Retro Review: Game & Watch Gallery
The Nintendo Game and Watch legacy began as an idea from famed Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi as a way to relieve boredom and play simple games along with serving as a functional alarm clock. The Game and Watch handhelds sold over 43 million units worldwide and feature a large selection of mini-games, some of which feature famous Nintendo characters Donkey Kong and Mario. Despite the devices being retired in 1991, four Game and Watch titles were optimized, enhanced, and re-released in 1997 for use with the Game Boy.
The first in the series was titled Game & Watch Gallery and featured four games: Manhole, Fire, Octopus, and Oil Panic. Along with the classic titles, each game featured a new version, replacing the monochrome black figures (who would later become known as Mr. Game and Watch) with classic Mario characters such as Princess Peach and Toad.
Each game is simple in concept, requiring the use of only two buttons and the directional pad. The only objective is achieving the highest score. In Manhole, you're scrambling to cover open manholes to prevent people from falling in. In Fire, you're using a trampoline to catch hapless victims jumping out of a burning building and at the same time, bouncing them to a waiting ambulance.
The remaining two games, Octopus and Oil Panic, are only slightly more difficult in concept, requiring more precise timing. Octopus managed to have me more on the edge than some bigger budget horror titles, a strong feat considering that the game started as basic LCD game.
Game & Watch Gallery is interesting to look back at because it shows a side of Nintendo that emphasized simplicity and accessibility, an attitude that would once again resurface with the launch of the Wii. While there is little more to the game today than the eight titles offered, it’s still an interesting look back at a bygone era of Nintendo before Mario, Link and Wario became household names. I wouldn't recommend it at full price, but if you can find this second-hand or download through the 3DS Virtual Console, it’s a fun way to revisit the past.