Weekly iCross: Forget-Me-Not is the 80s arcade game that never was

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Retro is big these days. Retro remakes are everywhere, from Bionic Commando to my personal favorite, Pac-Man CE DX. Most of the time, retro games are simply retro style and improve or enhance the game with the use of modern hardware. Forget-Me-Not isn’t like that. It’s a game that looks and feels right out of 1980. And the title, I think, has double meaning.

After the jump: all that’s missing is the quarter slot

Forget-Me-Not uses blocky line graphics to depict its maze. Yes, as with so many ancient arcade games, it’s maze-based. You move your little square around a randomly generated maze, collecting blocky flowers. Your little block…guy…thing…whatever it is…shoots little beams out in front at a regular pace which can’t be stopped or altered. Strange blocky critters inhabit the maze and try to ram into you or shoot you. Simple enough, right?

Grab all the flowers and a door to the next level appears. You’ll need to be dragging the key, hanging out somewhere on the level, to enter it. There’s some deceptive complexity at play here. The mazes are destructible, and can alter when an enemy explodes. Your own shots can fly off one end of the maze, wrap around, and come back to hurt you. The key blocks shots from you and the enemies, so it’s great to carry around. But enemies can steal the key from you. On top of all this, you get points based on how long of an unbroken chain of flowers you pick up, so you’ll want to plan a route that makes big combos. You can grind the walls by trying to turn early, giving you a speed boost, but too much grinding causes you to explode.

The visuals and sounds aren’t just reminiscent of old arcade games, they’re just like them. I could swear some of the sound effects were lifted from Defender or Stargate. An Insert Coin prompt, just for yuks, wouldn’t be out of place.

After fooling around with it for a while, I get the feeling the title isn’t just referring to the symbolic flowers you collect. The game is a nice diversion and affordable enough at $1.99, but it’s easily cast aside to play another round of something that sinks its hooks into you deeper, like Dungeon Raid. It has the fundamental problem of nearly all iPhone games that use a four-way virtual control pad style input, in that you’ll sometimes intend to go from up to down and go right or left instead. The retro sights and sounds only tickle the nostalgia nerve for so long before you wish maybe for just a little more pizzazz.

I guess I can’t just chase a high score for too long. A game like Pac-Man CE DX has you chasing after a high score, but puts you in a pressure cooker with time limits, various maze changes, escalating speed, timed challenges, and all sorts of gimmicks. Ironically, it’s the way the game limits its play time that makes me want to keep playing. With Forget-Me-Not, the game design feels stuck in 1980 along with the graphics and sound, where the economic incentive of stretching a quarter as long as possible and seeing your initials on the high score board was enough to get your pulse pounding. To make his game a truly addictive hit, Brandon Williamson, the game’s developer, has to find a tension replacement for quarter-munching as Namco did with Pac-Man CE DX. Buy it when it goes on sale, or if and when an update adds an exciting new twist.