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iOS Review: Midway Arcade

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“Save keys to open doors.”

I still hear that phrase in my sleep.  It haunts me, and I love that it does.

There is something brilliant about an arcade game in which your life continually drops simply by your existing.  In such a game, it doesn’t matter how well you play, you’re going to end up popping quarter after quarter after quarter into the machine so you can get further and further.  Oh sure, many such games have ways to gain life and thereby extend play, but it takes a lot more than most folks have to get through such a title on a single quarter.

On the new Midway Arcade iOS app, Gauntlet and Gauntlet II are both part of a 99 cent DLC pack, but the notion of buying the 99 cent base game and not getting Gauntlet and Gauntlet II boggles the mind.  It isn’t that the base app doesn’t come with great old arcade games, it totally does—they include Joust, Spy Hunter, Rampage, and Defender amongst others—but Gauntlet, and NARC, which is in the other DLC pack, are what would sell me on the title.  And yet, while those two games would be enough to convince me to get the app and the DLC, through the years I played most of the games on far more systems than I care to remember.  In fact, when I first got an NES, I bought Rampage to go along with it.

In short, there is a haunting amount of nostalgia present for people of a certain age in the Midway Arcade app, and those who play it on an iPad won’t be disappointed with what they get.  While multiple game controls are present on both systems, the small size of an iPhone screen makes it somewhat difficult to manipulate the virtual joystick, especially as character movements aren’t particularly smooth in games of this age.  The experience on the larger screen iPad is a significant improvement over the iPhone.

I was actually a little unhappy playing the games at first, the characters are all, almost universally, small, and figuring it all out on the iPhone after getting used to playing back in the day in the arcade is tough.  As stated though, switching to the iPad alleviated the problem and gave me the necessary retro bliss I desired.  Plus, when I first turned the game on I heard those magic words, “Save keys to open doors,” and I hadn’t even bought the DLC yet.

As for the setup of the game itself, that does leave a little to be desired.  In order to, apparently, aid to that retro feel, the arcade cabinets for the games (including DLC whether you’ve purchased it or not) are present in a virtual arcade room.  You can travel around the room one game at a time, which after you’ve seen all the boxes once gets very old, or you can just select the game from a drop down menu.  It is rather an antiseptic arcade, offering neither the grunge nor the smell one associates with such places, and perhaps would better have been left out.

Each title appears to be true ports of the arcade games including, as mentioned, rather stilted controls (ah, if only the characters in Gauntlet could fire in a direction different than the one in which they are facing).  The graphics don’t appear to have been upgraded either, which aids to the title’s overall retro sensibilities (and, let’s face it, is really the right way to go).

While a single 99 cent purchase from the app store gets you the base game for iPad and iPhone, the DLC seems to not be transferrable.  But, as you probably will be disappointed with the iPhone version of the game anyway, you won’t mind not having the DLC.

The complete list of included games for 99 cents is Spy Hunter, Rampage, Joust, Root Beer Tapper, Defender, Arch Rivals, Air Hockey, Arcade Basketball, Pool and Skee Ball (which the game isn’t called, but that’s what it is).  And, the truth is that if you already know the games, you’re going to want to get the app, and if you don’t, odds are you won’t be interested in it (except if you’re a fan of retro titles).

As for me, now I just need to get someone to port Maniac Mansion (or Day of the Tentacle) to iOS.

 

Midway Arcade is currently available for iOS.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.