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Antstream Arcade Review- A Wonderland Full Of Retro Gaming History

Sam Cawley

Published 
| Last updated 

Antstream Arcade Review- A Wonderland Full Of Retro Gaming History

Featured Image Credit: Antstream Ltd

Update- The developer has confirmed that the technical issue regarding images not loading properly has been fixed. The original review remains below.

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Recently I got to try Antstream Arcade, a collection of over 1,300 classic titles from several different decades and consoles.

As an avid collector and fan of retro video games and their related media, I was excited to dive in and see what gems were contained in the package, and while I loved what I found, rummaging through was the real challenge.

Check out Antstream Arcade below

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Antstream Arcade is a unique take on retro video game preservation. While most collections follow a certain theme, developer, or series, Antstream is a mixed bag in terms of its selection, containing games from the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s.

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t a collection you outright buy and own, it’s based on a subscription. You can pay for a few months or a year of access, which originally made me sceptical, as the library of games would have to be pretty substantial to warrant regular payments.

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Personally, after playing it for a while, I think there’s more than enough value here if you’re passionate about retro gaming, even if you only pay and play for a limited time before putting it down for good. The way I saw it, it’s kind of like paying for a regular membership at an arcade.

The range of consoles was of interest straight away, with some of your classic Nintendo and Sega systems present, but also arcade titles, ZX Spectrum, Amiga, Atari 2600 and loads more. Plenty of the games will be instantly recognisable to the majority of players like Space Invaders, Mortal Kombat, Ninja Gaiden and more, but I can guarantee there’ll be hundreds of titles you’ll have never heard of before.

Credit Antstream Ltd
Credit Antstream Ltd
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While a large chunk of games didn’t pique my interest or just weren’t ones I could see myself revisiting, the selection was incredibly varied, and there’ll definitely be something for everyone.

Included in the collection were new ways to play the old favourites as well as challenges. These are bitesize challenges that involve playing a game in a certain way, completing an objective, or simply racking up as many points as possible.

Upon completing a challenge, you’ll be rewarded with in-game achievements, as well as purple gems, which can be used to purchase cosmetic items for your player ID, like profile pictures, titles etc.

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I enjoyed their inclusion, and the ones I played were good fun and pushed me to play certain games in an entirely different way, but I personally didn’t find myself coming back to them. I’d say this option is ideal for someone who’s played most of the games to death and wants to try something new, but for most players, I think the normal collection of games will suffice in terms of content.

Now, something I was particularly curious about was how the games would perform, and thankfully, the emulation didn’t disappoint. I didn’t encounter any issues during my time with the game, with all the games I tried running smoothly. The occasional bit of slowdown I did experience wasn’t the fault of the emulator, rather it was just a part of the game, like Mortal Kombat which had the occasional stutter depending on how much was happening on the screen at once.

Credit NetherRealm
Credit NetherRealm

That might be a turn-off for some people, especially if you’d rather play older games with upscaled graphics and smoother framerates, but if you favour playing them almost exactly as they shipped all those years ago, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

While the game selection is incredible, and digging for hidden gems was good fun in itself, the actual act of digging felt tedious and was quite poorly optimised in some areas.

The 1,300+ games were arranged into lists which separated them based on the Top-10 titles currently being played, genre, fan favourites etc.

While this wasn’t a bad way of doing it, I saw a lot of overlap between the game genres, meaning the same games kept popping up rather than some of the more obscure ones. There also weren’t any lists relating to the different consoles, the years the games came out, or anything like that.

Thankfully, there was a search function, but after messing around with it, I didn’t find it particularly useful. Several suggested options appear under the search box which seem to change regularly, though since they’re random they’re not very helpful. You can search for a specific game by inputting its name, and make a slightly broader search by typing in a console, but the latter didn’t always seem to yield the correct results.

A more refined search system would be ideal, and hopefully, one could be introduced with a future update. Ideally, it’d retain the option to type something in, but also include some checkboxes to filter the game selection based on year of release, console, genre, and all those search parameters. At least that would allow you to explore each console library independently rather than all at once.

The other issue I had with the presentation of the games was some technical weirdness. While I can’t confirm if this is the same on PC, my copy on the Xbox Series X/S struggled to load the cover art of all the games. More often than not, every game on the main menu would be depicted as a blue background with yellow writing indicating the title of the game. Occasionally the art would load in, only to disappear again once I scrolled far enough away.

While this had no impact on gameplay, it was a noticeable flaw that made the collection look cobbled together, and not really the celebration of retro titles that it was aiming to be. Whether or not this was a simple glitch on the Series X/S version of the collection or a wider issue is unknown to me.

Credit Antstream Ltd
Credit Antstream Ltd

Overall, and technical weirdness aside, I was more than satisfied with the selection of titles, and have regularly dipped in to play some of my favourites, as well as work my way through the more niche titles to tick them off the list. While players won’t be blown away by a good majority of the selection, there’s more than enough for everyone to enjoy, and if you’re passionate about retro game preservation, the hidden gems will definitely be of interest to you.

While combing through the collection for games could be a tedious exercise, if you’re willing to keep digging, you’ll unearth hours of content that should keep you entertained for a while.

Pros: Great selection of titles, faithful emulation, and challenges are a nice addition

Cons: Presentation could be improved, seemingly poor optimisation on Xbox Series X/S, searching for games to play can be tedious

For fans of: Retro games

7/10: Very Good

Antstream Arcade is available for PC and Xbox Series X/S.

Topics: Retro Gaming, Xbox, PC

Sam Cawley
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