Review: Arcade Perfect-ish ‘Midway Arcade Origins’

Warner Brothers has accurately reproduced over 30 of Midway’s arcade classics with their Arcade Origins collection–and that’s kind of the problem. Several of these arcade-perfect ports to the PS3 and Xbox 360 offer the same controls as the original, which can post a problem when your game required a trackball as part of its interface.

That’s really only an issue with a couple of the titles, but the otherwise spare presentation of Midway Arcade Classics means that you should really only pick this up if you haven’t already downloaded some of these titles in the past from previous digital releases.

First off, you can’t accuse WBIE of picking a lackluster list of titles for their lineup. Among the 31 games included on the disc: Defender, Gauntlet, Joust, Rampage, and Total Carnage, as well as 720 ° , A.P.B., Arch Rivals, Bubbles, Championship Sprint, Tournament Cyberball 2072, Defender II, Gauntlet II, Joust 2, Marble Madness, Pit-Fighter, Rampart, Robotron 2084, Root Beer Tapper, Satan’s Hollow, Sinistar, Smash TV, Spy Hunter, Spy Hunter II, Super Off Road, Super Sprint, Toobin’, Vindicators Part II, Wizard of Wor, Xenophobe, and Xybots.

And that’s an impressive list, with very few also-rans (even if I personally hate the 3D-ish Spy Hunter II. Rampage is still as fun and punishingly tough as it was 25 years ago while Gauntlet still feels urgent and demanding of yours and your friends’ time.

Each game offers multiple visual options and screen configurations, defaulting to the arcade cabinet borders with smoothed-out graphics. You can toggle the border on and off and swap between the cleaned-up graphics as well as the original arcade graphic style. In general, I stuck with the default visuals, though, which served to embellish without over-enhancing the graphics.

Each of the titles offers multiplayer for up to four players depending on the title, so yes, you can have Lizzie, George, and Ralph on the screen at the same time in Rampage while Spy Hunter II provides a vertical split screen presentation.

The release offers trophy and achievement support, but no other connected options in case you were looking to challenge someone online to a match of Arch Rivals. It would have been nice to have online multiplayer, but probably would have been impractical for such an inexpensive package.

The control issues I mentioned come up pretty prominently in APB which feels utterly broken using its default D-pad control scheme, as you try to steer while pressing down on the X or A button to flash your sirens. Likewise, Super Sprint works but just barely without an arcade wheel/pedal configuration. Still, these are the outliers, and everything else works the way it’s supposed to.

And that’s pretty much the strongest endorsement I can give to this collection: it mostly works. It all depends on how much time and interest you have in 30-year-old arcade games. If they’re your thing, you’ll likely want to jump at this 31 games for $30 deal, but for the casually curious or those unaffected by nostalgia, it might not be worth your time.

is available on the Xbox 360 and PS3 now from Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment.

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