Time Detectives: The Mystery Of The Mary Rose (iOS, Android, Free)
Verdict: the future of history
Games are everywhere. On television, in your hands – and, it turns out, amid the salty environs of Portsmouth’s historic shipyard.
That’s where the Mary Rose, once the pride of Henry VIII’s navy, has found its final berth. This grand old craft was lifted from the seabed 40 years ago in October, after it sank during a battle with l’ancien ennemi in the 1500s. Its remains are kept in one of the country’s most remarkable museums.
A game has also been launched on the yard to bring the Mary Rose – almost literally – to life. It’s called Time Detectives: The Mystery Of The Mary Rose and it’s an AR or augmented reality title. Thanks to a special app, you wave your phone and see characters from history as if they were standing next to you.
As an experience it is exquisite. Those smells! The way artifacts are brought within your (digital) reach! It’s meant for kids, but it’ll be great for adults too
This app can be used anywhere – even in (yuck!) France – but it really shines at the Mary Rose Museum. I was treated to a preview a few weeks ago, and it wasn’t just sights and sounds, but smells too. A backpack sprays the smell of gunpowder or beer in your nostrils as you search for clues.
In reality, there’s not much gameplay here: actors in britches re-enact their scenes, and you have to guess what happened to the Mary Rose at the end. But as an experience it is exquisite. Those smells! The way artifacts are brought within your (digital) reach! It’s meant for kids, but it’ll be great for adults too.
So, as the tourist office would say, consider a trip to Portsmouth during this summer break. To see our past. And the future.
Lego Atari 2600 (Lego website and shops, £209.99)
Verdict: Woody miracle
It’s Christmas in July! Except, ah, sorry, it’s August. Whatever. The thing is, for a certain kind of person, Christmas has arrived early this year — or at least has the perfect Christmas present.
The kind of person? Gamers who are already getting pixelated eyes at the thought of blocky, bleepy-bloopy consoles from the 1980s.
The gift? A new Lego, recreation of the original Atari 2600 console from over 40 years ago. Actually, I shouldn’t say ‘original’. This is technically the updated version of the console from 1980, with four front switches, known at the time as the Atari VCS. The people this Lego set is aimed at — people like me — care about such things.
And yes, this set is intended for people like me – rather than children, for example. It is expensive. It’s nostalgic. And while practically anyone with the patience for a 200-page instruction book will be fine, it’s certainly trickier than the Lego sets released at the time of the actual Atari 2600.
There’s just something solid and handsome about the 2600 – or VCS, if you will, with its wood grain frontage – that captures this set perfectly
Lego has been making a lot more of — and presumably a whole lot of Danish kroner of — these adult collectibles lately. A few years ago they released a similar release for the classic Nintendo Entertainment System. That also included a retro TV, with a scrolling version of Super Mario Bros. on the screen, all made of plastic bricks.
This Atari 2600 is not that ambitious, but it does have some extra functions: three game cartridges for example; and a hidden panel that reveals an ’80s playroom.
But, thanks in part to its relative simplicity, the Lego Atari is ultimately more satisfying than the Lego NES. There’s just something solid and handsome about the 2600 – or VCS, if you will, with its wood grain frontage – that captures this set perfectly. Putting it together felt less like an act of creation than an excavation, uncovering something wondrous from the dusty past.
And now, alas, a dusty future awaits on my shelves. Once made, little more can be done with these beautiful Lego sets than to display them – and wish you had a real 2600 to play with. Maybe if I just go to eBay…