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Publisher: Pangea Software    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: Any Version

Pangea Arcade
October 12, 2006 | Eddie Park

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Pangea Arcade is a collection of three very old-school arcade games that could be considered pioneers of their respective genres. Though they bear different names, the inspirations behind each title are obvious to anyone who remembers feeding quarters or tokens in their local arcades way back in the early 80s.

While nostalgia is often pleasant, the question behind most games released on the market is whether or not they warrant a purchase. Factors often placed under consideration include super-textured 3D graphics, six billion enemies, online capabilities, epic storylines, fully fleshed-out characters, and other factors that supposedly add up into those intangibles known as fun and value.

However, Pangea Arcade, like most old-school compilations being released today, contains almost none of the factors that come standard in today's titles. There is nary a polygon in sight, an opening movie does not greet the player upon bootup, and each game lacks even the semblance of a background story, let alone a true ending. Rather, each of the games contained within is distilled down to the simple tasks of achieving the highest scores and reaching the highest levels that one can, with repeated games bringing the promise of surpassing the mark set by a previous playthrough.

I sometimes wonder if this is enough to guarantee success in the gaming world these days. I know Iím not alone when I stare at unsold games with superior gameplay at the local GameStop while they get passed up by the masses in favor of glitzier, well-advertised titles with all the substance of a thinly-sliced turnip. Thankfully, old-school games seem to be experiencing a comeback of sorts, with services like GameTap succeeding alongside the old-school arcade compilations that continue to see release. Somebody must be buying them, because companies generally dislike bleeding revenue.

Given this information, if pure, simple gameplay and 2D pixels aren't your thing, I can save you the trouble of reading this review and say that Pangea Arcade isnít for you. Does this make you inferior? By no means. Rather, this probably just makes you young. However, if the idea of shooting down missiles, roving caterpillar things, and various bits of space debris for no apparent reason sounds like your idea of a good time, then read on and see if Pangea Arcade has what youíre after.

Firefall - Thatís galactic dancing
Centipede, the venerable classic on which Firefall largely pays homage to, challenged players to destroy a segmented arthropod which swiftly travelled down the screen through a mushroom field via a small ship equipped with a gun. Firefall replaces the mushrooms with the more generic term ďbarriers,Ē which change from level to level, starting out as spinning discs and moving to other objects such as jacks. The concept is the same, however: destroy the segmented worm thingie before it or something else makes contact with and destroys your ship. Destroy enough worms, six to be exact, and you are rewarded with a bonus round and advancement to the next level.

Calling Firefallís gameplay frentic would be an understatement at best. True to its arcade roots, the game field Firefall presents demands that players be able to track a large number of hazardous objects coming from a variety of positions simultaneously, all the while deftly maneuvering their craft both out of harms way and into firing position for the next target. Worms can and will break up into their individual parts, each segment blithely working its way down towards the bottom of the screen in their never-ending quest for your destruction. Streamers, which look like giant missiles, fall from the top of the screen, dropping barriers as they go. Screws come in from the sides, and Buzz Saws will unerringly home in on your current location. All are hazardous.

Playfields are also typically littered with barriers, both destructible and nigh-invulnerable. Destroying barriers is to the playerís general advantage, as their removal yields both a clearer field of fire and the possibility of a powerup. Removing them completely is a Sisyphean task at best, however, as practically everything in the game that moves tends to drop more of them, to say nothing of the playfield advancing a bit every time a worm is destroyed.
Firefall has powerups in spades as well, and players can take advantage of ones such as Triple-Shot, Worm Seekers, Freeze, and the almighty God powerup, which bestows both the Shield and Barrier Buster characteristics. Tossed into the mix is one negative option, the Short-Shot, which does what its name implies, basically rendering the player's gun useless for a few agonizing seconds.


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