The resurgence of retro gaming continues on the Xbox One.
First we had Rare Replay and then we had a multitude of old Xbox 360 arcade conversions such as Centipede, Missile Command and Wonderboy added via backwards compatibility. Now, Namco have chosen to release three of their biggest hits on the Xbox One in the form the Arcade Game Series 3-in-1 pack. Comprising of the iconic Pac-Man (1980), the crazy Dig Dug (1982) and frantic Galaga (1981), let’s see if these hugely popular arcade games retain their all-time classic status on today’s state of the art hardware.
We probably should just start off with Pac-Man, shouldn’t we? Namco’s mascot has been their lifeblood since he first appeared in the early eighties right up to the present day. He remains a true icon both inside and out of gaming, and is one of only a handful of characters to transcend the world of video games and become a part of popular culture. Let’s not forget that it was the quality of the original Pac-Man arcade game that led to this stardom. Pac-Man might not have been the first “maze” game, but it redefined the genre and is arguably the very first example of a gaming mascot.
The object of the game is pretty simple – guide Pac-Man around the maze and eat all the Pac-pellets. In practice it’s a lot harder than it sounds because you also have to watch out for the four pesky ghosts (Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde) who are intent on killing you. Grab one of the four power-pellets though and you can turn the tables for a short time allowing you to chomp the ghosts. Said spooks do return though so you must plan your routes and use of the pills carefully. As the game progresses, the ghosts get more intelligent and the effect of the power-pellets becomes less, making it much harder to progress. Pac-Man is still every bit as challenging as it ever was and every bit as enjoyable too; some games just never age.
I think it has always been well established that Dig Dug contains one of the weirdest plots and concepts of any game in history, but I think that its pure quirkiness is a big part of what made the original Namco arcade game such a massive hit. I mean, you play as little man, running around underground with a giant air pump, blowing up dragons and big bloopy things (otherwise known as Fygars and Pookas), dodging falling boulders and collecting the magic fruit that grows down there. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Many people thought that this game was too weird for the Western market when Atari choose to license it, but it quickly gained mainstream appeal and it now remains one of Namco’s best remembered games (after Pac-Man, of course). This strange mix of Boulderdash, Pacman and… erm… some game where you blow air (I suppose Bomberman comes closest) is just as good on the Xbox One as it was in the arcades; Namco have decided to simply emulate the original coin-op with some pretty borders in place to get the correct screen ratio.
But Dig Dug isn’t just about the digging. As the levels progress, the enemies get smarter and before long you will find that they actually try to surround you and ambush you. This means some really quick reflexes are required as well as the need to master the staggered pump technique. This is where you pump one enemy to make him pause then do the same to the next one, switching back and forth until they explode without letting them get away. The enemies also get faster as the game progresses, too; it becomes very challenging to kill the last one or two as they try to escape at the end of each level. You also need to watch out for the Fygar’s fiery breath as it kills on contact. Out of the three games included in the Arcade Game Series 3-in-1 Pack, Dig Dug is without doubt my favourite. I have had a real soft spot for it since I first played it on the humble Atari 2600 back in the day and the affection has never waned.
The third and final game in the collection is Galaga, the sequel to the groundbreaking Galaxian. It turned out to be every bit as popular as its prequel and spawned another five sequels and even more unofficial clones. As with Dig Dug and Pac-Man, the original arcade game is emulated perfectly in this Xbox One release. Galaga is pretty much the earliest example out there of what we now know as the vertically scrolling shoot ‘em up. It uses a constantly moving star field in the background to simulate scrolling and the enemies arrive in attack patterns as opposed to the fixed formation of Galaxian.
There are also now very distinct stages that differ from one another rather than just repeating the same level over and over with increased difficulty. Enemies still swoop and dive-bomb you in a kamikaze fashion, but now have their own attack patterns rather than just being at random. This means it’s easier to learn the game, much like a modern shooter. There are also enemies that require several hits and, as well as shooting back at you, they are armed with a new weapon: a tractor beam. When they engage this weapon, it locks you in and sucks you up so you lose a life. There are also fun bonus stages where the only objective is to score as many points as possible. Galaga is perhaps the most challenging game on this collection but one that will give you real satisfaction when you beat the high score!
Although all the titles in the Arcade Game Series 3-in-1 Pack can be bought separately, there seems little reason to do so because at a touch over six quid the compilation offers tremendous value for money. All three of the games offer online leaderboards, various display configurations, gameplay options and plenty of great achievements to be garnered. Personally, I would love to see some more publishers release their arcade classics for the new consoles. Games like these are the perfect quick fix when you can’t decide what to play, are waiting for that mammoth update to download or just fancy a quick satisfying blast of old-school arcade action. Pac-Man, Galaga and Dig Dug are classics for a reason and I can’t help but recommend this collection to everyone.