If something considered "retro" gets remade, is it still considered retro? Such is the question to ponder while playing Arcadia Remix, the juiced-up retro remake of Gamelab's multitasking classic, Arcadia. This newer version adds to the retro insanity with more mini-games and gameplay features to make your head explode in a neon rainbow.
For those not familiar with the original Arcadia, the premise is simple: a small mini-game appears in one window to play. The games aren't too difficult, so playing one game for a long time would get boring. That's why you'll be given up to four games to play simultaneously, requiring your attention to be divided four ways to stay alive. You're given ten lives to begin each level, and a loss in any individual game will take away one of your precious ten lives. Lose all ten, and it's game over.
Instead of playing the same four games 'til kingdom come, your goal is now to beat a series of cycling mini-games, each with its own target score to clear. Each of the 50 levels of the game has its own total points target to beat, dominating the high scores board one slot at a time. It doesn't quite give the same feeling you get from smashing someone's score at the Ms. Pac-Man table, since the level ends once you meet the quota, but seeing your initials take over the entire high score list does give you a sense of geekish pride.
And what about these mini-games? We now have a whopping 16 games to play, which is double the eight in the original downloadable Arcadia (which is still double the four games in the online version). The games tackle more genres than before, with the classic space shooter, the martial arts brawl, the word puzzle, the walk-down-a-tunnel RPG, and the basketball shoot-out games all joining the pixelfest.
One definite advancement over the original Arcadia games is that the games that pop up at any given time are blended to make your brain sweat. Games with contrasting goals (move the ship to shoot the rocks versus move the ship to avoid the rocks) are often subtly paired against one another, forcing you to divide not only your attention, but your mind as well. And it hits you all of a sudden, when you're playing the same game on four screens at three different speeds, that you realize, "Hmm, they really want my brain to explode, don't they?"
Remember the rainbow orbs from the original Arcadia? They're back, but with a different little purpose. Instead of instantly doubling the point values of the games, rainbow orbs that you collect go into a gauge at the bottom of the screen. Collecting more orbs means you can trigger more powerful boosters, ranging from the 2x-4x multipliers, free extra lives, the ability to slow down games, all they way up to "God Mode," where you can play without fear of losing a single life for a limited amount of time. Certain powerups will be more helpful to you at different times in the game, so you've got to keep your eye on the gauge to know when to hit the button activating the current power-up.
Analysis: True to the original retro style, Arcadia Remix delivers a throwback to the Atari games of yesteryear, complete with all the pixels and "blips" you remembered. On somewhat of a paradoxical downside though, the music and sounds have barely changed since the last Arcadia came, which strikes me as odd. Maybe they're trying to force another sense of retro on us?
The change from four-games-forever to cycling-sixteen was a very good move, in my mind. Instead of staring at a rarely-changing screen playing only two games (because you've built up enough lives in the other two games that you can basically ignore them without worry), you're now forced to divide your attention to all four games, because you're not only concerned about playing each game, but also about quickly redirecting your brain to a new set of rules when a new game pops up. However, this still leaves something to be desired, since there are very few adjustable options for gameplay. There's no choice between easy/medium/hard difficulty, or no way to customize how many points constitute a "win" in the Endless Mode, so the game is very linear, straightforward, and "here's what's next, so deal."
Small concerns aside, Arcadia Remix shoots a new flurry of rainbow stars into the multitasking genre, and is definitely worth the try. Quarters were meant for arcade games, not laundry, right?