While the PC is the hottest of the hotbeds for the quasi-legal practice of emulating and playing old video games, it always seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to legal compilations of classic games. After years of putting out its old games on the PlayStation and just about every other console and handheld out there, Namco's Museum series is now on the PC as well, with 16 of Namco's arcade games. The games are playable, but due to some weird screen-filtering options and unfortunate control options, this isn't quite the birthday celebration you'd expect.
The collection contains 14 games by default: Bosconian, Dig Dug, Dragon Spirit, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man, Pole Position, Pole Position II, Rally-X, Rolling Thunder, Sky Kid, and Xevious. You can unlock Galaga '88 and Pac-Mania by achieving some easily attainable scores on some of the other games. For the most part, each of the games controls identically to their arcade counterparts. Because most of these games only really involve a directional pad or other joystick equivalent, along with a button or two, that's not much of a surprise. However, we tried multiple PlayStation-style dual analog gamepads and were unable to properly assign Pole Position's driving controls to an analog stick. That's unfortunate.
The game's sound seems spotty in places. Some games sound slightly off pitch, and things like explosions occasionally sound a bit off, too. Graphically, this collection is pretty ugly. That's not a statement about how far game graphics have progressed--it means that these aren't very faithful duplications of the original games. You're given one choice graphically. You can either enable screen smoothing, which smoothes out some of the rough edges of the games' graphics and generally makes the whole game look ridiculously blurry, or you can turn that off, and witness the games running in some sort of squashed resolution that makes text look blockier than it should. Neither option is particularly appealing. Support for scanlines and other, more accurate screen modes would have been nice. The games are tied together by a weak-looking row of arcade machines that serve as the collection's menu. Also, it's worth noting that the game uses the Starforce copy-protection scheme and actually drops back to desktop for further checks each time you load up a new game. If your machine has been known to have problems with games employing such protection methods, then you'll probably want to stay away.
While the basic gameplay in these arcade greats is spot-on, the control issues and poor graphic options get in the way of the fun. If you're absolutely desperate for a Namco collection, the budget price makes this one worth considering; but for most people, one of the other versions of this collection would make a much smarter choice.