Microsoft Corp. recently began a promotion to showcase a "new" retro game each Wednesday on its Xbox Live Arcade casual games service. A subscription to Xbox Live, the company's online service, is required to download and play.
I checked out several titles available such as the recently added "Frogger," as well as a few classics that have been available on Xbox Live Arcade for a while now like "Robotron: 2084" and "Joust."
For the most part, these arcade games capture the look, sound and feel of the originals, sans a quarter slot.
And several things make the updates better: the ability to play "Frogger," for example, on a high-def widescreen TV with others in cooperative multiplayer online mode was even more addicting than playing alone.
You can also compare high scores on an online leader board to see who's best at dodging speeding traffic and hopping over floating logs and turtles.
The graphics aren't going to win any awards, but "Frogger" gets a bit of a facelift with richer colors and more detailed graphics. Some, however, might miss the blocky graphics of the original.
"Joust" and "Robotron: 2084" were similarly fun retro games offered available for download.
Last week's release doesn't really fit into Microsoft's old-school lineup, but it's a good game nonetheless.
"Cloning Clyde" is a new side-scrolling title where you play a human who tries to escape from a cloning lab by morphing into mutant chickens and frog creatures. Each animal-human hybrid gives your character unique abilities needed to navigate the mazelike levels.
The upcoming release schedule looks even more promising with the space shooter "Galaga" (one of my all-time favorite games), the brawler "Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting" and the dot-munching "Pac-Man."
But these games, old as most of them are, are a bit pricey at $5 to $15 each. That's a lot of quarters.
Buying the games is itself a process in currency conversion. You have to first buy "Microsoft Points" which you can then redeem on games and other items on Xbox Live.
I spent $27.06 (tax included) for 2,000 points, enough to buy four games and still have a few hundred points left over. This is on top of the $50 a year for my Xbox Live Gold membership.
That's a lot of money, considering the seemingly endless number of classic compilations already available for consoles. Many of them cram dozens of games on one disk for about same price as the four games I purchased.
The PC, meanwhile, already has subscription services like the excellent GameTap, which for about $10 a month has more than 500 classic games available including "Pac-Man" and "Sonic the Hedgehog."
Two and a half stars out of four.
By Matt Slagle