Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I have a lovely wife. I have a wife who buys me 80's video games, even though she finds most of them annoying/boring. So, a few weeks ago, I was given a suprise present. The much-anticipated (by myself, at least) sequel to the first Namco plug-n-play joystick that I got earlier this year. The basic concept is: take 5+ games, spotlight one of them (in this case, Ms. Pac Man, the first one was simply Pac-Man) wrap them in their own joystick, give it the look and feel of an 80's arcade joystick. Watch the kids ("kids" being people mid 20's to 40's ;) go nuts.
Below is my review of the 5 games included in the package:

- Ms. Pac Man - It's kind of funny. You would think, if you were choosing one game to sell your plug-n-play joystick on, you'd make sure the one you chose *worked*! Seriously, it's simply unplayable. The joystick decides occasionally, you know, you *really* don't want to go up when you're slamming up on the joystick like a madman. So, every other second, you're dying because Ms. Pac Man simply won't change course. This isn't a hardware issue either, as the joystick works perfectly on other games. For me, already owning Pac Man (which, let's face it, is basically the same game) on the first Namco, this isn't a big deal. But, if you're looking to add a little Pac Man-in-drag to your life, you'll have to look elsewhere.

- Galaga - This was a big reason I wanted the Namco 2 joystick. I was greatly disappointed of the inclusion of the far inferior Galaxians into the first joystick and always felt that Galaga was a better choice. To me, Galaga was the epitome of the "Space Invaders" clones. Not only did it truly capture the fun of the game it was imitating, but it really took it a step further, with enemies which act with their own unique tactics, instead of just mindlessly dropping bombs. Decades later, the games is just as fun as it ever was. Though, granted, I suck at it more than I used to.

- Mappy - This was a game I never liked in the arcade. Maybe it's because it's not exactly "manly" be at the arcade playing a police mouse chasing after pink cats. I mean, let's face it, like Ms. Pac Man, this one was for the "chicks". It's like...Billy 1 is playing Space Invaders, blowing up aliens left and right. Billy 2 is playing Mappy. Bouncing on trampolines and trying to avoid pink kitties. Guess which ones gets beat up after school more? That said, it's kind of fun now. Though I still feel like a sissy while playing it.

- Xevious - Just like Bosconian on the first Namco Joystick, Xevious is under the realm of "video games I vaguely remember, but was never hugely into". Also like Bosconian, it quickly became one of my favorites of the set. Xevious is your basic overhead-view scrolling shoot-em-up space game. The graphics are a step above the others, with some actual shading and depth added to the characters. There's not too much to say about it. You blow things up. Try not to get blown up. Can't go wrong.

- Pole Position - Personally, out of the genre of 80's car racing games, I would have preferred to have seen Out Run. (Where else can you not only choose your tunes, but when you crash you car, not only does it flip (!) but your girlfriend yells at you for driving like a fucking maniac, after you've miraculous survived.) The lack of a steering wheel does put a damper on things. In it's place, you need to turn the actual joystick itself (a feature I'd not picked up on at first and thought the joystick was broken). It works pretty well, overall. This game also marked one of the first inclusions that I remember of actual speech in a game. "Prepare to qualify" and "Congratulations!" come through again in gritty, 2-bit wonder in this version as well.

Overall, I'd put this in a tie with the first joystick. If you own the first already and love it, the second is more of the same fun and definitely worth picking up. If you own neither and want to get one, choose based on the games included (except Ms. Pac Man).