Midway Arcade is, quite literally, a new universal app for iPod, iPhone, and iPad that collects together a number of classic Midway games in a virtual arcade. Not sure which games belong to that legendary brand? Some of the games hidden away in here include Defender, Joust, APB, and Rampage. If those names don't mean anything to you, chances are good this app isn't going to excite you either; it's aimed squarely at the retro inclined, who are hoping to recapture fond memories of their youth.
Still here? Feel free to read on, but I'm going to cut to the chase: if you're the type that likes to play vintage arcade games, it's worth every cent of the $1.29 asking price. If you've got an iCade, stop reading this and buy it right now.
Still here? OK then, let's go into a little more detail...
For the base $1.29, you get the app itself as well as unrestricted access to six different classic arcade titles. The games included are Spy Hunter, Rampage, Joust, Root Beer Tapper, Defender, and Arch Rivals, with Air Hockey, Arcade Basketball, Pool, and Roll Ball machines also available to play on.
You navigate this collection of games by moving left or right between virtual arcade cabinets which are presented in a 3D world as if you were actually in an arcade. It doesn't look that great, and as menus go it can be a bit laborious to get to the game you actually want to play, but in an age where arcades are almost extinct, you do get a nice retro rush from the way it's all put together.
There are also two packs of extra games that you can purchase to expand your arcade collection, each of which will cost you another $1.29. The games in the bonus packs are, naturally, some of the better games available in the game as a whole, with the Gauntlet bundle (Gauntlet, Gauntlet II, and Wizard of Wor) our pick for the most popular in-app purchase. The other bundle, which includes NARC, Total Carnage, and APB, is also likely to provide enough draw to eke another buck twenty-nine from many arcade enthusiasts.
The effectiveness of the touch-screen controls (your typical virtual joystick and buttons affair) varies by game, largely based on how quickly you need to provide input in order to be successful at the game. Defender, then, is the least suited to fake joysticks, and was the least enjoyable recreation on offer. Fortunately it did simplify the controls from those found in the arcade original, though, eliminating many of the useless buttons in the process.
It was still fun but you're soon frustrated by the fud that exists between your intention and the end result. Rampage and Joust, on the other hand, worked pretty well, and the ability to steer in the driving-based games by tilting the iPad is an absolute god-send.
The mini games, while much easier to control, are much less satisfying. Basketball, for example, which sees you trying to swipe as many balls into a hoop as possible before the time runs out, is less fun than it was for me just then, typing that out. When a game is less fun than typing, you know you're not going to spend much time playing it. Pool, while better, is still largely forgettable.
You can earn tickets by playing the mini games, that you can then use to buy prizes from the arcade's shop area. What the purpose of these things is not really clear, but hey - if you like the sound of it, the little prizes - all of which are themed on the games, of course - are pretty cool.
The game also supports the iCade, which is an absolute boon for people who own the device. I don't, unfortunately, so I can't tell you how well it works. The concept, though, is tantalizing, and just one more reason to consider buying one.
One thing it doesn't support, however, is any form of multiplayer. Given the joy of playing some of these games (in particular, Gauntlet and Rampage) came largely from going at it with your friends, that's a shame. Plus the three families on earth that have two (or more) iCade setups could have had a mini arcade for real and genuinely kicked it old-school. A shame.
It's pretty average in the looks department too, unfortunately, with some decidedly PS1-era graphics used for the arcade itself and an interface that can only really be described as perfunctory.
Where it excels, and oozes atmosphere, is in the sound that pumps out of the speakers. Just standing around in the arcade / menu will bring back a flood of memories for anyone lucky enough to have experienced this in reality, and I found myself happily leaving it sitting at the menu while I got on with other (non-iPad) jobs (like writing this review), reminiscing with every bleep and bloop of the arcade soundtrack. Great stuff.
For a little over a dollar, which these days is only good for a deposit on a can of Coke, Midway Arcade is a no brainer. No, it's not perfect, but it is good and the atmosphere herein is valuable all by itself. A must-buy for retro enthusiasts.