Piepacker is a quick and easy way to get retro games, but the current crop of games and single-player limitations are holding it back.
Piepacker is a new gaming service that aims to complement current streaming choices like Stadia with a free assortment of retro games from yesteryear. All of Jim earthworm To Sensible football stream directly from the browser without any downloads or other technical obstacles. While the focus is definitely on multiplayer and streaming with friends, the range of titles scattered around is diverse enough to provide some single player entertainment, especially given the non-existent barrier to entry.
Piepacker’s launch lineup includes over 60 games mixed between classic games and newly developed games with retro graphics and mechanics. The most recent titles, including games from Mega Cat Studios and Morphcat Games, are among the best in the lineup thanks to a modern design sensibility. As many as names like Glove maker and Rex radical might arouse nostalgic thoughts in some of the audience, few are going to stick with them for the long haul if they’ve been following the game since the 90s. Instead, more unique games like Coffee crisis, Old towers, and the Piepacker exclusivity Bomber-As Arsène Lupine: Gentleman Bomber anchor the catalog as free experiences that keep the retro theme without the aftertaste of outdated mechanics.
For those interested in the more classic side of the library, the quality of each included game can be quite hit and miss. For example, Piepacker includes the classic Toward brain teaser Worm explosion among its launch lineup, but inexplicably it’s the Game Boy Advance version. Nothing from generation PlayStation 2 and beyond is included here, which can be a limitation of the service, but the pixelated compromise offered is just not worth the time. Console ports like the PS1 versions of 40 winks and Glove maker work as expected, and the inclusion of save states makes them much more playable in 2021.
For those retro fans who already regularly emulate NES, SNES, and Genesis games, Piepacker has one cool feature that might prove to be the most useful. Users can drag any ROMs from these systems to the browser and load the game onto Piepacker’s internal emulators. The service treats these imported games the same as any other on the service, so players can take advantage of save states between sessions and invite friends for a video chat. Testing multiple games on each system, Piepacker didn’t miss a thing, even running video chat in the background as well. While currently only available to Kickstarter contributors, this “Bring Your Own Game” feature will eventually be available to everyone and will be a great way to quickly show a friend a retro game without setting up a full video chat.
With friends, Piepacker makes a lot of sense, which is why many of the games available now have premier multiplayer modes. Video chat (complete with funky AR face masks) does it all World worm festival To Sensible football a good moment. However, for someone who is just looking to participate in a round of Rage ball by themselves, the problems begin to arise. The big problem is, there’s no way to turn off the service’s social features and go full screen. There is always a small window to the right with video chat options asking if players want to invite their friends to watch. It’s really hard to fully immerse into an experience with such a distraction, which means it’s hard not to choose emulators like PCSX2 to play the single-player modes of these games even with the perks of Piepacker.
Come with the right expectations, Piepacker is a great service that offers a window to the past for anyone looking for a fast-paced browser-based gaming experience. The selection of games is eclectic in those early days, but there are winners and they all come at the right price. With some tweaking and the public launch of support for emulation of the provided ROMs, the site could become a staple in computer labs and public libraries across the country. It could also be a great way for independent developers to provide limited time demos of new releases or promote older titles when launching a new release. It’s not over yet, but it’s still worth a look for anyone curious about how easy it is for the games of yesteryear to make a living thanks to today’s technology.
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Piepacker is now available in beta through Google Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers. Screen Rant received a premium account for this review to test the “Bring Your Own Game” feature.
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