"Some of my all-time favorite arcade games are here. While a few of Midway's more popular titles are missing, most of those are too new to fit nicely on what is essentially a compilation of retro titles. The newest of the lot, I believe, is Smash TV. For some reason, though, one of my very favorite games ever made, Moon Patrol, got the boot and does not appear here."
The world is a wonderful place at times, full of deliciously exciting ways to turn a $20 bill into something special. A few weeks ago, I decided the 'something special' I wanted with my $20 bill was Midway Arcade Treasures, the latest compilation from the sexy folks at Midway. Now, here I am, reviewing it and thinking that although $20 was a good price to pay for the package, there's definitely a reason they didn't price it any higher than they did.
As the packaging advertises, there are over 20 games on this pack. Some of my all-time favorite arcade games are here. While a few of Midway's more popular titles are missing, most of those are too new to fit nicely on what is essentially a compilation of retro titles. The newest of the lot, I believe, is Smash TV. For some reason, though, one of my very favorite games ever made, Moon Patrol, got the boot and does not appear here. It's an oversight I can't understand. Perhaps there were licensing concerns.
Of course, there clearly weren't licensing concerns with the other titles, and what a large number of those there are! They represent a good variety of experiences, too, from the neighborhood-wrecking mayhem of Paperboy, the the adrenaline rush of a ride down the river in Toobin', to the thrill of blasting everything that moves in Sinistar.
What if you've never played the games, though? Do any of them hold up to our expectations after more recent games? Well, yes and no. Though I am loathe to do it, I've decided to go ahead and give a brief description of every title on the disc, along with impressions.
Spy Hunter - In this classic game, you'll race along a stretch of highway, shooting motorists (they looked at you funny, or maybe they are terrorists) and trying to avoid crashing. You have cool weapons upgrades you can pick up from a traveling semi, but as you work against the timer, the odds are that you won't get to use much of anything. I've never understood much of the appeal of classic Spy Hunter, as there's not enough variety; the timer destroys everything.
Defender, Defender II - Both games make an appearance here, and their fan base is yet another mystery to me. You're in a ship, flying around and shooting an endless wave of aliens over a futuristic cityscape. Your goal is to avoid getting blasted, but rapid defeat is a given.
Gauntlet - You can pick four characters and direct them through a maze. Up to four people can play at once as you battle waves of monsters and keep rushing for the gates. At the time, the digitized voice was cool, but now it sounds muffled. The game itself is fun with a few friends... for maybe an hour.
Joust, Joust 2 - Believe it or not, this disc was my first exposure to Joust. I don't know which came first, Joust or Nintendo's Balloon Fight, but the two are quite similar. Your goal is to joust the other guys off their ostriches, while they attempt to do the same to you. Control is awkward but easily adjusted to. The sequel adds different mounts, but actually is less enjoyable in my opinion.
Paperboy - After playing console versions of this title, I was used to smooth controls using the d-pad. That's not how it was in the arcades, though, and this is an arcade pack. So you'll be using one analog stick to pedal, the other to turn the handlebars. It takes some getting used to, and will never feel truly responsive, but you can practice and eventually enjoy yourself.
Rampage - Up to three people can play this one simultaneously, and that's really the only way you want to do it. The gameplay here is repetitive, without the amusing animations that Midway put in recent remakes for the Nintendo 64 and Playstation. The goal is to destroy cities while avoiding the military, but it gets old fast.
Robotron 2084 - This one is like Smash TV without the nice graphics. You run around on a black screen, saving hostages and blasting enemies from all directions. The control scheme is the same; one stick moves your character, the other fires in the direction you indicate.
Smash TV - This takes the old idea from Robotron 2084 and adds nice visuals. You're playing in a giant game show where the reward is tons of cash. On a more negative side, it's pretty easy to die. The gameplay is tedious, but the score hunt might keep you playing longer than you would otherwise.
Bubbles - This is another game I'd never played before, and it ended up being one of my favorite on the disc. You're a bubble in a sink, and your job is to glide around, collecting germs. Scrub brushes, large spiders, and razor blades will make the job difficult. In addition, the sink drains from time to time, and if you're not large enough you lose a bubble. It's repetitive, yes, but surprisingly addictive.
Rampart - This is a strategy game, perhaps one of the first 'real-time strategy' games ever made. Ships are invading your harbor, and you must decide where to place cannons to take them out, and where to build walls to bolster your defenses. It's a truly odd experience, and you can enjoy it with a friend.
Sinistar - This feels a bit like an Asteroids clone, except you can freely roam the vast expanse that is space. Bumping into the giant asteroids isn't your concern; you're more worried about gunships that also occupy the area, and of course Sinistar, a giant space station. This game must have once amused people, but I get bored with it quite quickly.
Super Sprint - If you have a few friends, this is a reasonable ride, and the predecessor of more polished titles that came later, particularly Super Off-Road. Here, you race and hope you place first; if you don't, you lose a credit. The tracks start repeating fairly early, and controls are either unresponsive or overly touchy, almost never in between. Still, it's a nice diversion with buddies in the room.
Marble Madness - Another of my favorites from the package. You are a marble, and you are rolling toward the goal before the timer runs out. Advance to a next level and you get to keep the seconds you built up on your timer from the previous round. This one gets hard almost immediately, but it's short and good fun. Many consider it the inspiration for Super Monkey Ball. One note: entering your initials on this title is as challenging as the game itself. I had to try around five times before I was able to enter mine. The controls on that screen are insanely touchy.
720 - I hate this game, and I'm not going to dignify it with much of an explanation. I guess you could call it the predecessor to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, without the pro, the fun, or anything that made that later game worth playing.
Toobin' - Here's another of my favorite arcade classics. You're toobing down a river, throwing pop cans at enemies attacking from the banks, avoiding obstacles and collecting letters to spell out the word in the title. It's good fun, but I recommend that you play it with a friend for maximum enjoyment.
KLAX - This is a title in the Tetris vein of games. panels are sliding down a tray, and you have to drop them in stacks to eliminate your piles before things get piled too high. Later phases force you to place them diagonally and so forth, so things get fast and furious quite quickly.
SPLAT! - Whoever thought a food fight would make a good game deserves a pie in the face. In all fairness, the concept isn't bad, just the execution. You move around, throwing rotten tomatoes and the like at your opponent. Take a hit and you lose your head, which you must retrieve before you're hit again. You can collect keys and warp to the other side of the screen, and it's fun to see giant cobs of corn dash about, but really this title is too awkward and stupid for its own good.
Blaster - This game gets old fast. You're flying through space in a first-person perspective, shooting asteroids and aliens. The goal is to get to paradise, but the only way I found to do that was to stop playing this torture-fest.
RoadBlasters - With no relation to Blasters, this one feels more like an updated version of Spy Hunter. You're in a buggy, racing along the surface of a futuristic planet, blasting enemies and collecting fuel. The gameplay is repetitive (which seems to be the order of the day with most titles in this compilation), but things have a very 'arcadey' feel and you probably won't mind the redundancy in short spurts.
Satan's Hollow - Took me awhile, but I finally figured out that the goal of this one is to collect pieces of a bridge so people can... leave Satan's Hollow, I suppose. As you do, you'll experience the typical shooter elements of the time. Enemies fly in formation above you, and you have to avoid them and their shots while returning fire. A shield you can use briefly adds a unique touch to the game, but it is always slow to respond and can only be used after careful planning that this type of game doesn't often permit.
Vindicators - In this one, you move a tank around some alien planet, blasting things and working to the end of stages. I remember seeing this one in arcades, and it's one of the newer ones on the pack, but awkward controls keep it from being the fun it might have been otherwise.
Root Beer Tapper - I almost like this one. It has a nice, cartoony atmosphere that reminds me of cartoons from the 50's. You are serving root beer and there are four counters. You hop from one to the next, sliding brews to your customers. Throw one down the counter when there's no customer and you lose a life. Fail to catch a returning cup the customer sends back, and you lose a life. There seems to be a slight pause between pressing 'up' or 'down' to switch counters and your character's actual movement. Due to the nature of this game, that slight pause makes things quite a bit less playable than I would have hoped. If you can get used to that, this game is a good test of timing and split-second decisions.
As you can see, this is quite the diverse collection of games. And though the presentation feels more like episode selection on the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, the games themselves are most everything you're likely to remember. I have no difficulty recommending this one for retro gamers, as it's the best package I can recall Midway sending our way, but others might want to steer clear.
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 20, 2003)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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