Microsoft Game Room – Impressions

Microsoft Game Room launched this week on the Xbox 360 and Games for Windows Live.  If you haven’t had a chance to check out it out then what you are waiting for!  Okay, Okay, you may not be a fan of retro gaming or you just might be too busy.  That’s fine, you’re no fun!  Seriously though, I had a chance to try it out a little bit and I have to say, I am enamored!

First off, I’m a big fan of retro gaming as you can tell from my retro perspective.  All those classic games with all those memories, it’s just great!  So when I first used Game Room I was just a kid in a candy store.. or an arcade.  They have really put some effort into the look and sound of it to give it a classic feel.  Even the music is mostly remixed retro music.  But let’s get this straight, when it all comes down to it, it’s just an emulator.  Below all that lovely window dressing and arcade sounds, it’s just an emulator.  But to me, that’s what gives it an edge.  It makes the experience nicer compared to scrolling through a list of roms (or channels in the case of the Wii).  It feels more interactive and in a sense gave me a more nostalgic feeling.

When I entered my Arcade I was reminded that I can’t actually walk around the arcade.  Instead, it’s just a matter of choosing which part you want to see (kind of like a graphical selection screen).  This was probably the better choice for now as walking around may have just been a bit tedious.  So there I am, in a lively arcade with music playing, avatars walking around and playing games, and those arcade cabinets sitting there waiting for the fun.  I just had to jump on Crystal Castles as soon as I saw it.  I completely sucked at it as it has been a long time, but it felt great!

There are a few games from Konami, Atari, and Intellivision and they are all pretty good so far.  Yes, you will need to purchase the games (you didn’t think they’d just give everything out for free?) but they are pretty cheap.  Also, you do get the chance to demo each game at least once before making up your mind on a purchase.  I haven’t fully tested this, but it seems as though you can play that game over and over until you exit it.  Once you exit it you no longer have the ability to demo it which is fine.  You are given 20 free tokens to start with as well which you can use for various things.  Microsoft definitely wants to lure you in and they do a fine job at that.

Customization is another option that you have at your disposal.  I didn’t put enough time in to really customize it, but it seemed like they offered a nice selection of items and themes.  To an extent, you can dress up an arcade room how you want it by choosing a theme room, setting items up in the room, and of course the games you want which all come in an arcade cabinet.  It’s pretty nifty but there is still a lack of things to choose from which I’m sure will change over time.  Another slight disappointment was (at least from my quick sessions) it seems you have to purchase certain items or game avatars to use.  I love the idea of having video game avatars running around my arcade (such as the tank from Combat) but not very high on paying for it.  It is what it is though.

In the end, Game Room is something that I’ll keep coming back to.  With plans to release new games every week, it is one of the best forms of  retro/emulation that I’ve seen.  Even if it is all just make-up and window dressing, it just adds far more to it.  I expect we are going to see a lot of great games hit this thing and while Nintendo has the advantage with offering all their classic games that obviously won’t make it to other platforms, Microsoft is going in a great direction with this.  So if you have some time, it’s completely worth checking out.


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