Oh, the joys of nostalgia! There's nothing like taking a trip in time and reliving those glory days of yesteryear - back when you were young, the future was bright, and you could play a video game for a quarter.
Well, maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be, at least as far as Microsoft's Revenge of Arcade is concerned. The five "classic" arcade games from the 1980s featured in ROA - Mappy, Xevious, Ms. Pac-Man, Motos, and Rally-X - will undoubtedly invoke fond memories for many longtime gamers. But does this time warp serve to prove the grandeur and elegance of these games' designs or only point out how simplistic these games really were?
It's all a matter of opinion, of course, but when it comes to younger PC gamers, I'd bet my OzzFest tickets (if I hadn't already used them) that this stuff would have 'em yawning faster than a Bruce Hornsby piano solo. Let's face it: 8-bit graphics, minimal sound effects, and ultrasimplistic controls aren't going to satisfy a generation that's been weaned on Doom, Duke Nukem, Red Alert, Unreal, Total Annihilation, and Diablo. Tell your kids this is what you used to groove on, and they'll laugh you out of their room.
So what about "oldsters" like me, who had a chance to pump quarters into machines spewing out this fare 15 years ago? Well, I will give credit where credit's due: The five games here look and play exactly as they did those many moons ago. There's no "pause" button, no way to save a game (even at the end of a level), no cheat codes - this is bare-bones gaming just as it was back in the days.
The five games in this anthology share one thing in common: a premium on hand-eye coordination. In Mappy, you control a mouse who retrieves stolen goods from a multistory house by bouncing on a trampoline to reach higher floors; Motos challenges you to knock "space bugs" off a two-dimensional map by ramming them with your ship; Ms. Pac-Man is a chase-in-a-maze (some say it epitomizes consumer culture) as you control an eating machine in a frenzied race to escape death; you steer a "race car" toward flags (and away from bad guys) in Rally-X; and Xevious lets you pilot a space ship capable of destroying flying objects and ground installations.
I won't be surprised to read in another review of ROA that "it's great for short breaks from work" or some other nonsense, but because these games are just like their arcade forbears these really aren't good choices for quick breaks from work. The reason? Because there's no way to save your progress, you have to play through the beginning levels every single time out. The lack of a pause button isn't exactly conducive to work breaks, either, though the game will functionally pause if you completely minimize the gaming window.
ROA's other big problem is, surprisingly, the selection of games. Except for Xevious and Ms. Pac-Man (and I'd argue about including Ms. Pac-Man), none of these games is what you'd call a "classic" - at least not classics of the first order, like Defender, Asteroids, Galaga, et. al. I'll have to admit that Mappy did get its hooks into me a little as I tested it out, but Motos and Rally-X are only marginal games at best.
If you didn't get enough of this stuff 15 years ago, and don't have the patience or know-how to find freeware or shareware versions that are either as good, better, or identical to the ones found here, then ROA might be a decent little purchase. But for gamers who don't have any memories to be fired by this primitive fare, there's not much reason to bother with this collection - except to prove to your parents that they, too, can waste money on mindless diversions as well as anyone else.