Version tested Wii
Having released Namco Museum about nine thousand times in various guises, surely Namco has to be thorough and comprehensive to get away with it again in 2008. After all, even a cursory examination of the company's arcade heritage reveals dozens of games that have never made it onto any of Museum compilations that it has put out since 1994.
Admittedly, a fair proportion of these are rubbish, but there's still an inherent curiosity value attached to documenting the company's evolution. Personally, I'd far sooner wade through the company's more obscure late '80s and early '90s output than have to play Galaxian, Dig Dug and Xevious again. What exactly is stopping Namco including the awesome Pac-Land, Galaga '88, Blast Off, or other long-lost stuff like Solvalou, Rolling Thunder 2, Star Blade, or, hell, the original Ridge Racer or Tekken for that matter? While we're in full Victor Meldrew mode, why does Namco stick doggedly to its arcade titles for these compilations when there are a ton of home console efforts that would provide a great deal of quality retro material?
Anyway, to soften the blow of yet another Namco Museum, this Wii version 'treats' us to a handful of remakes - hence the 'Remix' element of the package - as well as the usual arcade ports. At the top of the bill, Pac N' Roll isn't so much a remix as a cleaned up port of the 2005 DS original. The idea is to roll Pac-Man around hazardous 3D environments until he reaches his goal, gathering a specified number of Pac-Dots along the way to open doors. The game's then-innovative touch-screen controls have been translated with satisfying precision to the nunchuk's analogue stick, while a flick of the remote gives Pac-Man a speed burst - useful for breaking the many boxes you find lying around. As with Marble Madness and Super Monkey Ball, it's instantly engaging, and eventually ramps up the challenge to a satisfying and occasionally maddening degree. But in terms of interest value, this is the strongest title in the line-up.
Elsewhere in Remix land, it's all a bit ho-hum, with the kind of fare that you'd think twice about downloading on Virtual Console for two quid. Gator Panic Remix, for example. For those of you who never encountered redemption games in the arcade, this one's a straightforward Whac-A-Mole clone with alligators. Fun for all of about two minutes, you select which gator you want to whack with the thumb-stick and swing the remote down to hit, and so on until the time ticks down. You clock up more points for hitting certain gators multiple times, but you'll lose points for every time you're bitten. You'll probably only play it once - if that, now I've slagged it off - although there's also the novelty of you seeing your Miis appear in multiplayer.
Onto Rally-X Remix, then, which puts dear old Pac-Man in the driver's seat, while the camera angle has been pulled back overhead to give it the 3D touch it never needed. In most other respects, the gameplay has been left alone, so you still gather flags while enemies chase you around a maze, but there is one big difference, in that it's about a million times easier than the original. Rather than add another pursuer at the start of each round, Remix stretches out the learning curve to the point of exhaustion, so that you have to play through multiple levels of similar difficulty before things become challenging. Sometimes you might have to pick up the flags in order to progress, or cause the opponents to spin out and drop their flag, but otherwise it's a fairly bog-standard remake. Next.
Motos has always been curiously overlooked as a retro delight, possibly because when it came out in the mid-1980s it was a little too simple compared to more fashionable titles. Looking back, the core gameplay purity of having to barge everything off the side of a chequered playing area shines through. But as fun as it is, it's hardly worth remaking - at best it's mini-game fodder that you'll enjoy for a few minutes, but doesn't bear close scrutiny or repeat play.