Some people celebrate their 50th birthday with a cake, and perhaps a party attended by relatives they’re really not that keen on.
If you’re a producer of games, though, your celebration takes the form of what will no doubt become the time-honoured fashion. You release a cash-in product and hope the nostalgia factor pays dividends. Hence Namco Museum, a reasonably lazy compilation of fourteen games (with two further available for unlocking) from the annals of history.
To be fair, there are some flat-out classics of yesteryear included. Pac-man and Ms Pac-man rightly hold their place in the virtual gaming hall of fame, even if many of us have played them to the point where if we ever seen a dot on the screen again we’ll scream. Galaga and Galaxians, meanwhile, the classic evolutions of Space Invaders, will always be able to commandeer twenty minutes of someone’s attention. Pole Position has aged, Mappy is simple, decent fun, while Rolling Thunder is still as much fun as always.
Other ingredients in the pot are the always-enjoyable Xevious, Sky Kid, Dig Dug, Dragon Spirit, Bosconian, Pole Position II and Rally X. The two unlockable games are Galaga ’88 and Pacmania, which you can get at once you’ve achieved pre-set points targets. In short, there’s a cracking collection to get your teeth into, and there’s barely a duffer in there.
Yet if Namco gets a good score for content, it doesn’t earn much for effort. A simple visual row of arcade machines is the menu that holds the games together, and there’s none of the historical material that both Atari and Taito have seen fit to include in their respective retro collections.
The term ‘shovelware’ has arguably been invented just for packages of this ilk. Namco Museum also has an annoying habit of regularly going back to the desktop, and this, upon further investigation, turned out to be a most unwelcome copy protection system that we were glad to rid our test PC of once this review was complete.
Visually, you can’t argue too much with software of such mature age, although they don’t appear to be the exact pixel-for-pixel versions of yesteryear. That appears to be more to do with the way the Namco package handles graphics, which involves a choice of smoothing or non-smoothing options, neither of which we particularly warmed to.
So while you can’t argue with the pricing – just over a quid for each of the games here (and although there are quality freeware alternatives available, they don’t match the respective originals) – it’s hard to justify rewarding such a lazy and effort-free package. Namco Museum is, ultimately, everything that’s right and everything’s that wrong with the modern day retro collection.