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Penny Parlor brings retro games to the iPhone

by Dan Kricke

Penny Parlor does more than throw players a handful of simple tap-to-score sports games and call it a “retro gaming experience.” No, the game actually oozes retro. Players don’t select the games from a sterile list, instead they saunter over to them in a dark, old-timey parlor and then, via a first-person view, step right up to the game to begin playing it.

The transition from menu to game is seamless, and, I suspect, meant to inspire a serious nostalgia trip. For the most part, that works. The games you can play include a “Home Run Derby”-style baseball game, an “electric football”-style game, a golf game and, rather weirdly, a cricket game. Even jumping into the cricket game comes with just the right amount of retro feel, and I had no idea what I was doing in it most of the time.

The baseball and football titles fare the best. Baseball because it’s the closest replication of the actual sport, and football because it’s a bit of a mad dash against a clock as you try to shoot a football into numbered goals at the end of the field in order to pick up yards and, eventually, touchdowns before the clock runs out.

Golf is fine, with the player trying to gauge the proper swing power to get the ball into a series of holes. It plays extremely well, but lacks the overall excitement or rush provided by the football and baseball games.

Cricket fares the worst, and I don’t think it’s just because the rules of cricket seem a bit weird. In Penny Parlor’s cricket, players have to manually generate swing power when the ball comes in from the pitcher, with the goal being to strike one of the numerous labeled cards on the field. It’s similar to the baseball game, but whatever coding was used to determine how hard the player is swinging feels insanely out of whack. Most of the cards are fairly close to the batter, but it’s difficult to get your batter to perform a swing that isn’t trying to hit the ball to the moon. There's no sense of balance, and the game loses its luster quickly.

Still, a rating of three is pretty good, no matter what sport you’re playing. If you’re a sports fan who remembers tabletop games that resemble the kind found in Penny Parlor and you have a hankering for simple-styled iPhone games, Penny Parlor will make a welcome addition to your library. If, on the other hand, you’re more concerned with the latest and greatest, this is not the sports app that will win you over. It has plenty of style, its just style more tooled for an older generation.

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