One of my earliest gaming memories is sneaking downstairs on Christmas morning and raiding the top item out of my stocking. It was a slim plastic device, narrower than a paperback and chewing-gum thin, called Game & amp; Watch. It was one of a group of new portable machines from Nintendo -- Who had heard of Nintendo? Atari was where it was at! -- each one featuring a different game. Mine was called Fire, and it required me to move evacuees from a burning building to a waiting ambulance by bouncing them on a movable trampoline. The graphics were nothing more than black LCD figures: every time something would appear onscreen, it would look the same way and be in the same place as it had appeared before. You could even see the shadows where they would appear. Crude and simplistic by today's standards, the action still got very hectic quickly, and it kept me occupied throughout that morning and for months into the new year.
So I was delighted to discover Fire on Nintendo's Game & amp; Watch Gallery 4 for the GameBoy Advance. Not only was it a perfect replica of the game -- complete with LCD shadows -- but it also featured an optional "modern version," with colored graphics, slightly varied play and Nintendo characters replacing the black stick figures of the original.
At first, the game cartridge allows you to play five games and their updates, but as you work your way through each one with higher scores, you unlock six hidden games and their modern equivalents, and finally nine classics without remakes. That's a lot of games, but the real treat is how challenging they are. Any gamer may find the likes of Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda giving them a serious beating. The action is so simple and easy to comprehend that the subtly changing patterns complicating the gameplay will come as a rude surprise.
So while it's not as splendid as Metroid Prime or Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, Game & amp; Watch Gallery 4 is the GameBoy advance game I'll probably be playing most through the holidays. It's a treat to be taken back to these old favorites, and they've inspired a serious grudge: There's no way I can let a game with graphics this simple get the best of me.