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BLASTS FROM THE PAST - June 1995

With the release of Activision's Atari 2600 Action Pack for Windows, videogame nostalgia is alive and well on PC machines, but Mac owners needn't feel left out.

They need The Digital Arcade, the first in (one hopes) a series of collections of vintage coin-op conversions from Digital Eclipse Software. The games are all by cult arcade manufacturer Williams, and comprise Defender, Joust and Robotron 2084. The fantastic thing about these conversions is that they're not just conversions of the original games. Running under ingenious software emulation, they're actually conversions of the original machines, complete with book-keeping data, difficulty level altering and everything down to the original startup sequence the arcade owners got when they switched the machines on in the mornings. All the game code is identical to the originals, so gameplay and graphics are indistinguishable, as long as you've got a reasonably decent Mac - a Performa 475 isn't quite nippy enough, resulting in sluggish but still manageable play, but get a bit more power behind you (a PowerPC or a Quadra, say) and things are just dandy.

Now, the two-joystick Robotron cabinet isn't easy to duplicate on a Mac - you need eight keys to move in all directions, and a different eight to do the same for "fire". It's a clear opportunity for the Gravis GamePad, a fully-configurable games-console-style Mac controller. A stupid design flaw on the pad (the four fire buttons are recessed with big ridges between them, making it difficult to press two buttons at once for that all-important diagonal firing) makes things a little harder than they ought to be, but then it probably wasn't really designed with Robotron in mind - after all, what kind of idiot would try to put Robotron on a Mac?

The games themsehes, it seems pointlessly wasteful to say, are classics - Defender and Robotron, especially, are frenetic and thrilling blasters with a level of challenge you thought didn't exist and more. You'll lose them all over again, or, if you're really lucky, you'll be touched by them for the very first time.

The Collector's Series. Joust, Defender and Robotron: US$29 each (plus shipping). Digital Eclipse Software Inc: +1(510)4501740, fax +1(510)5476104, email 71333.254@compuserve.com.

Gravis GamePad for Mac: 39.99. Manufactured by Advanced Gravis, distributed in UK by Leisuresoft +44(01604) 768 711, fax +44 (01604) 702077.

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