It's common knowledge that most Facebook games today are geared toward middle-aged mothers, but what is it about a digital city simulator that resonates with a soccer mom, anyway? Langhorne, Penn.-based Entertainment Games thinks that, by putting on the good old, rosy-colored glasses of nostalgia, it can not only capture the mini van owners, but maybe the jazzy chair owners, too. The studio's first ever Facebook game is Retro World, a social adventure game that attempts to capture the spirit of the '50s through the '80s.
And what better way to do that than through TV, the very invention that defined the baby boomer generation. But in order to really capture the essence of classic television, the game world had to look and feel just like it did before. The studio, with offices in Los Angeles and Massachusetts, has been hard at work acquiring licenses to use imagery of the Spiegel Catalog, Elvis Presley Estate, John Belushi, Dick Clark, Marilyn Monroe, Corbis, Getty and likely many more.
"Licenses are important because authenticity is very important," Entertainment Games CEO Jerry Klein tellus. "We want it to look exactly like it did."
After an in-person first look at Retro World, it certainly looks the part. Players are greeted in Retro World by the man of the hour himself, Dick Clark, on what looks like a Hollywood lot. From here, you'll insert yourself into reimagined homages to classic TV shows like Owl Files, a tribute to Get Smart (not the movie). This is the meat and potatoes of Retro World, so to speak. Every show plays out like the now-timeless PC point-and-click adventure games, such as Day of the Tentacle or Carmen Sandiego of the '90s. (So, even this 23-year-old felt pangs of nostalgia.)
You'll essentially be inserted into the plot of each episode, tasked with helping the characters achieve their goals, such as stopping Russian spies from launching a deadly missile. Most of those characters are actually human actors are filmed and captured through software that recreates them into animated, 2D images. (This is to maintain authenticity, of course.) But some of those characters will actually be celebrities from the time recasted in chuckle-inducing roles, like Marilyn Monroe as a Russian spy bent on America's destruction.
"We're sort of recasting these characters," Entertainment Games President and COO Gene Mauro tells us. "We don't overdo it on the celebrities, but it's fun when you start to think about how you'll cross-pollinate across these brands that people have a lot of affinity towards. Bringing these guys back to life is a lot of fun."
But Mauro and Klein expect other aspects of the game to be equally as entertaining as the retro celebrity cameos, like Retro World's hidden-object gameplay. Progressing through each episode will more often than not require you to retrieve items for characters, or solve small puzzles. But the main hook of the game is mixed up with mini games tucked into each show's episode. And while they're replayable from the main lot in the game, the games are inserted into each episode in a way that's relevant to the procedural plot.
For instance, when you and the Owl Files characters are turned into monkeys just as the Russian spies escape, you must climb the missile as a monkey to stop its launch within an allotted time. The mini games admittedly appear uninspired aside from how they're inserted into each show's plot, making obvious nods to Angry Birds, Breakout and more. But that's not the developer's primary concern.
"So, don't reinvent the wheel with the mini game parts," Mauro admits to us. "Our big innovation is that we're presenting this adventure game mechanic with a photorealistic effect that we think is going to resonate aesthetically with the audience. And then deliver to them the classic puzzle games."
While new episodes are planned to be added on a monthly basis, there are other ways the developer looks to tap the nostalgia lobe (it's science) in its players' brains. Retro World will launch with a separate feature that allows players to build classic cars and race them with friends asynchronously--and that's everything from the engine block to the type of rims. Since that's geared mainly toward male baby boomers, Entertainment Games plans to provide similar features for women as well.
While Retro World's social features weren't shown, we're told that special episodes will be introduced to the game that require players to form teams to tackle unique plots with tasks for each player to complete. Retro World is certainly an ambitious endeavor, given that it's looking to tap (or even create) an audience of gamers that may not even play games. The game is expected to launch on Facebook early this month, and certainly scores points for originality. Retro World looks and moves just like the adventure games of the '90s, with imagery that harkens back even further to the Golden Age of Television. And it's thanks to that that Entertainment Games is confident that it's into something.
"We think of [resource management games] as spreadsheet games," Mauro says. "Very popular, great viral marketing tools, but probably less game than they are something else. [Retro World] is so different, it's so unique and so targeted that hopefully the audience will want to share this in ways that are more natural than you [would] want to share a digital tractor."
Would you dig a game that tapped the era you grew up in? What do you think of Retro World after getting a sneak peek? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.