For a few years now, Super Impulse has been miniaturizing nostalgia with tiny replicas of classic arcade cabinets and squeezing popular retro games into credit card-sized consoles. For its next trick, it’s focusing more on authenticity (relatively speaking) with a pair of retro gaming experiences that look and play exactly as the originals did, but at a fraction of their original size.
We all carry around smartphones capable of playing games that rival even those available on modern consoles, as well as almost every retro title imaginable through emulation. But a big part of gaming nostalgia wasn’t the games, but the experience of playing them; be it at a crowded video arcade, or huddled around an old CRT with gamepads in hand in someone’s basement.
Tapping away on a touchscreen while riding the bus to work just isn’t the same experience, but at the same time, few of us have a spare room to fill with classic arcade cabinets or any interest in resurrecting an old tube TV the size of a small sedan. It’s why companies like Arcade1Up who make three-quarter scale replicas of classic gaming setups have enjoyed a lot of success in recent years, but why fill a corner of your living room or office with retro hardware when you can instead just fill a tiny corner of your desk?
Next month, Super Impulse will be releasing two new additions to its Electronic Arcades lineup, and for gainfully employed adults who were kids of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the Tiny Arcade Atari 2600 is going to be the one that’s impossible to pass up. Instead of packing a bunch of classic Atari titles into a miniature arcade cabinet, Super Impulse has recreated the complete setup many of us cut our gaming teeth on, with a tiny Atari console and joystick connected to an equally tiny TV. There’s even a tiny replica of an RF modulator: a technology that kids who grew up with HDMI cables will find utterly baffling.
The TV features a pair of fold-out legs so it can stand alone or be used with an equally tiny Ikea entertainment center, but in lieu of a CRT tube, the screen has been upgraded to a 1.5-inch full-color LCD that can be tilted for optimal viewing angles. When the Atari is powered up, gamers can select from a decent selection of retro titles including Pac-Man, Combat, Asteroids, Warlords, Centipede, Breakout, Tempest, Missile Command, Millipede, and Pong. They’re all playable, with authentic Atari graphics (Pac-Man still looks awful on the 2600), and while the joystick works, don’t expect to be setting too many high scores with this setup. But as the perfect distraction during a Zoom call, it’s totally worth the $25 price tag.
If you’re looking for a less laid-back way to kill some time while you’re on the clock at work, Super Impulse also set its wayback machine to 1998 with a tiny replica of the Dance Dance Revolution arcade machine. It includes a slightly larger LCD screen than the Atari 2600, but instead of a joystick, you get the game’s oversized four-way directional controls that have been shrunk down so you can press them with your fingers instead of your feet.
The miniature version of the game isn’t as frenetic as the arcade version. Flashing lights are limited to the four arrow buttons, and the included speaker doesn’t exactly fill a room with booming sound. But it’s more than loud enough to hear one of the game’s three included tracks (Keep on Movin’, Paranoia, and Make it Better) and to make you incredibly stressed while your fingers try to keep up with the onslaught of arrows flying across the screen. For $25 it’s not exactly a desk toy that will de-stress you, but as rhythm games go, DDR is still incredibly fun, even at this scale.
Both the Super Impulse Atari 2600 and Dance Dance Revolution Electronic Arcades will be available from Target starting next month.