Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Midway Arcade Treasures 2 (PS2)




By Michael Palisano

Classic compilations usually focus on the golden age of gaming from the early 80's, and this collection is no exception with classic titles such as Wizard of Wor, Spy Hunter II and Gauntlet II making appearances. However, Midway Arcade Treasures 2 also includes a collection of newer arcade classics including Mortal Kombat 2 & 3, Rampage World Tour, Total Carnage, Primal Rage and Pit-Fighter. There are also a number of obscure, yet excellent titles such as APB,  Wacko and Kosmic Krooz'r that are pleasant surprises. An interesting mix of games is included along with a selection of archival materials. While the emulation is a bit spotty in a few titles, AT2's quality is decent overall. The low price means you get plenty of action for your money, making this excellent package an excellent purchase for classic gamers everywhere.

After the success of the first Midway Arcade Treasures compilation, it should come as no surprise that a sequel is on shelves. However, the selection strays from the usual selection of early 80's golden age titles. Midway has also included more contemporary titles from the late 80's and early 90's, such as both Mortal Kombat II & III, Primal Rage, Narc, Pit Fighter and more. While there are many older titles that should please fans of the golden age such as Timber, Wizard of Wor and more, the emphasis this time is decidedly towards more recent titles. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for fighting game fans. This approach however, does lend the title a bit of a hit-or-miss approach, since some of the games have held up better than others.. However, such as the dreadful Pit Fighter weren't that great when released, and actually look even worse with age. The ugly pixilated characters, clunky animation, and limited movements makes this one a chore to play. While Pit-Fighter predated MKII's digitized characters, the primitive motion capturing technology hasn't held up well, and the game's limited moves set makes it an almost laughable experience these days. On the other hand, some games such as the under-rated dinosaur fighting game Primal Rage still impress with decent graphics, fun gameplay and decent controls, and will be a pleasant surprise for younger players. Midway Arcade Treasures 2 also includes a pair of somewhat simplistic, but enjoyable sports titles, Arch Rivals and Cyberball 2072. Arch Rivals is the company's classic basketball game, and is a nice nostalgic throwback. The simple graphics and controls make it fun to play, but it lacks the speed of more recent titles and the charm of earlier games. There have been many extreme football titles over the years, but Cyberball 2072 was one of the more original titles of its time, mixing traditional football strategy with violence and wild moves. This was a cool game that anticipated NFL Blitz by more than a decade and makes a nice addition to the pack.

There are several other games on this compilation that didn't get the attention or success they deserved originally. Two of these are directly related to each other because they feature the same main character: Wacko and Kosmic Kroozr - these two games were notable for their odd arcade machines where the controls were placed on an odd angle, making them stand out from the pack. Both of these 'cute' games starred a strange alien character who battled a variety of evil invaders. While Wacko took place on the alien planet's surface, Kroozr took the action into outer space as you battle them in your flying saucer. Both games are very much of their early 80's time, featuring simple gameplay, intuitive controls, and light-hearted action that players back then loved. Neither of these games made much of an impact in the arcades, but two decades on, they should finally find an appreciative audience at home. Another title in the same vein is Timber, another somewhat obscure early 80's game. This game cast you as a lumberjack where you had to cut down trees before the timer ran out while avoiding obstacles, foes, birds and, the trees themselves. While Timber's cartoonish graphics probably made it more appealing to younger gamers, the game has that frenetic, fast and addictive gameplay that made titles such as Bubbles so addictive. Another early 80's gem in this pack is the cult classic Wizard of Wor, a simple yet amazingly fun maze shooter which cast you as a lone soldier against a seemingly endless supply of alien monsters. What made Wizard of Wor so unique was its unique Radar system that allowed you to see the invisible aliens and get out of their way. Completing each stage led you to a bonus level where you fought against the Warlock. If you were lucky enough to kill the Warlock, you would sometimes fight the Wizard himself in the ultimate battle. Wizard of Wor was also one of the earliest cooperative games where two players could navigate the maze simultaneously. Unfortunately, the emulation for this game seems a little screwy, with the action and voice samples inexplicably speeded up to twice the normal rate. This speedup problem is truly aggravating, and is especially annoying when multiple enemies are onscreen. It's unfortunate that more care wasn't taken, since this nearly ruins the gameplay at certain points.

The excellent multiplayer action of Gauntlet II makes a welcome appearance as well. While it doesn't change much of the formula from the original game, GII adds some interesting new twists such as new enemy types, more challenging level designs plus additional characters that make it worth playing. One of the more obscure and little-seen gems on the disc is Spy Hunter II, the sequel to the original game. This was a radical departure from the first title in a number of ways. It utilized a top-down angled perspective and split screen action, so two players could play simultaneously. It was an interesting experiment, but one that didn't really work as well as the original game. Released nearly a decade after the original game, Rampage World Tour featured significantly better graphics, many more cities and characters, but retained the simple, charming gameplay of the original title and is also the newest game on the disc. Another sequel on the disc was Total Carnage, the vastly under-rated follow-up to the legendary Smash TV, which was itself an update of Robotron. Total Carnage plays similarly to the Smash TV, except the plot is very different, and the game's levels aren't as linear and allow for more freedom of movement. The famous sense of humor is evident in the satirical takes on the media, war and the over-the-top Rambo films from the 80's and 90's. Total Carnage was also much harder than Smash TV with smarter enemies and more types of them as well. Championship Sprint was another excellent update, but much closer to the first game with a few additional tweaks and more sophisticated course designs that make the racing more challenging.

From a historical perspective, one of the most interesting titles on the disc is Atari Games' landmark Hard Drivin', which was one of the first modern polygonal racers released, predating even Sega's Virtua Racing. The game's visuals and advanced physics engine were once revolutionary, but now seem simple and quaint. The game still plays well however, despite some rather touchy controls. The two-track design also feels quite limiting these days, but playing HD is interesting if you want to see how far technology has progressed in the 15 years since its release. Another landmark title in this pack is NARC, which seems like another generic side-scrolling fighting game on the surface, but was quite controversial at the time thanks to the digitized graphics, realistic drug-culture subtext and violent gameplay. Speaking of controversial, the Mortal Kombat games induced plenty of debate upon their release, with their bloody fatalities and digitized characters. Both the second and third games are somewhat similar, though the tighter, simpler gameplay of MKII seems to have held up better than the bloated third installment, which seemed like more of the same. From a technical standpoint, both of these emulations are acceptable conversions, though they suffer from some dropped speech samples and odd graphics glitches here and there. While the series has long been derided amongst purists as gimmicky, both MK games' solid fighting game underpinnings make them hold up surprisingly well after a decade.

When you look at the selection overall, the game selection in this compilation is surprisingly eclectic. The games range in quality from instant classics, to little-seen gems and unfortunately, a few duds as well. Some titles are obscure but fun, like APB, while others like Xenophobe fail to generate much appeal and just seem slow and dated. The emulations are for the most part decent, but there are some glaring problems such as the speed-ups in Wizard or Wor that are very annoying. While all the games have at least some bonus materials such as artwork and drawings, some of the extras seem rather stingy. The developers have also improved the game's interface from the clunky design of the first Midway Treasures disc, making it easier to navigate and find the games you want to play. Despite some mis-steps and technical problems, Midway Arcade Treasures 2 is still a fun compilation that offers players plenty of value for their money. It's highly recommended for both die-hard classic gamers and casual fans looking for a nostalgia fix.

Grade: B

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