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Namco Museum DS

For: DS

An oldie, but a just-above-average-ie

Product: Namco Museum DS | Publisher: Namco Bandai Networks Europe | Format: DS | Genre: Arcade, Retro | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Namco Museum DS DS, thumbnail 1
Museums are all well and good for education and fond reminiscence, but where's the fun in standing around with leaflets? Who hasn't wanted to leap on the dinosaur skeleton in the atrium of London's Natural History Museum? Who wouldn't rather get behind the steering wheels of an exhibit of famous cars rather than take holiday snapshots of them? Old things are all well and good, but they're always better with a bit of interaction.

Namco Museum DS is just that – a collection of seven of Namco's oldest and perhaps goldest titles, bundled up for handhelds with a few bells and whistles added on, and ready for you to play to your heart's content. And it's not all that bad either; your first hour with the game is likely to be spent plugging away at Pac-Man like it's 1980. The little yellow fellow is probably the best-known of the characters on offer, and the star of Namco's slightly dusty show here.

The other titles aren't entirely obscure, but probably vary in whether you've played or even heard of them before. Galaga and Galaxian are both Space Invaders-style shooters, which have you piloting a lone spaceship against a horde of primary colour aliens; Xevious is a similar top-down shooter that puts you soaring above an alien world, bombing and defending yourself as you fight your way across the planet.

On the more serene side of things there's Dig Dug II, where you drill across islands to sink enemies into the ocean; Mappy, a surreal adventure where a vigilante mouse retrieves stolen televisions using trampolines and magic doors; and the adventurous but painfully slow Tower of Druaga, the tale of a warrior scaling a tower to save a princess.

So far, so last century. Namco, as usual with its Museum series of games (released on a variety of formats), has tried to add some extras to stop it merely being a repeat of very old ideas. Some of them are pretty questionable in entertainment value (we hear the sound of Pac-Man's death enough in the game, so we weren't thrilled with the sound library that allows you to play the in-game sound and music) but the 'hardcore' options that add some extra difficulty to the game are a great addition.

Another nice touch is the ability to play with the circuitry itself. Some of the game settings for the arcade machines could be adjusted by flicking some switches on the back, so Namco Museum lets you do the same using the touchscreen. Essentially, it's no different to typing in a cheat code, but there's something fun about fiddling around with circuit boards and a stylus.

The games vary in playability. Pac-Man is still a joy to play all these years on, no matter how many times you've heard those plinky plonky sound effects before, and Dig Dug is good fun, too. Frantically trying to slice the right part of the islands into the sea without plunging yourself to a watery death is still surprisingly enjoyable.

The problem with some of the games, though, is that while they're undeniably classics, the ideas that you're seeing here have been improved upon considerably since they first made it into arcades – particularly in how forgiving they are. Some of the games make it nearly impossible to get close the high-score table without agonising effort, while others progress so slowly that they stop being fun before you've made it past the first stage of the game.

So although you're happy to look at the blocky graphics and rock out, at least for the first few hours, to the synthesised music, it's natural for the fascination to begin to wane when you realise that there are fairer and better-looking versions of many of the games available here to play for free. And on handheld, too, if you're a gamer with a mobile.

So Namco Museum DS comes off less like a re-run of a glorious cinema classic, and more like watching painful home movies. Mostly repetitive and in some cases best forgotten, but a good thing if you like to be reminded of a time when things were simpler. If you're looking for a relaxing arcade-like cruise, look elsewhere, but addicts and veterans are nevertheless likely to be happy to know that they can carry around a piece of history in their pockets.
Namco Museum DS
Reviewer photo
Mike Cook | 18 March 2008
The gems might not shine as brightly as you remember, but Namco Museum DS is a reasonable collection of bygone classics
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