Midway Arcade for the iPhone sounds too good to be true. All these classic arcade games — some of which are probably still worth playing! — on your iPhone? As the old saying goes, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
After the jump, experience the Midway Arcade experience
The experience starts with the hope you’ll be able to relive those arcade moments from your youth, all for the cost of a few quarters. All that time you spent playing Joust, trying to work up the nerve to go out to the McDonald’s parking lot to talk to Tiffany Melson where she was hanging out with the seniors who had their own cars. Which you then promptly forgot to do because you were on a tear and you got your name on the board. And then you and Wes Ellis got into a two-player game of Gauntlet. You were the wizard, of course, and he was the stupid elf. The electronic chitter, the rattle of coins from the dollar bill changer, the lights, the unmistakeable sound of Defender ships warping in. You didn’t think about Tiffany Melson’s blue-shadowed eyes or her feathered bangs for the rest of the night.
But as you thumb your way from game to game, sampling them in turn, you’ll discover that every single one of them is terrible. I don’t mean the graphics, or the sound, or how faithfully they give you that old time gameplay. These games are all intact and they look as glorious as they can possibly look, which is pretty glorious to those of us who grew up with them. But something horrible happened on the way to the iPhone’s touchscreen. Whether that’s the iPhone’s touchscreen itself or whatever coding went into translating old timey arcade controls to the touchscreen is beside the point. Because the controls pretty much kill every single game here. Every. Single. Game.
These are games that were build around simple but tactile joysticks and precise buttons. Joust was plenty sloppy with the actual stick and button. It’s even worse here. You’ll never get out of the parking lot in APB, which offers a few options for how to steer, all of them unholy messes. You might as well stay in the back of the semi in Spy Hunter. Expect to slaughter very few aliens and plenty of innocents in Defender, where aiming is a loose description of what you do. Wizard of Wor, exactly as awful as I remember it, is now even more awful for how frequently you’ll miss turns. Many of the games let you choose tilt controls, as if the controls were bad enough as is.
But, hey, how can you go wrong with Gauntlet I and II? By doing the controls the way Midway Arcade does them. Root Beer Tapper is sort of like Diner Dash, but not as cute and it makes even less sense. Something awful called Narc was probably pretty cool in the early 80s, but I missed that and another one called Total Carnage. All of these games are undone by the virtual joystick and button, which are often plopped over the action if you want to hold your iPhone horizontally.
Rampage is about the only game I find remotely playable, and even then it’s a hassle trying to line up your monsters with the edge of a building, much less grabbing with any sort of precision. So many clean simple intuitive games, done such violence by this wretched translation to the touchscreen.
If you walk around the bloated arcade front end for Midway Arcade, you’ll come across playable skeeball, air hockey, basketball, and pool, as if Midway knew the controls were so bad they just had to throw in a lot of different stuff to distract. Such as a prize counter that unlocks pointless 3D renders of prizes as you rack up tickets by playing games.
As I played — or tried to play — these games, I found myself wondering if Tiffany Melson is on Facebook. Which would never happen if I had playable versions of Gauntlet, APB, Rampage, and Defender.