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Games of the 80s bounce back on Nokia handsets

Like the good old days, except it's in your pocket

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One of the strange quirks of today's mobile phone market is that the greatest hits games you might recall from nigh on 20 years ago are returning, on a device in your pocket Real Soon Now. Or indeed, actually now. Greybeards among The Register readership who remember Repton for the BBC Model B will be pleased (or possibly disturbed) to hear you can now get it on a mobile phone for £7.50.

The Register itself doesn't remember Repton, on the basis that we were in the Sinclair camp of the three-cornered fight that was the UK home computer market in the 1980s. But we're prepared to take Masabi Software's word for it when they tell us it was a best-seller. The general idea is that you steer your hero through a maze, picking up diamonds and avoiding fatal boulders, and you can do it on the Nokia 7650 by giving Masabi your money here.

The Register's testers were cautiously optimistic about Repton on the 7650. Elder child, who has clearly been spoiled by the sweeping vistas and detailed graphics of modern PC games, was dubious about stumping up £7.50 for what is in essence a 1980s computing experience, albeit on a very small device. Smaller child confirmed that she would indeed be prepared to spend however long it took to establish a high score so stupidly vast that nobody else in the family would ever go near the game. But £7.50 is something she generally has not got.

That however is not the point. Repton is a 'levels' game, and Masabi hopes to be able to establish a sales model whereby people pay a small amount of money in order to get onto the next level. As yet we've no way of knowing whether or not this will work, but if the revenue model does turn out to be extras for a basic piece of software, then getting the software out there is important, and entry cost of software isn't. Something else for the networks to subsidise - that'll cheer them up.

Tom Godber of Masabi, who had a few beers with The Register some months back and very decently didn't complain when we failed to get a write-up together, tells us that the company is shooting for a "fully networked" version of Repton before the end of the year. The major sticking points for this are availability of colour Java phones, differences in relative speeds of Java implementations from phone to phone, and availability of usable micropayment systems from the networks. But we're getting there, and the 80s games industry is poised for a rematch. ®

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