Namco Museum DS Review - 21/03/2008

Namco have taken us back in time to their golden coin op age with this collection of seven games. The only question is whether we really want to go back in time with all the great titles coming out in the future.

The collection is made up of seven games; Namco have assembled some very well known products as well as some slightly unknown for this trip down memory lane. The titles contained herein are DigDug II, Pacman, Galaxian and its sequel Galaga, The Tower of Druaga, Mappy and finally Xevious. So now you know what the collection entails, you're going to need a bit of information about them (well… not if you're from the coin op era, but if you aren’t then pretty much all of those probably didn’t make much sense to you, so here you have it).

Galaxian is basically your normal Space Invaders clone, of which there were a helluva lot back in the late 70s and early 80s. The game progresses in a very simple manner. The general idea is that you take command of a flagship against an alien horde in wave after wave of rounds. As the game progresses the enemy gets harder to defeat and it requires more skill to avoid kamikaze ships and their missiles. The simplicity of the gameplay is reflected in the controls: your ship can only move in one dimension so you scroll along the bottom of the screen by pressing either the left or right pad on the directional buttons. Of course it wouldn’t be an invasion game if you couldn’t shoot back, which is controlled by tapping A. There's a small problem with the control system at times, which is that the game does take a while to fire, meaning that you can miss your target completely. This can get very annoying if you're down to a single enemy.

Galaxian and Galaga have been translated fairly well to the DS's dual screen display

The second game in the series, Galaga, plays very similar to the first in that you are once again tasked to destroy an alien menace, this time called the Galaga. The gameplay does differ a little in this incarnation: there is a power-up added that gives you an extra fighter. What happens occasionally is that the alien ships can attack your vessel with tractor beams. This captures your ship and it is taken inside the enemy. This takes up one of your lives, but if you destroy the enemy ship that took your previous life while it is in motion (not if it is the normal line-up) then your ship is returned to you as a secondary craft attached to your current one. This means that you can now fire double shots and it also strengthens your life so that you can take two hits before being destroyed.

Now, we come to the most classic of classics, Pacman. This game is the game to end all classics; the aim of Pacman is to collect all the dots, called Pac-Dots, covering the maze-like level without being eaten by four ghosts that chase you around the map. To collect the Pac-Dots you need to guide Pacman over them by using the directional pad going up, down, left or right and he will eat them. There are also larger Pac-Dots, which turn the tables on those troublesome ghosts, allowing Pacman to munch on them instead. As an added bonus there is also Pacman Vs. which is essentially a game of Pacman but played wirelessly, with one player taking control over Pacman and the other players taking control of the ghosts.

What more needs to be said about PacMan games?

Following on from the Galaxian and Galaga ideas talked about previously, we have Xevious which is a game where you fly across varying terrain taking on an army both on land and in the sky from your fighter. Firstly there are strange disc like objects that are combat vessels in the air. These fly at you while firing blasts to destroy your ship, getting harder and more skilled in their targeting as you progress in the game. The other units arrayed against you are ground units, which take the form of two types: moving tank-like units, which are able to avoid your blaster shots while capable for taking pot shots at your ship at the same time, and small installations that take shots with slightly better accuracy. Unlike Galaxian or its sequel your ship can move in 2 dimensions, namely up and down along with left and right, done by pressing the corresponding button on the directional pad. The fire controls are facilitated from the Y and A buttons for primary fire and B for secondary fire. The primary fire is a short ranged missile to take down the airborne enemies and secondary fire is a blaster that drops a bomb on ground units. This game has an excellent set of crosshairs in the mid-section of the screen showing not only where you’re targeting for the aircraft but where your bombs will drop as well.

Moving on we have Mappy, which is a simple maze based game. The aim of each level is to collect all the stolen items, which a group of thieving cats have taken, by opening and closing doors to either give you a new passage through the level or stop the cats pursuing you. The gameplay is wonderfully simple in this title using the directional buttons to move Mappy around the level and open and close doors, while if you miss a gap jump there is trampolines positioned around the level to offer you a safe trip back up, but use them too much and they will break, sending you on a one way trip into the darkness.

It's a great collection, Namco have contributed a great deal to modern video-gaming.

Tower of Druaga is one of those games that no one could complete without having the month off work and having an endless pocket of coins. That has been alleviated a bit with this version for if you press select and then A and Start you can select the level you last finished at. Yup, you’ve guessed it, the aim of Tower of Druaga is to climb to the top going through a maze of floors and avoiding being seen by any of the green slimes that move around the game’s levels. The point of each floor is to find a key to unlock a door to gain access to the next level, and then it is a rinse and repeat exercise for the rest of the game. But there is the added function of your character, Gil; he has a sword, which you can use to defend yourself against the green slimes.

DigDug II in some respects works like a giant game of Squares, where you can join up the dots to sink parts of the island that you are to rid the place of wondering monsters. Either that or if you're feeling less destructive then you can harpoon the monsters and inflate them until they explode, so the choice is really up to you. The island has fault lines all the way across it and if you want to you can hit those lines to crack the land and send it to sleep with the fishes, what could be simpler. Well…blowing them up is pretty easy… pressing the A button fires a harpoon in to the enemy that you are facing and a tap of A again inflates them to bursting.

Galaxian and Galaga have been translated fairly well to the DS's dual screen display

This collection is one of the better compilations of classic games that have appeared over the last couple of years. But it isn’t without a small problem, namely that the main audience for the DS is younger children or people who have never gamed before, so a lot of the games featured in the museum will be lost on them, which just seems a strange place to target. Still if you're missing your classic game dose for this year Namco Museum DS will deliver it to you on the lorry load. But until I see Commander Keen on new-gen consoles no classics-collection will be complete! Museum pieces don’t come more interesting than this!

- Alec Hilton