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Namco Museum Battle Collection

For: PSP

Remember the days of putting 10 pences into arcade machines? Well forget them. Namco's bought 17 classics (and not such classics) to your PSP

Product: Namco Museum Battle Collection | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe | Format: PSP | Genre: Arcade | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc)
Namco Museum Battle Collection PSP, thumbnail 1
Back when I was a nipper, I remember a friend asking her granny what life was like in the good old days. "Good old days," sputtered Granny into her tea. "Bad old days more like. No central heating, TVs or fridges and you had to walk down the garden to go to the loo."

It's even more the case with games. People used to be happy with a couple of dots. You'd move those dots around the screen for hours on end, but in these days of shiny 3D-photorealism who'd want to go back to that?

Well Namco at least wants to provide you with a time machine. As one of the premiere arcade companies back in the 1980s, it's got plenty of dot-based games in its catalogue and every so often, it dusts down a selection and re-releases them for the new generation of players to see what they've missed.

And with Namco Museum Battle Collection, you certainly get your money's worth. Released at a budget price (expect to pay around £25 when it's out in the Europe), you get 17 old skool classics to rediscover as well as four games which have been updated.

Starting with the retro, some are games everyone will have heard of. Pac-Man and Ms Pac-Man are the best known and probably the most playable, although as with all retro games, the hardness level may be a little tricky for modern tastes. Certainly, it's interesting to note the change in difficulty between Pac-Man (which was released in 1980) and Ms Pac-Man, released two years later. For one thing, the controls for turning corners are much smoother and when you pop a pill, you'll also get a speed boost to help catch up with the fleeing ghosts.

The other well-known series of games in the collection are Galaxians (1979) and Galaga (1981). Namco's version of Space Invaders, these bought some colour and excitement to the invader games, thanks to their swooping waves of insect-like aliens. They remain pretty hardcore too, especially Galaxians with its one-bullet-at-a-time firing limit.

Interestingly Namco has included another invader clone, the peculiar King and Balloon (1980). Instead of the invader theme, this time you're defending your king from descending balloons which try to kidnap him into the sky. Once he's airborne, you can still shoot down the balloons, and he'll drop back to earth using an umbrella to slow his fall. Miss and he'll disappear into the clouds, letting out a plaintive 'bye-bye!' as he goes. It's actually more fun than either Galaxians or Galaga, partly because it's bonkers and partly because you're defending the King rather than just your ship. This means you get unlimited lives but there are only three kings to be saved, and this provides a bit more tactical variation than trying to memorise the alien waves of Galaxians.

As for the other games, they are more hit-and-miss. Some are strange but most ultimately forgettable. In Mappy, you play the crime-fighting mouse and get to bounce around a 2D platform level, picking up stolen goods while trying to avoid the criminal cats. Bosconian is a spaceship game, a bit like Defender meets Asteroids but without the fun. Equally weak are Dragon Buster - a mindless 2D sidescrolling slasher, Tower Of Druaga, a truly awful topdown dungeon-based game and Rolling Thunder - a sidescrolling jump-and-shooter.

But there are pleasant surprises too. Grobda is a completely mad topdown tank game where you get to spray cannon fire around to destroy the enemy while trying to hide from their response behind your defences. Motos is a similar crazy topdown game where you have to crash into other vehicles and so push them over the edge of the playing surface. It's a bit like dodgems meets Go. And of course, there's Xevious, the well-known 2D shoot 'em up, which is the by far-and-away the best retro game in this collection.

With rapid fire to take out flying enemies, combined with the option to drop single smart bombs on ground-based tanks and cannons, it has a sweet rhythm as you move up and down the screens, trying to avoid other fighters while lining up smart bombs which can only be launched using a crosshair sight. Of course, it's rock hard in terms of difficulty but it's also a great example of the classic arcade experience.

Completing the retro allocation are two versions of DigDug and Rally-X. Neither is particularly good; in DigDug and DigDug II, you chase various creatures underground and overground, trying either to drop rocks on them or fire a harpoon into them and then blowing them up with air. Rally-X and New Rally-X are basically Pac-Man crossed with a racing game, where you have to drive around picking up flags and avoiding the chasing red cars.

But regardless of their game qualities, all of them have been lovingly ported to PSP, with player options including the ability to change the orientation of the screen, the playing area's aspect ratio as well as tweaks such as changing how many lives you get.

As for the new versions of old games - or what Namco calls Arrangements - there's a neat 3D version of Pac-Man, a very playable colourful version of Galaga with huge boss insects, another version of Rally-X (why!) and an interesting adaption of DigDug. They also allow you to play multiplayer using PSP's wi-fi, including a co-op DigDug, and verses modes for Pac-Man and Rally-X, while in Galaga, you can send extra enemies to the others player by building up combos.

In terms of whether you should shell out for a copy of Battle Collection, the only question is how interested are you in old computer games? Certainly, there are some pretty awful games in this collection, but among the 17 (+4) on offer, you should fine something that will excite and surprise you. Who said history is boring?

Namco Museum Battle Collection is on sale now.
Namco Museum Battle Collection
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 13 September 2005
We prefer to look forward not back, but Namco's Battle Collection proves some retro games should never be left in the past
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