Antstream Arcade Review

Antstream Arcade by developer and publisher AntstreamLtdMicrosoft Xbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

Antstream Arcade touts a pretty hefty package. Play over 1,300 classic video games via a streaming service. Being a subscription service, it is easy to see why it draws an analogy of being the Netflix of video games. By and large? It works pretty well, especially for an old school gamer such as myself.

The sales pitch is an interesting one. The Antstream Arcade service isn’t the games itself – it’s a window to access the huge collection of classic titles. This allows them to be worked within dynamic ways. The library can and will change, there are missions and leaderboards that allow people to compete against one another. The missions / challenges are a neat idea, as it takes the core game and has you attempting to get the best score you can with one life or in a particular time frame or some other predetermined constraint.

The library is massive (you can check it out here), pulling from a wide variety of sources like the Amiga, Atari, NES, arcades and so on. Some of this feels a bit like checking boxes. Yes, there are PlayStation games, but there’s only a handful. There are SNES titles, but you’re not getting first party Mario games either. That being said,  there are lots of really great games in here, especially for someone like me who grew up on these titles. I’m a sucker for arcade brawlers like Double Dragon, Final Fight and Ninja Gaiden. There is also a pretty wide range of genres here. I had initially figured that the library would mostly consist of shoot-‘em-ups and brawlers, but there’s plenty of 1-on-1 fighters, platformers and even RPG titles baked in here. Now, it is worth calling out that there is some title duplication, where you might see something that was on both NES and Sega Master System, or across a few of the older computer platforms.

I’m pretty impressed with how well the service streams. You need more than 4mbs, which is not a high bar to clear. That makes this pretty accessible to most people (I was playing this at my cabin, which often maxes out in the high 20’s in mbs) with reasonably solid performance. I’m sure this plays into their strategy of focusing on older games that have small file sizes – I wouldn’t count on seeing a lot of disc-based PS2 games in the near future because of this.

Even with this pretty rough internet I have at the cabin (I like to refer to it as internet delivered via tin cans and string), Antstream Arcade performed really well. There was some odd pixilation that happened at times, but it worked well. I didn’t run into any notable issues with the gameplay itself, and even when I was playing at my house with a 1+gbs connection, there was the occasional odd visual artifact in larger / newer titles (Mortal Kombat or Pit Fighter come to mind), but it was never a major deal to me.

While the content here is pretty stellar, the interface is a bit more of a mixed bag. On the downside, searching for games can be sort of rough. It relies heavily on text searching. Games are tagged with genres such as platforming or fighting. However, with so many games, it can be tough to find a specific game unless you know what title you are searching for. On the one hand, it was fun randomly stumbling onto cool games that had been tucked away in the back of my head for decades now, but there were times trying to figure out what I was going to play next was a bit of a challenge. For some reason beat-‘em-ups just didn’t work for me when I selected the ‘more’ option to the right, like the default search terms actually didn’t line up with their own tagging.

Another plus of the interface is the ability to save games, which was obviously lacking in many of those old Atari or arcade titles. An interface shortcoming is I didn’t see any way to remap buttons. They are assigned on a per-game basis, and the majority of the time they made a lot of sense. However, there are just some genres like 1-on-1 fighting games where I have been using my own personal button remapping for years now, and not having the ability to do so sort of felt like fighting with a hand tied behind my back.

There’s a few different flavors of access. You can install the game itself and get access to some of the titles without paying anything, but that’s really missing the beauty of what is offered here. That means you can do a one year subscription for $29.99 or a lifetime at $79.99. I have a lot of these titles on my actual NES or Atari that I still have, or they’re available in other compilation titles like the Capcom ones or these old school games might just not be your thing – so mileage may vary. That being said? This hit a huge sweet spot with me. Elevator Action tournament? Cool – that was a favorite arcade cabinet of mine as a little kid, and I didn’t have to hem and haw at the corner store and decide between playing it or picking up five atomic fireballs to snack on.

Lastly, Antstream Arcade has a rather unique take on competitive play. I mentioned missions before, and tournaments. High scores are documented and when someone beats your progress you get notified automagically by the system. It all tries to build a sense of competitive community, and for those who don’t particularly like playing with / against other people, this asynchronous method is likely ideal. That being said, some of these games were at their best (especially brawlers) when you were partnered with a person, and there’s no active multiplayer options. Given the streaming nature of the software, that makes sense as I suspect there would be some significant technical hurdles to overcome there, but it’s still worth calling out for someone who might have been looking forward to some co-op arcade Double Dragon.

Antstream Arcade is going to appeal to a pretty niche group – but I’ll fully admit that I’m a member of that target audience. It’s great to pick up some classic game I used to enjoy, virtually toss in a handful of quarters and spend the next half an hour blasting or punching away at something. This software absolutely scratches an itch that I frequently have. I dig the broad collection of titles, the way they try to virtualize a community and that it’s a living service with new tournaments, games and updates being continuously rolled out. All of those positives aside, there is room for improvement. I’d love some button mapping, multiplayer and stronger discovery options to help me get the most out of the framework itself and the games provided within. All things considered, Antstream Arcade is a lot of fun, even with some as of yet untapped potential.

Score: 7 / 10


1 comment:

  1. I just got a Logitech G Cloud, and kept sering adverts for for this platform. Finally ponied up the $4 for a months service just to try it out and I have to say it's awesome.

    Honestly I spent about an hour playing it, and what kept me going was the tournament feel to it. The little challenges are the most amazing idea to retro gaming ever.looks like they change out these challenges daily, so I can see myself getting on nightly while the wife watches her shows on TV.

    Anyways, thanks for the review,i was mostly interested in seeing what others thought sbojt it and yours is detailed and fantastic.


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