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Lovers of the early 80s (who own PCs and PlayStations) are in for a real treat this month - first Namco Museum Piece, and now Williams Arcade Classics, bringing to 13 the number of arcade-perfect coin-op conversions retrieved from the vaults and dusted off for collectors and nostalgia freaks alike.

Here you get Defender, Defender 2 (StarGate), Robotron, Joust, Sinistar and Bubbles, as well as background histories of each game (did you know, for example, that Robotron was programmed in a ridiculous four days?) and video clips of the creators talking about the games. But more on that in a moment.

Like the Namco release, these are PC emulations of the actual coin-op machines, rather than just the games, which means you see the original boot-up sequences and have access to the original difficulty settings and bookkeeping records. But for some reason, the transfer to PC seems to have slightly mutated the original code - in Defender, particularly, the sound priorities have changed so that the telltale sound of a Humanoid being kidnapped by a Lander (the most important event in the game) is often obscured by other effects, leading to problems when you don't notice a series of abduction attempts until you've got nine juddering Mutants breathing down your neck. Luckily, only the two Defender games are noticeably affected by this bug, but it does serve to make games which are already fantastically challenging even more ridiculously difficult.

All six games, however, are bona fide classics. (The previously-obscure Bubbles shows the obvious lineage of popular Macintosh game Crystal Quest, incidentally). The outrageous intensity of Robotron and Sinistar has only been matched in living memory by Tempest 2000, and Joust still shows how much sophistication of play you can get from a game with only three controls and two kinds of enemy. And perhaps most importantly of all, the video clips show Eugene Jarvis (creator of most of the games) to be just the kind of cool guy you always hoped he was. This is an unmissable collection for anyone with 4Mb of hard drive space and the desire to play half-a-dozen games that still show up 90% of modern titles for the soft, flabby, lazy, hackneyed drivel that they are.

Nine out of ten

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