360 XBLA Review - Game Room

11th April 2010 - Aussie made to boot, The Game Room isn’t necessarily a game in its own right. More of a hub, for tens, soon to be hundreds and eventually over a thousand classic and immortal arcade games. Downloadable via Xbox LIVE and also released on Game for Windows for PC, the Game Room has unlimited fun for some, but can quickly make a lot of players run for cover. Find out why in this full product review!

As I said, the Game Room isn’t actually a game. It works as a store and hub for buying and playing countless downloadable arcade games. These come in a few different forms, from Atari games to Intervision classics, and then simply good ol’ arcade games. All of these take the form of unique and sometimes stylish arcade cabinets which you can place and move around your huge 3 story arcade as you see fit.

The actual games aren’t the only thing you can place in your arcade, either. Each story of your arcade is split into 4-5 rooms, each of which has its basic simple colour theme, but can be customized with a range of unique themes and decorations. Fancy a spooky graveyard style arcade room with creepy crawlies and hanging skeletons? Well go right ahead! There are tons of combinations to be had here, and you can spend ages making your arcade one to behold and show off to your friends. All this customisation can actually be quite enjoyable if you have a think enough wallet to afford all the best gear and games! Another little additive for your arcade is the possibility to throw in some game mascots that run themselves around your arcade at will, adding a little more personalization to the scheme of things.

The main Game Room download is completely free of charge, as are they 2 already released game packs (expect a LOT more in the coming weeks/months/years), but once you have downloaded them all and booted up your arcade, you will soon learn that once you have one free try at each arcade game, you then have to pay for your pleasure. And that’s not just purchasing them, it actually costs Microsoft Points (40 to be exact) to have a turn of the game. Purchase them for a moderate 240 points and they are yours for the keeping though. Friends can come in and play any you have purchased in your arcade too, which makes for a range of pretty decent community features, like sending and receiving certain challenges for your friends, be they high score, quickest time, whatever. This community will certainly grow stronger as more and more classic games are released, so keep a keen eye on all your friends Game Room activity with its very own news feature.

And if your find yourself playing some of your mates arcade games and you find a little gem that had yet to be discovered by your inner nostalgia freak, worry not about hurrying home to tell mum and searching through the store for it, you can buy it right then and there and chose its home when you get back to yours.

Apart from the customisation side of things, there isn’t much to the games graphics. But this is one very fine example of how simple rules all. The arcade is very stylish, especially when its customized with a slew of unique themes. All the colours are up in arms and stand out like a teenage boy in all girls boarding school, its all very easy going and really makes the whole casual feel more obvious. To top it off, as you look around your arcade you can see all your Xbox buddies avatars playing and partying on your arcade cabinets, even when they’re not there. Of course, it doesn’t add anything to gameplay, but it adds a little to the experience, making it feel like a real arcade all for you and friends.

And now I bet your asking yourself what about the games graphics? Well you can rest assured that all the Game Room games have all their original sprites and graphics in tact, just with a little more flare, which makes them simply easier on the eye and look amazing on a Hi-Def telly. This will please the oldies who remember the days of wasting away countless pennies at the local arcade after school and also make the games a little more inviting to newcomers who never got to experience anything before the graphical uproar of the Playstation and Nintendo generation.

Another factor which will please all those who grew up with these games is the sound. All the classic 8-bit sound bytes are still staying strong, making the whole arcade experience further more one to remember. Its great to hear the old-school sounds and soundtracks games used to have and to see just how far games have come since then, but it still proves fun to play these games just the way they were back in the day, minus the awesome cabinet and control pad of course. But one thing is for sure; arcade games have never been this efficient and accessible!

This is the part where lots of gamers will back out of the room (Game Room that is); the pricing of the things. Its free to download and test all the games, but as I said, you will then have to pay for your play time. At a price tag of 240 Microsoft Points though, some of these classic games will be worth every penny. You can play and share your scores with your friends, give out challenges, invite friends to play them, the lot. You get a lot of choice for your money and if you have a decent amount of friends who are loving the Game Room, then you will surely get your moneys worth. But if you have some game tokens in your back pocket (you’re actually given 20 to start with), you can use those as a Microsoft Point stand-in to get your play time out of the games. And you’re also given 1 token per friend who visits your arcade (limited to once a day per friend).

But then there’s the few that once you buy them will have you regret it like nothing before, having you ever curse the Game Room for ripping you off (I personally received a few ‘Warning’ messages to not download it because, and I quote; “ its sux u in by being fre den makes u spend all ur moneh to play teh arcade games which all sux anyway!!!”). But if you love to relive the classics or want to experience those which started it all, give it a go and you should be pleasantly surprised at just ho fun these games still are after all this time.

The Game Room is possibly the most stand out thing on the XBLA. It’s a completely unique experience and there is nothing like it out there. It lets you relive and replay all the classic Atari, Intervision and Arcade Cabinet games you could want, and with over 1 Thousand more promised to be delivered, has infinite playability potential. Of course, gamers may be intimidated by its constant price tag of game purchases to stay up to date, but that fact aside, and this is possibly the greatest thing to happen to the XBLA. Essentially perfect for its own intents and purposes, the Game Room is one add-on to your favourite entertainment hub that you don’t want to miss.


+ Tons of games to choose from
+ Customisation is plenty and enjoyable
+ Community has great features and potential
+ Arcade and games all look and sound great

- Pretty Expensive if you want a decent arcade


Reviewed & Written By John Elliott