the Horn Farm Paste Mob


GAMMA BROS. (Flash – free)

Playable online and downloadable for Mac & PC

In the old days, the technical limitations of arcade games– and presumed minuscule attention span of players– led to harsh noises and bright colors. As possibilities expanded, everyone assumed video games would become more realistic, as opposed to just being more complex representations of the garish Video Game Reality that many of us were getting used to. (A notable exception is Williams’ excellent Blaster.)

This is one situation where a lot of fun can come from nostalgia’s habit of (accidentally?) exaggerating the things it revives. Gamma Brothers bips, whirrs and gargles at you, but also stays quiet when it needs to, giving a sonic range that I’m pretty sure Pac-Man could have had if he’d wanted to– he just didn’t. The bright colors taper off into darkness, creating an effect that’s more like “neon in the rain” than “angry fruit salad”.

Gamma Bros. also plays exquisitely. You need to use the edges of the screen as much as the center, but enemies very rarely blindside you from offscreen. The dynamic of Galaga, where aliens first parade around the screen and then fall into formation, is even more fun when you have complete freedom of movement. And while the number of enemy types could be larger, there are enough to prevent complacency, and the boss battles more than make up for it.

A good player can probably reach the final space-octopus/mother-of-demons fight in two or three hours, so the time commitment isn’t huge. (Neither is replay value, unless you want to try again on Hard difficulty.)

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