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Arcade Essentials Evolution

What does the word “evolution” mean? Does it conjure up images of primates morphing into humans? Do oversized cellphones shrink into iPhones? Do you see the many iterations of Mario or Sonic jumping through your mind in sequential order? Regardless of your answer, evolution evokes the idea of progress and of change. The concept leads individuals to expect something different, a more refined version of what came before it.

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The inclusion of the world “evolution” in the title of the recent Mini release Arcade Essentials Evolution is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I read through the press release sent over to us, which promised “enhanced” versions of “well-known arcade games of the 80s.” They were to retain “authentic visual style” but had “modern graphics, special effects and sounds.”

Now, the bundle of games certainly do look a great deal better than the original games that inspired them, and I won’t fault them on special effects or sounds either. But where I do find fault is that these games are, essentially, carbon-copies of the original releases, to the point where the most prominent change are the titles of the five games included in the bundle. I understand that the release is intended as a nostalgia-induced impulse buy, but the games included are so close to their originals that it almost seems a forgery.

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“Vulcanoids” is Ateroids. “Toader” is Frogger. “Scolopendra” is Centipede. “Smashout” is Breakout. “Lunar Parking” is Lunar Lander.

There are some subtle variations. In Vulcanoids, there are little power-ups that you can collect, not that they significantly affect play. Toader doesn’t actually feature a toad at all, instead opting for what looks like a spaceship crossing some sort of intergalactic highway that isn’t as cool as described. Scolopendra has this big creature that appears on screen and attempts to drop down on you a few times a round. Smashout allows you to retain your power-ups between rounds, though this makes the game far too easy. And Lunar Parking is Lunar Lander if Lunar Lander’s surface had glowing edges.

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I understand the desire to create a product that is familiar to players, but the product almost goes out of its way to be archaic. You can’t use your analog sticks at all, even though Aster … excluse me, Vulcanoids, could be easily evolved as a twin-stick shooter. Toader could have featured larger levels that scrolled as the player worked up the screen, with more varied obstacles. And it goes on. The use of “Evolution” in the title was done to separate the previously released Arcade Essentials, but really, a simple “2″ would have sufficed.

The bundled games are competent, albeit boring, and the software did lock up on me twice. The graphics are serviceable for a Mini, though I thought Smashout was very dull looking. The music was fitting, reminding me a lot of the midi music from classic games. But as someone fiercely curious about the evolution of this medium, I can’t help but feel that the product could have offered more. It is billed as offering something familiar but different, but really, it only offers the familiar.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

Gentle persuasion

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