PSP Review: Midway Arcade Treasures - Extended Play

It's a depressing day for the industry when a group of homebrew hackers kick out better work than professionals. One of the PSP's best selling points outside of what the marketing materials say is the ability to run emulators and ROMs. For the most part, those games in their various incarnations run smoother, play better, and are more accurate than most of what's been inserted into this latest Midway Arcade Treasures release.

The game's included on this UMD are a mix of titles from the first two Treasures on home consoles. The roster looks great:

o 720
o Arch Rivals
o Championship Sprint
o Cyberball 2072
o Defender
o Gauntlet
o Joust
o Klax
o Marble Madness
o Mortal Kombat
o Mortal Kombat 2
o Mortal Kombat 3
o Paperboy
o Rampage
o Rampart
o Sinistar
o Spy Hunter
o Toobin'
o Wizard of Wor
o Xenophobe
o Xybots

For multitude of reasons, this is a lacking collection. The emulators used here can't keep these games running properly, there's a total lack of extra content, games are missing items, and the controls have not been adjusted to make these playable. It's a mess, leaving only a few games to be accurately represented, and most of those were released prior to 1990.

The Mortal Kombat games are mixed. The first game in the franchise runs smoothly, though it's too perfect, and can throw off the timing and feel of the original. The opposite goes for Mortal Kombat II, which in addition to a disgustingly weak frame rate (to go along with missing background details), runs so fast, it becomes unplayable. Mortal Kombat III manages to run fine even though it's the most advanced game on this disc.

There's an additional problem with those three games, and that's the lack of video options. Not only do you have to deal with black space on the sides (acceptable, though they should at least offer a stretch feature), but on the top and bottom too. The irony is that the developers have no problem stretching vertically oriented games horizontally elsewhere. Instead of letting players flip their PSP to check out Spy Hunter or Klax like they were intended, they're widened to the length of the screen so everything looks fat, blocky, and mostly unidentifiable. If you want to adjust the screen size (but not with the MK games), you actually need to dig up a code to do so. Why is there not an option in the menus before the game begins? Also, this only applies to single player, not Ad Hoc play.

That doesn't even touch on the control issues. Marble Madness and Rampart are unplayable since their original trackball controls haven't been tweaked. Rampart is one of those unsung gaming classics, but this translation will do nothing for those who have yet to play it, since you'll waste an entire timer trying to place a single cannon. Just touching the analog stick or d-pad sends the cursor flying, and in the Mortal Kombat games, jumping toward or away from your opponent is a bigger challenge than avoiding the cheapness of Kabal in III.

To be blunt, even if the games run properly, they're still not accurate. Without options to swap video size in the menus, even the classics like Joust and Defender are stretched masses of pixels. It's all inexcusable, and fans of Rampage will spend most of their nights dreaming about Lizzie gaining 17 tons with her new "wide load" look. All of this fails to cover the supplemental material, which has suddenly gone missing from the home versions. Not a single video, retro commercial, or flyer has made the cut.

We'll never know what happened to this set, but rushed programming seems to be the only logical excuse. These are butchered versions of classics, unsuitable for portable play. Ignore the famous names attached to this compilation. None of those games are truly included.

(* out of *****)

Final note: The screen size adjustment code is as follows - Pause the game, then hold down L, down, and circle. Then figure out a way to hit square (while still holding the other commands) to make the adjustments as needed. Note this leads to resolution issues and plenty of flickering.

Comments (2)

LKM:

Damn, I wish I had read this review before I bought the game. I love Rampart. In my humble opinion, Rampart is one of the greatest games of all time, a perfect combination of Tetris-like puzzler and action-packed RTS shooter, uhm, thingamajig. Dunno, I guess you can't really describe the genre, but it's a great game, and I bought this package because it's in it.

Unfortunately, it's so extremely responsive that it's quite simply unplayable. Did anyone actually test this crap before they put it on store shelves? Utter crap.

It is such a shame too, because the collection has such good games in it.

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