On the shore of Oneida Lake, New York is Sylvan Beach, a small-town resort and amusement complex not unlike thousands of others that dot the country. To a parent, it's a fun day out. Just put the kids in the car and after a short drive set them loose on the beach, rides and sugary snacks.
To a kid, It's Xanadu.
My sisters and I were lucky enough to spend two weeks every summer in Oneida, and Sylvan Beach was the pinnacle of fun. Our grandparents fought toddler-induced exhaustion and a tight budget to host us for fourteen days, and by the time we hit Sylvan, they must have been dragging. Still, they never flinched as we requested money for rides. And sno-cones. And most importantly, for Skee Ball, so we could get tickets.
Oh, the tickets.
Nothing was more satisfying than the tick-tick-tick-clack! of the Skee Ball machine dispensing those heavy, cardboard tickets. The more you got the better you did, and we'd measure them against the length of our arms, our legs and each other. Of course, the best part was handing them to the shady carnie sitting behind a glass display case of cheap crap in trade. It was like shopping without money in a world of brightly-colored plastic. Nothing could be better.
Thirty years later I haven't hefted a wooden ball in a long time, but Ramp Champ for the iPhone and iPod touch offers a killer virtual version. If your unfamiliar, it's a carnival Skee-Ball type game that's wonderfully fun. In fact, the guys at The Iconfactory went all out, treating every detail with TLC: It's visually stunning, the sounds are immersive and dead-on (wear headphones) and game play is challenging, just like real Skee Ball. For more details, check out our first look and full review.