Game review: Retro Winter Sports 1986 – a charming reminder of the humble beginnings of gaming

Go slalom skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice-skating, bobsledding and curling on your mobile device and wallow in some nostalgic fun

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 12:30pm

Retro Winter Sports 1986

Headup Games

4/5 stars

Like many people of my generation, I love retro games. We’ve come a long way since the 1980s and VR promises that we’ll all soon be gaming in virtual worlds, but there’s nothing like a humble eight-bit release that makes us feel nostalgic for the good old days of gaming.

Retro Winter Sports 1986 feels like a lot of things. It feels like those basic games found in bootleg NES 100-in-1 cartridges. It feels like SkiFree, that freebie thrown onto every early ’90s Windows PC. It feels like every cheap winter sports game ever made, really. But it never feels worn or weary, and that’s a large part of its undeniable charm.

Perfectly designed for mobile devices (it’s available for both Android and iOS), the game offers six winter sports: slalom skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice-skating, bobsledding and curling. Everything you’d ever want in a gaming winter wonderland – and switching between each pastime is all part of the clever challenge.

Retro’s mechanics might be firmly old-school, and it’s all the better for it, but the gameplay has thankfully been updated to suit the handheld world, with equal parts swiping, tapping and damn good rhythm as players take to the snowy white pixelated hills. The control scheme is easily its strongest feature, and while there’s a steep learning curve when getting to grips with the handling, once mastered, it soon becomes downwind sailing.

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But nostalgia is a funny thing, and what you might remember as a thoroughly complex game that occupied countless hours during school holidays in fact turns out to be nothing more than the same course over and over. That’s a small drawback in Retro, but one that would’ve been more noticeable on PCs or consoles.

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It somehow suits the limited scope of gaming on mobile devices, where play-time is often limited to minutes rather than hours. Of course I would’ve preferred something slightly more intricate, maybe a career mode or a cup challenge, but a balance is required for old-school adventures, and this ends up fitting just fine.

Retro Winter Sports 1986 won’t blow your mind. It’s not the kind of game you’d show off to friends or harp on about after a few pints. But for those looking to pass time on a minibus, or during a lazy Sunday on the couch, it’s the ideal kind of retro distraction.