The spirit of the mid-to-late 20th century is alive in Retro World.
You know you’re getting old when a decade you lived through gets labeled as retro. For me, it was the 1980s, placed at the end of a list of decades stretching back to 1950s in Entertainment Games’ Retro World, and I found myself in oddly pleasant company as I glanced over the game’s references to the rerun favorites of my youth. I suppose that places me at the tail end of the studio’s target audience, but with such a wealth of entertainment and variety waiting beyond every click, I can’t help but think that younger audiences may find much to love amid the relentless nostalgia as well.
Playing Retro World feels like nothing so much as flipping through network channels on a lazy 80s afternoon, particularly since Entertainment Games has made significant strides in securing licenses for old favorites. At the time of writing, the star of the show was 1952’s “Job Switching” episode from I Love Lucy, which features several mini-games mixed into an interactive retelling of the day when Fred and Ricky try their luck at housekeeping while Lucy and Ethel attempt to make a living at a candy factory. The usual hijinks ensue, and you’ll join Ricky in his attempts to iron his own clothes and Lucy in her frustrated attempts to pour chocolate into a bowl in an object finding adventure.
But should you decide that you longer love Lucy, new experiences wait only a click away. You can try another episode-style game (usually with fictional programs that nevertheless manage to feel authentic), or you can try your hand at something decidedly more casual. In the arcade section, for instance, you’ll find everything from a version of Mahjongg that bids you match staples of 80s’ pop culture to a surprisingly challenging block buster called that features a woman hefting freight cars to a catchy disco groove. Regardless of what you like or what you’re in the mood for at the second, Retro World usually has something ready for you, and you could spend a few hours here before sampling all the game currently has available.
Much like the television shows it channels, however, Retro World largely seems designed with the single viewer in mind. Social options largely involve letting your Facebook friends know about such antics as Lucy and Ricky switching roles for the day via wall posts, save for an ambitious “Hide & Hunt” mode that allows you to challenge your Facebook friends to find objects you’ve hidden in a variety of retro settings. It currently seems broken, but features such as these could make it a title to watch if the developers manage to take a cue from Ricky’s day off and iron out the kinks. Beyond that, you can spend some of the game’s currency on different avatars, although the game could benefit some having some kind of space to display retro-themed awards from completing various quests.
Retro World is off to a good start, and if they iron out the bugs and repeat the success they’ve had with I Love Lucy with other franchises, the game might succeed in making a name for itself in an increasingly crowded social gaming climate. The concept brims with potential, and a hundred possibilities lie behind each beloved program from the 40 years in question. If handled effectively, Entertainment Games could turn Retro World into a gaming hub that’s good enough to dissuade its audiences from visiting other titles, provided they release content regularly enough to keep its audience from even thinking of touching that dial.
For now, though, just enjoy the show. It’s a good one.