Memories: Two of DSI’s retro compilations for the Game Boy Advance are fairly similar in composition: there’s this one, the Centipede / Breakout / Warlords package, and the Millipede / Super Breakout / Lunar Lander compilation. Centipede and Millipede (its sequel) are comparable, as are Breakout and Super Breakout (again, a sequel), making the main difference between the two packages Warlords vs. Lunar Lander.
DSI’s Centipede port is loyal to the arcade version, and except for minor changes in sound effects and graphics, this version passes for a clone of the original. Except, you know, it’s much smaller. In the game, players must shoot the titular centipede as well as scorpions, fleas, and a random assortment of other baddies while avoiding touching any of the enemy insects. Dead insects turn into mushrooms, which affect the playfield’s dynamics and the centipede’s path. Overall the game translates well (but not great) to the GBA’s controller, meaning I can usually get to the general vicinity I want to be in, but hitting specific targets takes as much luck as it does skill.
Breakout, on the other hand, takes ten times as much luck as it does skill to successfully bounce a ball against a wall using a controllable paddle. Just like Super Breakout, the game’s analog controls translate poorly to the GBA’s D-pad, making movements erratic and more frustrating than they should be. Even more disappointing is the fact that this port of Breakout appears to be of the Atari 2600 version instead of the arcade game, apparent by the lack of detail in the graphics. Of course, complaining about any version of Breakout‘s graphics is like complaining about an ’87 Geo Metro’s hubcaps.
That leaves Warlords, the video game that introduced the phrase “hey, stop crying” into my family’s living room. A popular game amongst divorce counselors, this one to four-player game pits four warlords against one another in a battle to the death. The object of the game is to destroy the other three castles and make it to the next round by deflecting a fireball away from your own castle and aiming it at your enemies’. Your moving shield can temporarily hold the fireball (which allows you to aim shots), but the longer you hold a fireball the more damage it does to your own castle, so it’s best to quickly catch and release. The best part of playing four-player Warlords was ganging up on a family member until they cried and left the room, so playing by yourself on the GBA isn’t quite as fun. The game does support link cables so if you happen to have four friends with four GBAs, four link cables and four copies of the game, theoretically you can all play together – of course by the time you’ve spent that amount of cash you’d be better off simply buying the original arcade cabinet. The graphics on DSI’s port feature the colorful “3-D” arcade background, and an animated dragon (who releases the fireballs). It’s good, but without the ability to afflict pain (and usually therapy) on your friends and loved ones, it’s slightly less than great.
Breakout gives the compilation one quarter. Since Centipede is such a classic it bumps the collection up a quarter by default, and the happy memories of tormenting my sister in Warlords gives it a third. While not the best GBA retro compilation, Centipede and Warlords may earn a few repeat playings.