Midway Arcade Treasures Review
Times are good for old, nostalgic gamers. Old franchises like Pac-Man and Spy Hunter have been revived and taken into the world of 3D, giving everyone the chance to enjoy old favorites in a new way. Sometimes those new gameplay ideas fall flat and one can't help but yearn for the games of the past, and that's where Midway Arcade Treasures comes to the rescue. This compilation from, you guessed it - Midway, features more than twenty classic arcade games all on one $20 disc.
The twenty-four games on this disc are: Spy Hunter, Defender, Defender II, Gauntlet, Joust, Joust 2, Paperboy, Rampage, Robotron 2084, Smash TV, Bubbles, Roadblasters, Blaster, Rampart, Sinistar, Super Sprint, Marble Madness, 720, Toobin', Klax, Splat!, Satan's Hollow, Vindicators, and Root Beer Tapper. It's certainly a comprehensive collection of games that will bring a smile to the face of anyone that hung out in an arcade in the 1980's.
Each game is for the most part faithful to the version found in the arcades. In fact, they are so accurate that the games that used a trackball, like Rampart, still tell you to move the trackball in the selection screen. If you've got some friends over that have an itch to kick it old school, all of the games that supported multiple players in the past do so in the present. You begin each game by depositing quarters and you can continue in the same manner with unlimited continues, certainly a luxury none of us had when playing these games as a kid.
The best thing about this compilation is the memories that come flooding back during each game. Every time you start another one up, it's something different. Sometimes you'll remember the first time you saw the game and the first time you played it, or you'll remember a specific part or even a sound from one of them and it will bring a smile to your face. Of course sometimes, you'll remember that you were completely horrible at a game and that despite fifteen years without playing you still get stuck at the same spots. There's definitely good times to be had just thinking about the old days while playing the game.
While it's certainly nice to take a trip down memory lane, one thing you'll learn is that a lot of these games didn't age very well. The biggest problem is that the games were simpler then, and the challenge rarely changes, so you'll find yourself losing interest in some of these games rather quickly. If you were a fan any of the games in the past, you'll have fun for a longer period of time, but if you were born after 1985 none of these titles are likely to hold your attention.
Another problem is the difference in the control schemes between the arcade and what can be done on the Dualshock 2 controller. For many of the games the layout is fine and the controller replicates what was found in the arcade very nicely - Roadblasters is one such game. However, with other games like Spy Hunter and Paperboy there's no way to get the controls the way you want them. It's pretty much a rule that any game that forces you to accelerate with the right analog stick in this compilation is borderline unplayable.
The game really falls flat in the way the menus are designed and the way in which the games are presented. A cheesy pyramid theme with the games represented by what is supposed to be hieroglyphics is all the developers can come up with, and in addition to being uninteresting, the menu is a chore to navigate. All of the extras are harder to find than they should be, and some of the games have hardly anything at all, while others have trivia and even video interviews. All of the interviews can be found on previous incarnations of Arcade Treasures, and they are all of really poor quality.†
While you'd think that the Playstation 2 could handle an arcade game that's 15 years old with no problem, the sad fact is that Midway didn't seem able to pull it off. The key offender in the compilation is Smash TV, which actually has some slowdown and gets quite choppy at times. Certainly someone could have taken the time to correct this problem, but it seems the "make sure the machine that's 1000 times more powerful can run the game" guy wasn't in on the day they tested Smash TV. Some of the problems are with sound effects not sounding quite right, which often happens with emulators, and isn't really a big deal.
Anyone that took the time to read this entire review and remembers a lot of these games will probably have a good time with Midway Arcade Treasures - for a while. The list of games is quite impressive, and many of them, like Joust, Paperboy, Toobin' and Roadblasters are still fun to this day. The disc only costs $20 but you can't help but feel that a little more attention could have been paid to the details, and a little more pizzazz could have been added to the entire package to liven things up. If you're curious, spend one of those new twenties in your wallet on some old favorites.
12/23/2003 Aaron Thomas