The return of retro: Why 2019 marks a comeback for old-fashioned toys
RE-RELEASED toys are turning toy trunks into a nostalgia fest this year. We asked 'toyologist' Peter Jenkinson about the rise of retro – here's his quick rundown of some of the new toys turning back time...
:: BoomTrix Xtreme Trampoline Action
A deceptively simple game based on spatial awareness, BoomTrix players create long, intricate sequences of hoops, stunts and bounce pads to get one or more ball-bearings from beginning to goal. "It's based on an 80s classic called Cascade," says Jenkinson. "It's like a complex Newton's Cradle and can help kids get a little bit of Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]."
:: Augmented Reality Pictionary
Not every retro rebound has to rebuff the delights of digital, and some are opting to synthesise board and screen. You probably know roughly how Pictionary works – draw the word on the card; pass it on; the next person draws what they think you've drawn – and following it's heyday in the early-90s, it never wholly disappeared. In this new edition, you quite literally draw in the air, which manifests as an image on surrounding smart devices – massive novelty value if not a major shift in gameplay.
:: Rubik's Cube
A byword for the pleasures and challenges presented by an old-fashioned toy box, the Rubik's Cube has never really fallen from fashion. Completing one remains a skill of some status, aided by a hotly contested world record based on how quickly you can do it. As of May 2018, the time to beat is 4.22 seconds (yes, seconds). 2019 has brought the release of Rubik's Cube-themed games called Rubik's Flip and Rubik's Cage.
One simplest toy of them all, Ztringz does a spell-checked version of what it says on the tin. "It's a highly colourful piece of string that's wax coated so it doesn't burn your fingers," says Jenkinson. It's an update on a classic." Children twirl the string round their fingers to make a pattern – such as the classic Cat's Cradle – and then pass it to a friend to see whether they can do better.
:: Micro Arcade Pac-Man
Released just two years after Space Invaders, Pac-Man is the original model that so many have since mimicked, and it has now been re-released as a pocket game squeezed on to a device the size of a credit card. "It's one of those no-fuss devices you can up and play like a game of noughts and crosses," says Jenkinson. "Of course, you could get it on your phone as an app, but that doesn't quite have the same nostalgia."
:: Jaws: The Board Game
We're going to guess that if you were charged with making a board game, your first instinct wouldn't be to base it on a film from 1975. But Jaws has what Jenkinson calls 'shelf worthiness'. He explains: "If you have people round, they'll recognise it and it can be a conversation-starter. It starts a dialogue about something you wouldn't otherwise get to talk about."
Overall, board games are leading the analogue renaissance. "We're up to more than 200 board game cafes in the UK," Jenkinson adds.