Game Room

A trip down memory pain.

Great idea, mostly terrible games. Well, that's the summary out of the way, so let's get the dissection tools out. Game Room is Microsoft's latest attempt to tap into the lucrative well of retro nostalgia that resides deep within our tear glands.

It's entirely free to try out, at least. You download the Game Room arcade to start off with, grab a couple of Game Packs and have a mosey around a virtual arcade. Greeted by an authentic wall of blooping retro sound, you have the option of entering various showcase arcades, including Atari, Konami, Intellivision and numerous themed rooms.

Each of these rooms has space for up to eight cabinets, and you're able to wander up to any of them and sample them for free for up to 10 minutes. Brilliantly, you can tweak the view mode to make it look like you're playing an actual arcade cabinet, complete with scan lines and slightly tilted viewpoint, although the absence of cigarette burns and puffy jacketed men barging you off halfway through puts a dent in the authenticity.

Another inspired idea developer Krome Studios has included is the ability to rewind time, Prince of Persia-style, during gameplay. By using the left trigger you can jump back to any point during your game and resume before it all went pear-shaped.

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Thankfully no-one will be doing the running man.

Walter Day will probably be spraying coffee all over his monitor at the thought of such a heinous built-in cheat device, but for anyone wanting to get some practice in without the frustration of having to start from scratch it's a wonderful inclusion, while ranked play removes this feature so online leaderboards will only reflect genuine skill.

However, the attention to detail is somewhat uneven. Atari, for example, seems to be rather more committed than, say, Konami, with arcade titles featuring eye-catching cabinet designs to reflect the individual game as it appeared at the time.

The likes of Crystal Castles, Lunar Lander, Asteroids Deluxe, Tempest, Red Baron, Gravitar and Centipede all come with lovingly recreated skins that look just like the real thing. Retroheads with a fetish for certain games won't begrudge paying a couple of quid to have them sitting in their own arcade.

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Lovingly detailed Atari cabinets. Shame about the others.

The Atari selection process isn't too shabby, either. Iconic titles like Tempest and Centipede still suffer slightly without their native controls, but they manage to transcend control issues with their timeless purity, both aesthetically and in gameplay terms, and are still fun to play nearly 30 years later. It's also a joy to note how well Krome has emulated the vector graphic 'glow' in Red Baron, something which bodes well for other titles using the same tech, like Star Wars and Battlezone.

Swing by the Konami arcade though and you get an altogether contrasting feeling. With just a generic (new-style) Konami logo slapped down the side of each identically-shaped cabinet, it's clear they really couldn't be bothered to get into the spirit of it. The game selection process is questionable too, with a mainly B-list run of titles comprised of Tutankham, Road Fighter, Finalizer, Shao-Lin's Road, Battlantis, Jungler, Scramble and Super Cobra (the latter, of course, being a virtually identical sequel to Scramble).

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