With Playstation Home making such an impact here on the fellow DPAD Dependants, I, for one, was getting excited at the prospect of Microsoft showing some strong competition with their innovative new community experiment, ‘Game Room’. Home is a fantastic concept, and much as I enjoy my short excursions there, the blood in my veins is green, and as a result I find it genuinely hard to pull away from my Xbox 360 in favour of its rival.
Game Room is a service from Microsoft that promises to offer a wide range of retro arcade games from the later decades of the 20th-century, in a bid to encourage users to make their own mini arcade complexes complete with every game they used to love many years ago, whilst shunning the rest. And therein lies one of the great things about the Game Room. As each game is sold individually at a very affordable price, it immediately outshines the compilations that we have been used to for numerous years, because it’s YOUR collection.
There is also the nifty little feature of being able to pay 40 Microsoft Points (30p for those not aware of the exchange rate) for one credit on any game of your choosing, giving you a chance to satisfy an urge you know will go away after a quick pop, or better still, to test the game out and decide if you’d like to fork out for the cabinet to place into your arcade.
And speaking of ‘placing’ things inside your arcade, there’s also the joy of choosing what your arcade actually looks like. I especially enjoyed my 10G reward for simply changing the theme and placing a small candlestick in one of my arcade rooms. The themes dominate the room as a whole in terms of style, and then there are eight slots along each wall for you to place either a decoration or an arcade cabinet. A nice touch, surely, but the fact that you can only select a vacant slot to decorate is a real disappointment. Fully 3D rooms with the ability to place any item anywhere within the room wouldn’t have been much more difficult to design and it would have provided a far greater sense of ownership and personalisation. The system in which you select what games to play suffers from a similar problem, in that the arcade rooms appear to be little more than an animated menu screen.
Excuse me for being a dreamer, but I had rather hoped I’d be able to stroll around my arcade with my avatar, inviting my friends to walk around with me, before we both settle at a cabinet, pop our quarters in and zoom into the game screen to commence retro goodness. This is sadly not the case, but it’s all too likely I would simply have complained it was a novelty if it were.
As for the games, there’s a nice little selection on offer the moment you load-up, with specific highlights for myself being Centipede and Asteroid (original, I know). The possibilities of future releases are endless, whereas the realities are shrouded in mystery. I, for one, am holding my breath in the hopes that some side-scrolling action games will be released, something along the lines of Sunset Riders, but from the launch line-up, this is looking somewhat doubtful, favouring games that are a bit older, and are heavily based on scores rather than narrative.
And therein lies the potential for some true Game Room glory. Perhaps one of my favourite gaming moments in 2009 was with Batman: Arkham Asylum and its fantastic Challenge Mode, purely because it’s one of the few games I could successfully beat others at (in terms of score), attaining joyous bragging rights in the process. Few games test your skill like those of the yesteryear, and should you find a group of friends who take an interest in Game Room, the ancient joy of beating someone’s high-score can easily be relived in appropriate pixelated fashion.
And to a hardcore gamer, there really is nothing quite like earning some retro bragging rights.