Tom Hanks has a lot to answer for. Films about talking to Volleyballs, living in an airport concourse and leading a platoon of soldiers to their death just to deliver a letter have brought him numerous gongs and induced a few good kips. But he almost got it right in one of his high profile movies. Sat at a bus stop wearing ill-fitting trousers and looking exactly like my old geography teacher, he delivered a line that pretty much sums up any compilation (be it music, games or anything else). Tom eulogised "Life is like a box of chocolates", which is wrong, but we get the sentiment. Everyone knows that a box of chocolates is for special occasions or to make up for some indiscretion, so the saying should really have been a little more accessible. I therefore prefer to go with "Life is like a bag of Revels". And so is Konami Arcade Classics.
A competent repackaging of a 1999 PlayStation compilation, with a lovely 50% extra thrown in (adding up to a total of 15 games, instead of the PSOne's 10), Classics charts the early years at Konami ranging from 1982's Scramble to 1987's Contra (or Gryzor). The package contains all the usual extras such as information on the games, pictures of the game board and scans of the control sheets to ensure you know how to play. As some of the games are vertical and others horizontal, it's possible to choose from various orientations and multiplayer options on some games which, from a single cartridge, is a nice feature. But with any retro collection, we're only really interested in two questions: Are the classic games we really want included, and do they still play well today? The answer (as always) is yes and no to both questions. Let's delve into the packet of Revels and see what delights we find:
Orange Creams - These are the ones you bite into and then politely spit back out into your hand and feed to the dog.
Basketball - With the likes of Double Dribble in their back catalogue, it's very disappointing to see this precursor used as code filler, but I'm sure Arcade Classics 2 can't be that far away.
Roc'n Rope - This game takes some nice graphical inspiration from Joust, introduces a rope tool that's similar to Bionic Commando's arm and melds them into a frustrating, pointless and downright annoying game. Avoid.
Twin Bee (Rainbow Bell) - Probably the worst game in the collection. A shooter that's as ugly as it is a chore to play. With Nemesis on this collection, why would anyone torture themselves with this?
Maltesers - Always too many in a pack but enjoyable all the same.
Track and Field - Probably the collection's biggest draw, but also its biggest disappointment. Using the tiny buttons on the DS (particularly on the Lite version) makes even someone with slender, feminine hands like myself feel like a lumbering sausage fingers. It is still fun, but the single button technique feels like cheating.
Time Pilot - Battling your way through different time zones in this 360 degree shooter is always fun and almost made it onto the Coffee Creams list, but having been spoiled by the excellent XBLA version and the tiny DS screen sometimes making it difficult to see what's going on. Therefore, it's a Malteser. But a nice one.
Tutenkham (Horror Maze) - Some will enjoy this, but its poor graphics and unforgiving controls mean this twitchy maze game is far from a classic.
Pooyan - Not many will probably have heard of this, but few will be able to resist its cutesy charm. A delightful little game that has you shooting balloons with a bow and arrow to save the baby Pooyans from attacking wolves.
Circus Charlie - With six fun events and some nice comic touches, this circus-'em-up is a lot of fun. Sure, most of the events are very similar and some are extremely tough, but it's a laugh all the same.
Road Fighter - Nicer looking than Spy Hunter, but a strange control system makes this top down racer quite tricky to handle - particularly the need to counter-steer to correct a slide. Fun for a while, but you won't be returning to it often.
Yie Ar Kung Fu - In its day a wonderful beat-'em-up with comical graphics and great characters. Nowhere near as much fun today, but still a great time killer.
Coffee Creams - Too often you bite into what you think is a coffee cream only to realise that it's a stealth orange that's been hiding like a sugary ninja between a couple of Maltesers, but when you get the real thing it is worth it. The genuine treats. (Coffee creams! Bleaurgh! - Ed.)
Contra (Gryzor) - Graphically fantastic with nice smooth controls put this on top of the pile. It's easy to miss some of the tiny bullets in the background, but that's true of the arcade version.
Scramble - The oldest game of the bunch, but holds its own admirably. A million bootlegs and 'tributes' followed its launch, but the original is best.
Shao-Lins Road (Kicker) -This game is one of the best kept beat-'em-up secrets. Looking and playing like a platform version of Yie Ar Kung Fu, this is one of the hidden gems in the pack.
Rush'n Attack (Green Beret) -Another one of the big hitters. A run and gun/knife that loses nothing in the shrinking process.
Gradius (Nemesis) - Although it's appeared on many collections before, this is a game that deserves to lead the Konami line. A beautiful, challenging and fun shooter that hasn't aged a day.
So if Konami Arcade Classics was a bag of Revels, I would happily munch my way to the bottom of the bag with very little spitting and surreptitious dog feeding. With far more good than bad, plenty of variety in the titles and some nice extras this collection sits proudly at the top of the DS retro compilation pile.
So now that's out of the way, why not head over to www.chocoholics-anonymous.co.uk where I review the Thornton's Continental Selection using the infamous Dizzy scoring method.
8 / 10