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Midway Arcade review (iOS / Universal)

February 28, 2012

“I’m all lost in the supermarket, I can no longer shop happily
I came in here for that special offer, guaranteed personality”

10 word description: Virtual arcade. 6 video games, more available via IAP. Game Center.

10 word review: Quite a packed arcade; few classics; controls could be better.

You will like this if you enjoy: Original arcade games on your iPhone or iPad. Defender, Joust, Gauntlet

The good news: Plenty of games in the initial download. IAP add-on packs are (currently) priced low. Quite a lot of content apart from the 6 video games. If you were waiting for a proper version of Defender or Joust (or Gauntlet if you want to spend a small amount more) on your i-device, this is where you can get the genuine article. Pretty virtual arcade / menu interface.

The bad news: The controls aren’t brilliant. While independent developers of retro style arcade games, such as Jeff Minter (Llamasoft), strive to provide touch controls that are as perfect as possible, it seems that the big names are happy just to stick a large red joystick on the screen and hope for the best. Some of the extra content (I won’t call it pointless fluff), for example the Air-Hockey, Pool, etc. is rather crap. No multiplayer. Joust and Gauntlet (especially Gauntlet!) would be fantastic with online multiplayer. A shameful missed opportunity.

Gauntlet - part of an add-on pack that is well worth getting

Arcadelife verdict: Playing miserable negative bastard’s advocate for a few moments, maybe some of the time and effort spent constructing the very flashy 3D arcade environment could have been better utilised developing excellent individual control systems for each game. I’m not stupid, I know different people are involved in those two processes, but the point is still valid. What we really want is to play the old arcade games, not gawp at a pretty virtual arcade. Sure it’s nice to have a visually appealing front-end, but once you’re in the game you want that game to be the best that it can be. Considering that the graphics, sound and gameplay were all sorted out back in the 80’s, all that needs to be done is for the touch screen controls to be perfected.

Of all the games that I have tried in this package (I only bought the ‘fantasy’ add-on pack with Gauntlet, Gauntlet II and Wizard of Wor), Gauntlet seems to have survived the dodgy controls the best as it doesn’t require pixel perfect placement or lightning reflexes. As the forerunner of the ‘action RPG’ it still offers a good deal of button mashing fun, and you don’t have to pump 10p into it every 30 seconds. Defender and Joust are playable, the challenge and addiction bordering on what I fondly remember, but the amount of eagerly anticipated fun is reduced by controls that require your constant awareness. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Rampage was never a great game. With a fiddly virtual stick to go with its original pedestrian pace, it has a proper “do I really have to have one more go?” feel. Spy Hunter is all you need to play in order to understand what I was saying in the recent Gridrunner review – our memories of classic arcade games are often seriously let down by the reality of playing them again now. Jaw-droppingly primitive and crippled by woefully inadequate touch controls, it’s like being groped by your drunk grandad who you never really fancied that much anyway.

Was this ever anyone's favourite arcade game? No. It was not.

Root Beer Tapper and Arch Rivals feel a lot like filler; I couldn’t really be bothered playing either of them for longer than it took to get a couple of screen shots.

I never saw this game in an arcade; maybe it never made it to the UK. What a shame

The inclusion of piss-poor versions of ‘arcade favourites’ (their words, not mine) Air Hockey, Arcade Basketball, Pool and Roll Ball is unnecessary and does nothing to improve the overall lasting impression of the app.

Nobody played these ball-chucking games in the original arcades for a reason. They're crap

Overall, it’s worth getting Midway Arcade and one add-on pack just for Defender, Joust and Gauntlet. For the money, those three games with better controls would be a great selection on their own; nobody would miss the extravagant 3D virtual arcade and the other pointless fluff.

Look longingly at those 4 sets of controls and despair at the total lack of Gauntlet multiplayer in this app

It’s awkward calculating some of these ratings below for a games collection. To clarify, I’ll rate the games themselves, not the flashy virtual arcade. I’ll also omit the pointless fluff ‘arcade favourites’ as they would just drag all the scores right down needlessly. So what you’re seeing here are ratings for the six default games plus Gauntlet, Gauntlet II and Wizard of Wor – as they play on my iPad and 4th gen Touch, not based on personal nostalgia such as playing multiplayer Gauntlet in Weston Super-Mare or crowding round a Joust cabinet in a service station just outside Ross-on-Wye on a Sunday afternoon.

Arcadelife rating

Visuals – 7.5/10
Audio – 8/10
Controls – 5/10
Content – 8/10
Fun – 8/10
Final rating – 73/100

Rating categories explained here.
Version reviewed by Arcadelife is 1.0
iTunes link

Midway Arcade on Facebook – website link

Arcadelife played and reviewed this game on:
4th gen iPod Touch (OS 5.0.1)
iPad (OS 5.0.1)
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