Game Review: PlayStation Home Arcade (PS Vita)

Playstation Home Arcade PS Vita

One of the stables of the 8-bit era were compilations. You couldn’t go into a games store without seeing them all over the shelves, packed with a variety of games at bargain prices. Nowadays, with the exception of the odd retro collection, it’s a case of paying for games one at a time… but everyone loves getting that extra bit of value for money that you get from having more than one game at a time, right? Well, PlayStation Home Arcade may be right up your street.

For those of you who own a PS3, you’re probably familiar with Home, the PS3’s online social hub where gamers can interact with each other using avatars they have created and explore a virtual world through a range of themed areas and even in their own “apartments” within this world Sony have created. As part of this, there are games to be played based on a range of Sony characters, licenced films and TV shows and well-known arcade games to play or even own for your personal space. However, as with the real world, while part of Home is free to use, much of the content is paid for such as clothing, furniture and – sadly – some of the arcade games and this is where Home Arcade comes in…

What PlayStation Home Arcade provides is a front-end for Vita owners to access all the games that are on offer to PS3 gamers that are available to them while experiencing Home. There are a total of ten games accessible from the menu system – WipeOut 2D, Ice Breaker, Scribble Shooter, Mad Blocker, Time Pilot, Astrosmash, Shark! Shark!, Frogger, Asteroids and Centipede. Of those, WipeOut 2D and Ice Breaker are included from the start as full games and a single level demo of Scribble Shooter is available. The remainder can then be purchased individually from the PSN Store.

Asteroids

Nothing really needs to be said about this arcade classic from 1979. One of the first vector based shoot-em-ups and for those of you interested, it’s the game that provided the original inspiration for one of the best shoot-em-ups to grace the PS3 and PS Vita, Super Stardust! Pretty much a perfect conversion.

Astrosmash

The first of two games from the Intellivision console here. A straightforward sci-fi shooter. You have a base ship (think Space Invaders) and there are and endless number of space rocks and ships hurtling towards you. Basically just destroy as many as you can without them colliding with you / shooting you, picking powerups to help you along the way, until you run out of lives. The game is an update of the original and a fun diversion.

Centipede

A straight up, no-nonsense old school shooter. I forgot the arcade version was ever that fast and it certainly makes me feel old remembering it from when it was first released, but it’s a fun game.

Frogger

Another classic arcade game. Doesn’t really need much saying about this one but if you loved the original, it’s kept all it’s charm and while it won’t keep you occupied for hours, it’s worth coming back to for the odd game now and then.

Ice Breaker

Ice Breaker is a fun twist, if you can’t guess from the name, on Breakout. Instead of a paddle, you’re in control of a penguin hurling snowballs at bricks. Great graphics, plenty of the usual powerups you’d expect and all the addictive gameplay from the best Breakout clones!

Mad Blocker

Another original game in the collection (well based on a familiar format), Mad Blocker is an addictive, frantic puzzle game that will quickly have you simultaneously tearing your hair out while still wanting to come back for “one more go” each time you play. and sees

Scribble Shooter

Bundled as a trial version in the initial download, visually Scribble Shooter is one of the most original games I’ve seen for a long time. The game itself is a straightforward vertically-scrolling shoot-em-up but what makes this stand out are the graphics – everything is hand drawn on “paper” and the whole game looks as if it is made up of constant “scribbled” artwork from your ship to your lasers, attacking adversaries to the explosions around you making for an incredibly original gaming experience. This is a shooter you’ll never forget!

Shark! Shark!

The second Intellivision game in the package, this will look incredibly familiar to anyone who has played the modern casual game Feeding Frenzy. Basically, you’re in control of a small fish who has to swim around rating smaller fish while doing his utmost to avoid being eaten himself by larger fish and – more importantly – a shark that is on the prowl. Sounds basic and dull, but despite its simplicity it’s strangely fun and will keep you enthralled for a while. Another game with enhanced graphics and sound over the original.

Time Pilot

First time I played this early 80s arcade classic was a clone on the Commodore 64 and it plays just as well now. A top-down shooter taking the rotating ship of Asteroids, a scrolling playfield, setting it in different time zones and speeding things up a notch or three. Great stuff!

WipeOut 2D

WipeOut is one of those games that needs no introduction. This version takes the classic 3D racer and turns it into a top-down game. There are no weapons any more and the only power-ups on offer are the speed pads on the ground, but there are four tracks on offer and it still looks, sounds, feels and plays like a WipeOut game.

Graphics and sound for the majority of the games on offer are relatively basic although bearing in mind the fact that they are either arcade conversions from the 80s or updates of 80s console games that’s not surprising. The newer titles do look and sound great though and have plenty of variety in their aesthetic styles so you never get the sensation that you’re looking at the same game over and over again. Pick of the crop has to be WipeOut on the games front. The menu is the same with a crisp, clean feel to it with a similar look and style to the PSN Store itself and an adjustable layout so you can customise the look to whatever suits you best.

Navigating the menus themselves is easy enough using either the touch screen or the d-pad / joystick (and this is a personal bug-bear of mine as I do get frustrated when games don’t offer a manual navigation option), the games load incredibly quickly and all of the games, naturally, use joystick / d-pad controls. Nothing is hindered by the use of the screen retaining the arcade feel.

Where Home Arcade really stands out is when you look at the way each game is available. Beyond the two games you get free, with the exception of Scribble Shooter, all of the others only cost 79p each which is an absolute steal. Even if you only dip into each game occasionally it’s still a bargain for some of these classic games and because you can pick and choose what you buy, you’re never forced to spend more than you want to. That would be great in itself, but then you get the added bonus of every game being Cross Buy so once you purchase them for the Vita, each is unlocked for use in PlayStation Home on the PS3 and vice versa so you’ll be able to add them to your virtual apartment.

I really can’t recommend this package enough. The basic download is pretty much a no-brainer – two games absolutely free so really there’s no excuse not to add this to your collection no matter what. As for the rest… if you’re a lover of retro gaming and looking for pocket money games and a way to spend the leftover change in your PSN account between the bigger purchases, you could do a lot worse than this. It really should be a part of every gamer’s collection.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: PlayStation Home Arcade
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 113Mb (full package including all games)
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