may result from indulging in these retro classics. Check out Pica Pic here.

The best community comments so far 2 comments

  • Captain Gonru 8 months ago

    I still have a handful of the Tiger games, including the mentioned Terminator game. They ran the gamut from "hey, this is pretty okay" to "dear God, why did you bother?", with Batman being more the former, and Street Fighter being MUCH the latter.

  • Fresh_Paprika 8 months ago

    This is really nice. I never got to try any Game & Watch game in its original form before, and this is probably as close as I'll get.

    Plus, I got to try that Game & Watch Zelda, which means I've now officially played every Zelda release, no matter how pointless. (Those CDi games don't count, pox on anyone who think they do, and I actually did briefly play one of them)

    Thanks, Mr. Pete!

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