Game Room falls flat

The constant drive to resell games from video game history continues. Xbox Live just released it’s repackaged attack on my pocket book. Unfortunately, this stuff is right up my alley. I have been a video game nerd from the very beginning and this tugs my nostalgia heartstrings.

Microsoft’s new vision involves your own virtual arcade for your avatar to roam. You can acquire arcade cabinets, decorate your room and even buy virtual mascots to wander about. Invite friends to your arcade and they can give them a play. You can also issue special challenges to friends that have the same arcade machine. The pricing is as follows.

  • 40 points (.50 cents) – Play a game once on either Xbox Live or Games for Windows
  • 240 points ($3) – Own the game on one platform but not the other
  • 400 points ($5) – Own the game on both platforms
  • You can try any of the games for free the first 10 minutes you activate it.

Sounds like a good idea in theory, so how does it shape up?

The first walk in my arcade started promising. It had the classic sounds you would hear from the real place. Kind of like what I got from the excellent William’s Pinball Hall of Fame last year. The first thing that struck as strange was that most of the games in arcade cabinets were not actual classic arcade games! Many of the titles were old Atari 2600 and Intellivision home game titles which would have been mocked at in a 1980s arcade. I headed for the room with the real stuff and found a game I had not seen in a long time, Tutankham. I pumped in some virtual quarters and the game popped up taking up about half the screen. I died three time in quick sucession. What were the controls again? My trouble was actually controlling these on the the stick, so I switched to xbox controller’s horrible d-pad, which was a smidge better. This game was not going to work, next.

Unfortunetely, the next half hour met with no better results. Lunar Lander controls were badly translated and the tiny screen was a absolute mess on the vector graphics of these classics. Gravitar was interesting, because I somehow missed it back in the day. The vectors were so small it was hard to make out anything. I then checked out the Atari Room. Adventure, for some reason, would not play for me. Wait, no single player option for Combat and Outlaw? I can’t even play 2 player online? I found I was not even playing these titles for the free 10 minutes. I can’t imagine any who have never played these before, would enjoy them. The menus were a mess and it was not really clear on how the game played, without alot of messing about. Worst of all, early internet buzz is some games don’t even work properly and one of the cool ideas, issuing challenges to friends, isn’t functioning right. I didn’t even have fun playing dress up in my room. All the cabinets would lock in a specific place and angles. You did not have the power to really get creative with your room, like in Animal Crossing or the Sims. The decorations also just didn’t look very good. Sorry, Home may have it’s problems, but the arcade is better implemented then this.

If you want to play classic arcade games, their are much better ways to do it. Xbox 360 arcade titles released in 2005-6 are much better emulations and games then these. You also can play any of these for free on the web. Go to Atari’s website or try to track down Activision Anthology. At least they got Atari 2600 nostalgia right. Hopefully they will improve on this in the future, which I’m sure they will. Day one …is a skip it.

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