Review: Evercade Namco Museum Collection 1
In this review I take a look at the Namco Museum Collection 1 for the Evercade. Whereas in my first review of the Atari Collection 1, I didn’t have a great deal of connection with the brand itself which probably affected my overall feeling towards it. I do have more in common with the Namco games and there are some household names amongst this collection. So, let’s not waste any more time and dive straight in and see what this collection has to offer.
PAC-MAN – 1984
What more can I say about PAC-MAN that hasn’t already been said? Everything about it is incredible! The iconic opening music and WAKKA, WAKKA WAKKA, sound effect tickles the nostalgic part of my brain, and then gives it a lovely warm hug. If you’ve ever played Dark Souls, then you’ll know what videogame tension feels like. PAC-MAN is one of those rare games that still always makes me feel very tense and on edge when I play it. The sound and music are such an integral part of the experience, to a point where I feel blind panic after I’ve eaten the last power pill and the ghosts are relentlessly chasing me. The beauty of PAC-MAN is in its simplicity which makes it an all-time classic! 5/5
Galaxian – 1984
I always get Galaxian, and Galaga mixed up. In my defence they are remarkably similar so it’s easy to do. Playing Galaxian is an early arcade memory for me, and I remember first seeing it on a tabletop arcade in a pub. I wasn’t drinking pints I promise you. Although my nan did used to dip my dummy in her glass of whiskey to get me to sleep. Don’t call social services I think I turned out ok… I think. Essentially this is a Space Invaders clone whereby you control the little spaceship at the bottom of the screen and must destroy the waves of enemies at the top of the screen. The main difference here though is that you don’t have any shields protecting you and the enemy spaceships divebomb to attack you. I really like Galaxian and Galaga, but I find them particularly difficult. Maybe this is down to my aging reflexes? Still, despite the difficulty this is a really fun game to play. 4/5
Xevious – 1984
Another vertical scrolling science-fiction shooter and an absolute classic! Not only do you have lasers to shoot the enemies, but you also have a crosshair in front of your ship so you can drop bombs on the enemies below you. This was quite an innovative new gameplay element for the time, and it really does help to keep you on your toes. You have full control of your ship meaning you can move anywhere on the screen. It’s surprising how much this adds to the fun of the game, as you aren’t restricted to moving just left and right. The only criticism I have is the repetitive music which plays over and over and over throughout the level. Other than that, this is a great game and still fun to play today 5/5
Mappy – 1984
This is a weird game and I’m not particularly sure if I like it that much if I’m honest. You control a police mouse (no I’m not kidding) whose sole aim is to wander around a house and recover valuable items. Standing in your way are cats who will kill you as soon as they touch you. I’ve never played Mappy before and my initial reaction after dying immediately was what the hell am I doing? This is a platform game, but you can’t jump, which seems a bit strange considering you’re a mouse! I know I shouldn’t take it too seriously because after all he is wearing a police uniform, but I would have expected to jump in a platform game!? You do however have trampolines which you can bounce on. If a cat touches you whilst you are walking, then you die immediately. If, however you are bouncing on a trampoline, you are invulnerable to them. There are doors dotted around the level which you can open and close to stop the cats. Some of the doors have a strange power attached to them which lets out some kind of sonic boom which kills the cats. The object of the game is to clear the level of all the valuable items and then move on to the next one. Although I did start to warm to this a little bit when I realised what I was doing, I still find it very restrictive that you can’t jump. Surely this is a fundamental part of any kind of platform game? As such I didn’t play this one for long before moving onto the next game. 2/5
Dig Dug – 1985
Whenever I think about Dig Dug, I always recall that it was one of the first Xbox Live Arcade games available for 400 Microsoft points. In real money this equates to about £3.40. Dig Dug is another one of those games where the simplistic nature is what makes it so playable. You control a little dude who is digging underground. There are monsters and creatures who are after you. Luckily, you carry a harpoon gun/bicycle pump and if you poke the bad guys with it, you can then blow them up. There are also rocks which you can trigger to fall on top of the bad guys. One of the genius things about Dig Dug is the music only plays when your character moves, which in a strange way helps to keep the action flowing, because it feels weird when the music isn’t playing. Dig Dug is an all-time classic and a fantastic game. 5/5
Star Luster – 1985
Yes, this sounds like a sci fi porno like Flesh Gordon, but sadly it isn’t. This is a first-person futuristic shooter where you see through the cockpit of your spaceship. The first thing you do is check your radar and decide where to take your ship. Once you do that and blast into hyperspace you are free to engage in combat. The enemy ships appear as dots on your radar. Your spaceship controls reasonably well and feels responsive. You have lasers to blast the baddies into oblivion. This is a decent game albeit a little repetitive. The enemy ships don’t change and despite flying to different parts of the galaxy everything looks the same. Fun while it lasts. 3/5
Mappy Kids – 1989
Who’d have thought there would be a sequel to Mappy? Not me! Anyway, you play the son of Mappy. Can you guess what his name is? Happy! His dad tells him to go out and get a wife, so off he goes on an adventure. Maybe Mappy was fed up with Happy being in the house all the time watching Netflix, eating his cheese, and finding stiff tissues all over his bedroom floor? This is more of a traditional platform game like early Mario games. You have a little overview map and then it’s side scrolling platform action where guess what? You can jump! Take that Mappy! Happy can also kick other animals. He can flutter his tail like a helicopter to slow his descent. Come to think of it, Happy can do a hell of a lot more than his old man could! When Happy reaches the end of the level there are some bizarre mini games. Happy talks to a cat and plays a slot machine. He can win prizes by playing games like Butt Bounce or lifting flags. It’s all a bit strange if I’m honest. The one big problem I had with this game is the jumping. It’s way too floaty and the game itself is fairly bland. According to the lovely manual you get with the cartridge, Mappy Kids was only originally released in Japan. This is the first English translation available for the Evercade. 2/5
Quad Challenge – 1991
After an impressive looking intro which introduces you to the bikes and the race, we also get a little bit of digitised speech as well. I’ve never played this game before, so I was quite looking forward to checking it out, especially as ATV on the Sinclair Spectrum was one of my favourite games on that system. ATV and Quad Challenge are quite different whereas ATV was more about managing obstacles, Quad Challenge is more of a pure racing game. You can either take part in the USA Championship or play against another player. The game is defaulted to split screen and unfortunately you can’t turn this off so you’re always racing against one other person rather than lot of racers. This game is fine. It looks nice, has some decent graphics, and the vehicles control well enough. But my biggest problem is that it’s a little bit boring. I’d imagine playing with another person in split screen mode would be a lot better, but as this is on a single player handheld console there is no chance of me doing that. 3/5
Metal Marines – 1993
This is an isometric strategy game like Command & Conquer. If you played that game, then you know how this works. You have a certain amount of money to build a base and then create weapons of destruction as well as defensive capabilities. I’ve never played this game before, and this is no exaggeration when I say my first game lasted approximately 90 seconds! That was about the time it took me to decide where to build my bases before I got attacked and everything was destroyed. I fared better in my second game as I learned how to attack the enemy! There are various things you can build including factories, radars, missiles and the titular Metal Marines, which resemble giant mechs. I must admit, I went from disliking the game because I died quickly, to enjoying it when I figured out what to do. I’m not the world’s biggest strategy game fan due to feeling overwhelmed with the number of options available to you. Metal Marines is kept quite simple, so it suits an idiot like me. There is a password system as well so you can pick up where you left off. My only real criticism is how often, and seemingly randomly, you get attacked. It feels like it’s every 20 seconds which barely gives you anytime to build your defences, let alone mount an attack. Other than that, this is a fun game and a welcome addition to the collection. 4/5
Battle Cars – 1993
To say this is a rip-off of F-Zero is an understatement! This futuristic racer gives you the option to choose from three different cars and compete in several different races. The main difference between this and F-Zero is the inclusion of weapons which can be used during the race. Other than that, this looks, feels and plays just like F-Zero. But (there’s always a but) the one big difference are the controls. I must admit it’s been a while since I’ve played F-Zero, but I always felt that the controls were responsive. Battle Cars is ok, but it feels a little bit off, especially when you bounce into the side of the track, and you lose pretty much complete control of your car. You can upgrade your vehicle as you progress and buy new weapons to use. Battle Cars isn’t bad, and I certainly played it for longer than I expected, but the controls let it down otherwise it would have got a higher score. 3/5
Libble Rabble – 1994
Libble Rabble is a very odd game. First of all, it’s got a ridiculous name! I have no idea about the story because although there is an intro which is accompanied by jaunty music, the text is all in Japanese, so I haven’t the foggiest. From what I can make out, it’s something about a red and blue hatted dude, magic mushrooms, and some other weirdness. According to the lovely instruction manual, Libble Rabble was made my Toru Iwatani who created PAC-MAN. You use the d-pad to control the blue dude (who appears as an arrow), and the other four buttons move the red dude. The background is made up of dots which I would presume are pegs on a board. You move each arrow independently, and as you move there is a string which comes from your character. The strings must connect and are used to capture treasure, as well as bad guys. This is initially a bit confusing as controlling two things at once can take a few minutes to get your head around. It reminded me of the classic game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, where you control two characters at once. The trick I found with Brothers and Libble Rabble is to prioritise a particular character to move, and only move the other character sparingly or when absolutely required. At least this way it doesn’t feel as if you are rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. Although I wasn’t particularly taken with Libble Rabble at first, I soon found myself getting into it. Worth a shot. 3/5
For me, this is a far stronger collection of games when compared to Atari Collection 1. You only need to look at Namco’s output in 1984/85 to see there are some classic arcade games which still stand the test of time. Throw in a few other decent games and this is an excellent showing for the Evercade. What’s even more impressive is the Namco Collection 1 comes with the premium version of the console.
The Namco Collection 1 (and other retro titles) are available on the Evercade.
Review by Chris.