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VALLEY WEEKEND | VIDEO GAMES

Disc Delves Into Ancient History of Arcades--the '80s

A top-notch collection of Greatest Hits sparks nostalgia for days at the pizza parlor with a pocketful of quarters.

July 11, 1996|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oh, to be young again. Those afternoons at the arcade, those weekends at the pizza parlor. The better part of my youth was spent blasting aliens and gobbling ghosts in front of some game rig, pumping it full of as many quarters as I could scrounge.

So it was with the fondest of memories that I popped Arcade's Greatest Hits from Williams Entertainment into my PlayStation and frittered away a wifeless weeknight. The time was as educational as it was a pleasant trip back to the days when 16-color displays were the techno tops.

Loaded with old favorites such as Defender, Joust, Robotron, Bubbles and Sinistar, the disc packs sentimental and visceral punches unequaled by newer games loaded down with the best of modern technology.

For those of us old enough to drive, these games were defining moments in our lives. I can remember playing Joust for the first time at a Torrance pizza parlor with a quarter bummed off my uncle. These are the foundations upon which games such as Doom and Myst and Rebel Assault are built.

Each of the games on the disc has been preserved in its original form. The PlayStation actually emulates the original hardware, so the experience is precisely as it was back in the 1980s. Even the glitches remain.

As a bonus, each game includes a history that incorporates video interviews, text details and shots of original artwork and promotional material. Believe it or not, few at Williams thought the original Defender would succeed when it was released in 1980. And the original ROM chips weren't ready for the game's debut until hours before the unveiling.

Despite all the new doodads on the disc, its heart stays where it should. The games are as fun as they ever were. I doubt any die-hard player could tell me with a straight face that many modern games match simple, old Robotron for sheer excitement.

Personally, though, I hope the current retro craze in video games is winding down because few will top this collection from Williams. They win. Now let's move on.

*

DOUBLE SWITCH: I opened the dictionary to "sucks" the other day and half-expected to see the definition "almost anything made by Digital Pictures." It didn't, but harsh as it may sound, the definition is pretty appropriate.

I have yet to play anything resembling a fun game from Digital Pictures. The latest loser served up by DP is Double Switch, a tedious interactive movie that boasts crummy action, lame effects and game play that is about as much fun as late-night channel surfing.

The DP folks, you might remember, are the same ones who put out the legendary Night Trap, which was touted by Congress as everything wrong with the video game industry a few years back. Now, few of the distinguished gentlefolk of the Congress probably ever played Night Trap.

If they had, they would know truly of what they speak. The game was just plain lousy--regardless of the adult themes or the violence. It was just a bad game. And Double Switch continues that tradition.

Very rarely do I consider playing a game a waste of time, but I found myself quickly wishing Double Switch would get better, hoping that something would show me my initial impressions were wrong. Never happened and I turned the game off, bitter and angry that for this I missed "Cops."

Staff writer Aaron Curtiss reviews video games every Thursday. To comment on a column or to suggest games for review, send letters to The Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311. Or send e-mail to Aaron.Curtiss@latimes.com.

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