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ups: games are kept in original form, lots of variety, nostalgia overdose
downs: default conroller maps, $14.95/month may be too expensive

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GameTap Review
review
game: GameTap
four star
posted by: George Holomshek
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date posted: 10:35 AM Mon Nov 7th, 2005
last revision: 10:35 AM Mon Nov 7th, 2005



Click to read.For many of us, old-school gaming has always been where it's at. While I love new games with uber graphics and super-smooth gameplay, classic games still hold that certain charm that few, if any, games nowadays can capture. And like all things that were once good, the time of pixilation passed (for the most part) and people moved on, leaving those who once reigned supreme in the days of Joust and Pitfall with little choice but to move on with the herd. However, after years of waiting, someone has finally heard our call and has granted us a doorway back in time. Enter the world of GameTap, a downloadable application for your PC that lets you download hundreds of the greatest games ever made.

Getting the app up and running is simple as could be. Just register on GameTap.com, start the download, and install. If you have a relatively new PC, the only other requirement for the service is a broadband internet connection. After installation you can immediately start playing any game from the library of just over 300, with constant additions promised for the near future. You can select games from a variety of systems including Atari 2600, Commodore 64, Genesis, Game Gear, Master System, Arcade, DOS, Windows, and even a few titles from the 32X and Dreamcast. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, no old-school Nintendo titles were to be found; these are being saved for download onto the Revolution.

When you select a game to play, most older games will launch within seconds. Other games, such as those for Dreamcast or newer Windows games will take a lot longer; often up to half an hour, giving the game time to download onto your hard drive. The good news is that once you download a game, you don't need to download it again whenever you want to play it. That is as long as you have allotted GameTap enough disc space to save it. Also, once you decide to download a larger game, you aren't stuck staring at a loading screen for what feels like an eternity. Once the download begins you are free to go play other games while your download continues in the background.

All the games run in full screen and look just like they did last time you played them. No cheap knockoffs here. The same holds true in the audio department. All those little "beeps" and "doinks" you remember are back, ready to attract any other gamers who yearn for a nice dose of nostalgia. Controls, however, is where complaints start to come into play. A gamepad is not required, though I highly recommend one. I found that a USB adapter for an Xbox controller works exceptionally well, especially since the controller so closely resembles that of the Dreamcast. All of the games can be played with the mouse and keyboard, and this works well for most of the simple games. But controlling more modern games this way can get rather clunky and annoying. This is made even worse by the use of default controller maps. This means that you are unable to remap which keys do what and you are stuck with whatever the default map may be, regardless of how much you may dislike it.

One of the cool features I found with the service is that many games save your high scores, allowing you to submit them and see how you stack up against the best of the best on the GameTap network. Again, this is not a feature of all of the games, and I really wish that more games used it. I would really like to see how I compare to the other kings of Joust around the world, for example. Another neat addition is the inclusion of "Bonus Material". This is basically an extra tab that each game has in its description that offers information, history, and other little known facts about the game. While not really useful for anything but reading material, it does give you that little something to do during the time your game is loading. Multiplayer is also an option if you and your friends have a few old scores to settle. Again, this is another area in which I strongly suggest the use of a gamepad. That is unless you enjoy sitting shoulder to shoulder sharing sides of the keyboard. And unfortunately online multiplayer isn't available, so you will have to beat up on your friends in person.

Overall, GameTap is a great service. It covers practically every genre from strategy to platformers and gives you a chance to immerse yourself in a huge chunk of gaming history. There are a few issues with the controls if you can't get your hands on a gamepad, and $14.95 a month may be too expensive for some. But if you feel even the slightest desire to travel back in time and enjoy a few of your old favorites, the free two-week trail is more than worth a try. You can download any game from the GameTap library and can play as much as you want. You may find yourself having so much fun that you wonder how you ever got along without your old-time favorites.

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