All Together Then: Midway Arcade Treasures

Big money! Big prizes! Iiiii love It!

“When a man is tired of Robotron: 2084, he is tired of life” ~ Samuel Johnson

Admittedly, Mr Johnson did not say this. Indeed, he passed away a full 300 years before the game is even set. Had he lived, however, it seems likely that between his droning on about patriotism he might have had some kind words to say about Robotron: 2084. I digress.

Midway Arcade Treasures hit PS2, Xbox and Gamecube towards the end of 2003, packing 24 of Williams/Midway’s classic eighties arcade titles. Robotron: 2084, as discussed, is the undisputed highlight, but the collection includes many acknowledged masterpieces from a pleasingly diverse spread of genres.

The menus, frankly, leave a lot to be desired.

From 1980’s Defender to 1990’s Smash TV, it’s a terrific spread of titles. Gauntlet, Joust, Klax, Paperboy, Sinistar – all household names, very much beloved and some so formative they’re known even to non-gamers. Paperboy in particular, while not a great game, evokes the raw creativity of its era very pleasingly and always brings a smile to my face. These games may occupy broadly familiar genres – fantasy, sci-fi, etc – but their execution is often downright unusual and esoteric in a way that’s downright delightful.

It is the nineties and it is time for Klax! Wait, no it isn't. It's 2019. And it's time for work!!

Sadly, in a retro compilation, the games themselves are not the only thing that matters. Presentation here is sadly lacking. There’s a weird, low-res Ancient Egyptian theme to the game selection screen that’s just confusing. None of these games, to my knowledge, take place in Ancient Egypt, unless Root Beer Tapper gets weird after a few stages. Further to this odd decision, text elements on the UI are done with Comic Sans, of all fonts. Now, I know that Comic Sans is a font that’s easier for dyslexic folk to read, but it’s totally at odds with the equally bizarre aesthetic they’ve chosen for the menus. Get a load of me, complaining about fonts in a 15 year-old PS2 game. No wonder I don’t get out much.

Lavish production values abound in the extras menu.

Bonus features are present, but disappointing in their execution. There are interviews with the original developers but they’ve been lifted directly from Arcade Party Pak, a previous PS1 compilation of six Midway titles. Somewhat shockingly, they haven’t been upscaled in the slightest and look like incredibly low-res Youtube videos as a consequence, with horribly mixed sound that constantly clips and pops. It’s bizarre and along with the horrible user interface it suggests that Midway Arcade Treasures was rushed to shelves.

Thinks: Gee, I hope I don't end up in a terrible Dwayne Johnson movie in 2018.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag – 24 games is generous and the emulation is basically fine; if there are problems I’m not familiar enough with the games’ intricacies to identify them. It’s a treat to play the likes of Bubbles, Rampage and Marble Madness again but I just wish there was a little more love to go around.

Robotron: 2084 being beautiful and perfect.

Treasures was followed by two numbered sequels. Midway Arcade Treasures 2 (2004) offers a further twenty classics including highlights Mortal Kombat II, Rampage World Tour and Total Carnage. Midway Arcade Treasures 3 (2005) offers only eight games but all of them are racers, including S.T.U.N Runner, Super Off Road and Hydro Thunder. There was also a PSP version called Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play featuring a brace of games from the first and second compilations, and Midway Arcade Origins for PS3/360 featuring much the same.

There are plenty of options to play Midway’s classics, but this series remains fairly definitive. No NBA Jam, though, sadly.