Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play Review

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Graphics: 6.0
Sound : 6.0
Gameplay : 7.0
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 6.8
Review by Stevie Smith
For those gamers bred through the 1980s and early ‘90s who recall relentlessly shoveling quarters into willing arcade machines while battling valiantly to beat a high score amassed by some unseen public foe, Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play is for you. For those—perhaps younger—gamers who presently bemoan the supposed difficulty level of modern videogames, or even lack thereof, then Extended Play is also for you, too.

So, what’s on offer? Well, most notably, there are 3 iterations of the classic ‘spine-tearing gorefest’ Mortal Kombat, with the original Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 2, and Mortal Kombat 3. There’s also plenty of one-off excellence in the forms of (big intake of breath) Spy Hunter, Sinestar, Defender, Paperboy, and 720. Other big attractions include (even larger intake of breath) KLAX, Joust, Marble Madness, Toobin, Rampage, Gauntlet, Rampart, Wizard of Wor, Xybots, Championship Sprint, Arch Rivals, Cyberball 2072, and…finally…Xenophobe. Quite a list I’m sure you’ll agree, and certainly a little something for everyone.

Without covering each game in turn, because the review would read like War and Peace, it’s safe to say that there’s so much content choice, so much instant arcade button-mashing fun, that announcing a negative comment against the collection in its entirety is hard to do. Indeed, the titles that don’t appeal to one person may well be the favorites of another, and vice versa. In terms of gameplay, Midway Arcade Treasures is predominantly a haven of auto-scrolling mayhem, where modern convoluted controls are gleefully discarded in favor of all-direction movement and single-button weapon activation. Pure simplistic joy in every sense of the word. The more high-profile titles speak for themselves in terms of player expectation; action favorites Defender, Spy Hunter, Mortal Kombat, and Gauntlet were a constant draw for this reviewer when Midway’s traveling fair came to town. Yet slightly less frantic games like 720, Marble Madness, and Paperboy provide a differing but no less immediate allure.

Visually and aurally you get an unsullied slice of history. There are no added bells, tweaked whistles, or digitally re-mastered jiggery-pokery to attract the more easily mollified consumer. There is no stretched imagery, no scroll issues, and no enlarged pixels; it’s original reduced-screen emulation from start to finish. Game sound is fabulously grating throughout, yet no less appealing in terms of authenticity; though those players eventually suffering with bleeding ears may well wish Midway had invested in fresh orchestrations.

Aside from the faithful re-creation and reintroduction of gaming yesteryear encapsulated in such magnitude within Midway Arcade Treasures, the sheer and almost insurmountable difficulty levels held by each of the games is truly astounding. Modern video games are a breeze when placed against the likes of Defender and Paperboy. Today’s frighteningly complex button controls exist to offer many solutions to in-game problems, and essentially make the experience easier to manage. Arcade games of the past offered you one or two, perhaps three, button choices, which largely existed for the sake of jumping and attacking; yet in terms of story interaction, the only pre-requisites for these games were simply ‘destroy’ and, in most cases, ‘survive.’ Surviving for more then a few minutes in Defender was—and still is—impossible. Impossible. How about getting to the end of the street in Paperboy while hitting every house, breaking no windows, and without falling off your bike? Pretty much impossible. There is no degree of human gaming prowess that can prove otherwise against those statements.

However, if confronting the challenge of an arcade game in the ‘80s meant receiving considerable lengths of playtime in return for your measly quarter, well…perhaps Midway, Sega, Capcom, Konami et al wouldn’t be around today to enjoy the profits of our frustrated labor. But Midway Arcade Treasures manages to cleverly transcend its own stringent tilt demands by offering the golden nugget of good fortune to arcade fans everywhere: Continues. Forget stomping away from the arcade machine with empty pockets and peaking frustration, because with Extended Play (pun thoroughly intended), you can play, and play, and play, hone those skills, and finally conquer your past arcade masters. Moreover, 16 of the 21 titles on offer support Multiplayer Wireless for up to 4 players, so getting all nostalgic can be done with friends, who’ll no doubt freely share the pains of frustration with you.

Fit to burst with an astounding 21 games from the heyday of arcade history, Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play is an equal parts assault of entertaining variety and challenging frustration. For the most part, today’s games gently walk you through carefully considered introduction, layered narrative, and evolving characters. By comparison, Midway’s gathered classics throw you roughly in at the gaming deep end, demanding instant integration and superhuman reflex from the off—which is exactly how these games deprived us of so much cash in the first place; take heart though, because now’s your time for gleeful revenge. It may not be stunning in terms of graphics and audio, its controls and gameplay may seem clunky in comparison to today’s standards, but this collection isn’t about wowing the ‘now’ crowd, it’s about tickling the remembrance of ‘yesteryear’ players. And it certainly succeeds there.