Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play is a collection of 21 classic Midway arcade titles, ported and buffed up for the PlayStation Portable. Ironically, there is a dearth of decent games available for the PSP, and many PSP owners have used homebrew emulators to run retro games on the handheld platform almost since the PSP's release last year. So on the one hand, many people have played ROM versions of Midway's classic games on their PSPs already. However, Extended Play proves that there is nothing like a quality package to make all the difference. Infinitely more satisfying than playing the SNES version of Mortal Kombat III is playing an arcade perfect port of MK3 as you always wished it could be at home.
Extended Play features a whole lot of classic games. Many of them have been enhanced to support WiFi multiplayer via Ad-Hoc mode, meaning that you can play with up to four players located in the same general vicinity. The non-enhanced games are: Spy Hunter, Sinistar, Defender, Paperboy, and 720. Most of these games are single-player, but it seems bizarre to not offer a multiplayer mode for 720, which did support multiplayer games in the arcade version. The WiFi enhanced games are KLAX, Joust, Marble Madness, Toobin', Rampage, Gauntlet, Rampart, Wizard of Wor, Xybots, Championship Sprint, Arch Rivals, Cyberball 2072, Xenophobe, and Mortal Kombat I, II, and III. All of these games support the appropriate number of players (up to four for some titles, such as Gauntlet).
These titles are all pretty much top of the line retro classics. If you have not revisited Rampage, Joust, Spy Hunter, Xenophobe, or Defender on another retro games collection, then this is a perfectly enjoyable way to do so. These versions are just as perfect as the bigger home console versions. It's ironic that the Xbox 360 has given such new life to Gauntlet as an online game, and the renewed interest in classic games is a testament to their lasting quality. However, it would be even more enjoyable if these WiFi enabled games were playable in Infrastructure mode (over the whole Internet). It's difficult enough to find anyone else wandering around with a PSP, let alone finding somebody who has also invested in a retro games compilation. The ability to serve out some of these titles (some of which are very small game files) would also be welcome. It seems silly that I can't zap a game of Joust to my pal who owns a PSP, but not the Extended Play UMD?
Aside from the new WiFi features, there is not a lot to report about Extended Play. The graphics and sound are all as you remember them from the originals. Sinistar is still totally creepy sounding, and Defender looks beautiful in all its vector graphics glory. Since these titles span a time from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s, there are quite a few different levels of gaming evolution represented. For any game collectors, enthusiasts, or game design students, these kinds of collections are essential.
Unfortunately, these collections are also fairly common. In general, it is more comfortable and enjoyable to experience these retro games on a full-sized screen and using a controller with a better analog stick. For ages the analog joystick was the domain of arcades, and playing a game like 720 absolutely requires a good analog control stick. Unfortunately, the PSP's analog stick is pretty wonky, and it's tricky to pull off moves as comfortably as on a regular controller. Since Midway's Arcade Treasure series has seen just about every console under the sun, there's not much reason to purchase Extended Play on the PSP.
It should also be noted that the Mature rating for this game is due to the inclusion of the early Mortal Kombat series. When we go back and look at the primitive quality of these graphics, it's funny to think of how shocking the violent content was at the time of its release. Regardless, these are some of the few games in the collection actually rated by the ESRB upon their release, and because of their Mature ratings, the entire collection is labeled as Mature. In fact, the rest of the games are rather wholesome and mostly perfectly suitable for all-ages. Midway should give consideration to the fact that mixing such all-ages and Mature content could pose a difficult issue for some parents and kids. Perhaps including a different top-tier game without the Mature rating? Or tailor the disc to adults in some way by including more Mature rated games and/or other features such as historical videos, retro commercials, interviews with developers, etc.
If you dig the retro gaming thing and you have a PSP, Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play is a great title for you. If you absolutely need to get your hands on one of these games, then don't hesitate to grab this UMD. But if you're just shopping for a good retro experience, seeking out the Midway Arcade Treasures series on another home console is probably a better idea. The PSP is just not the most comfortable platform, and there are many more games available on the big console versions of Midway's collections.