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Remember the good old plays.

Byline: By David Williamson Western Mail

The computer games of the past are back, as players swap 21st-century graphics for the brilliant gameplay of Asteroids and Pacman.

Gadget retailers have been stunned by the popularity of joysticks which plug straight into a television set and come loaded with classic games from past decades.

Such simulators of Sega and Atari consoles have won a legion of fans, but their numbers could be dwarfed by the hordes expected to buy the latest direct-to-TV controller.

The Commodore 64, a home computer once found in bedrooms across the Western world, has been reincarnated as a pounds 29.99 joystick. When it was launched in the United States last year it sold a reported 40,000 units on its first day.

This craze is powered by more than sheer nostalgia. The simplicity of the games of this era has also proved a potent selling-point.

Mr Nicholson, marketing manager of Gadgets.co.uk, said, 'The nice thing about these games is you can pick them up and play them without reading through a manual first.'

Computer games regularly now take up to four years to develop and feature the type of animation and sound effects which previously would only have been found in Hollywood films or aircraft simulators.

But while fans of this new generation of video game have created one of the entertainment industry's most lucrative markets, a disenchantment with their complexity and spectacle has seeped in. A common complaint is that while games may have different graphics, the playing experience changes little from one title to another.

Adam Storey, 19, works at The Gadget Shop in Cardiff and can understand why his peers are embracing the retro devices.

He said, 'Games are coming out every week and I think people are bored with that. They've come to a point where there's nothing more they can offer - it's the same games with different skins.'

However, reissued games such as Pacman can prove just as engaging today as when they were first released, attracting both nostalgia players and children too young for violent epics.

'Anybody can play Pacman, it's so simple,' he said. 'It fits every age range. It's incredibly easy to play and easy to set up.'

Simulators of the Sega Megadrive console have also been a success but he predicted the chance to play Commodore 64 games once again would be seized by the computer's British fans. Following its launch in 1982, 30 million units were sold.

Mr Nicholson said, 'The C64 is particularly popular because it's the first time a home computer has been brought back as a retro option.'

Many of today's computer programmers made games of their own using the C64. Unlike the consoles which had brought the first video games into homes, this was not just a box with a joypad - it was a programmable computer.

Fierce rivalry developed in Britain between devotees of the C64 and owners of Amstrad and ZX Spectrum computers. 'It's the biggest selling home computer in the world,' Mr Nicholson said. 'It's got lots of memories behind it.' Classics get a digital facelift and fresh graphics: Erstwhile console giant Atari is taking the classic games revival a step further, by bringing back old titles with modern standards of presentation.

Retro Atari Classics is expected to be published in March and will feature '10 classic Atari titles with fresh graphics provided by world renowned graffiti artists'.

Among the games which will have had a digital facelift are such favourites as Pong, Missile Command and Asteroids.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 8, 2005
Words:589
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