Midway Arcade Origins (Xbox 360) Review

Nostalgia driven gamers can rejoice as the oldies are back.  Warner Brothers Games and Backbone entertainment have amassed a large and somewhat impressive list of retro games for the Xbox 360 and put them in one collection.  While some of the games in Midway Arcade Origins are pretty obscure, most are games that we can all remember in the golden age of videogames.  The big question is how do they hold up to today’s standards?

This new collection of old games has over 30 titles included on one disc.  I asked myself as I opened the case how much actual space is used on the disc.  Games of the yesteryear era are quite simple in nature and require very little in terms of programming in this day and age.  In fact, the game save file could house a game or two within its size limits.  That being said there are some real gems here that I had quite a bit of fun with back in the day, but not without some caveats.

One of my favorites in the collection is Marble Madness.  I have played pretty much every version of the game available on virtually every console made.  It is perfect if you like no frills and extras, in fact every game in the collection is exactly like it was when it first came out.  Marble Madness has a few quirks going for it in the control department though.  I found the marble extremely tough to maneuver the first few times I played; however, after getting used to the Xbox controller moving things around I was able to manipulate the marble quicker than ever before and I began to rack up high scores and bonuses for finishing the course quickly.  Of course the faster you go the higher the chance for whipping the ball right off the course, so practice will make perfect.

Unfortunately the Xbox controller is just not the way to play some of the games found in this collection.  Driving games had steering wheels in the arcades.  Games like Super Off Road, Spy Hunter, and Super Sprint controlled very well with steering wheels and I remember being able to make the cars move over their courses quite easily, even snapping the wheel for some amazing hairpin turns.  The Xbox 360 controller just does not have that nice tactile feel found in the arcade cabinets.  Most games had pretty much two buttons to push and the direction pad for navigation.  I found that any games that required a joystick or trackball in the arcade needed a bit more attention in order to control well with the controller while the steering wheel based games needed a bit more on top of that.  Overall most would agree that the games control well enough to have some fun but there is also frustration as well.

As you play the games in this collection be prepared to die and die often, only to go back and start again from the beginning.  There are no continues.  This collection suffers terribly from the lack of basic emulation functions; meaning stuff like saves and save points are non-existent.  As soon as your last life has expired, it is game over.  Also, some of the included games have been removed from the XBLA for whatever reason.  Usually the license has expired and the game gets completely removed from the system.  For those that did not get a chance to play some of these prior to their removal, luckily enough the collection is a great way to find and play them once again.

The only online interaction for these titles is a leaderboard function. It is your way to best your fellow old school gamer.  I had ranked in the top 60 at one time this past week.  Unfortunately that is about all there is, mind you there are over 30 titles in which to choose from. Some of my favorites include the aforementioned Marble Madness, Smash TV is still a blast, Xenophobe is an acquired taste but fun nonetheless, Cyberball and Total Carnage round out my top 5 games here.

Most gamers are going to laugh out loud at some of the graphical stylings of yesteryear.  On more then a few occasions my 8-year-old son thought my Xbox was having issues while I played.  When I was playing 720 he asked what I was trying to control, and in Gauntlet he saw minimal differences in the smallish characters.  I really cannot blame him, he is used to 1080p larger than life ultra realistic graphics, his comment overall was “this sucks”.

The games are exactly like their arcade counterparts with very little in the way of changes.  You do have the ability to use a 1x zoom or to leave the aspect as is.  It has no bearing on how good the game looks, as the graphics do not change.  The games can sometimes be sharp and colorful, but they also have a disappointing 4:3 aspect ratio and look very dated.  The pixilated look is found throughout the collection with some looking better if they are square shaped in nature, less jaggies.  It all blends very well with the retro feel, but some extras in the way of HD versions would have been nice.  For the curious, here is a list of all the included games on the disc:

  • Defender
  • Gauntlet
  • Joust
  • Rampage
  • Total Carnage
  • 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 War
  • Xenophobe
  • Xybots

The sounds are equally as retro, but way more pleasing then the graphics.  Get ready for some hissy compressed goodness that will bring back many memories.  As I played Defenders the explosions actually matched the graphic, but most of the games are not so nice.  I had a good laugh hearing this stuff, but after some time they all became very distracting, almost annoying after some game time.  My son, the young critic he has become, also noted that the Xbox must be having some big issues after sampling some of Marble Madness futuristic sounds.

Many mature gamers will love and appreciate Midway Arcade Origins; it is a very accurate and eye-opening look at how the early years of video games were.  The games housed in the collections are faithful reproductions of the once popular arcade classics, perhaps a bit too faithful. The games have nothing in the way of extras, no HD, little to no game saves, and no online capabilities.  I do admit that I for one loved some of these titles; some of the simplistic gameplay manages to stand up to the test of time. Unfortunately time is not kind to all of the games, which makes the collection a purely nostalgic purchase, not a must have.

The Good


The Bad