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O-la-la Gametap

Brian Nash Staff Writer
Published 02-03-06
Graphic By: Julie Brennan

Initial thoughts...

For those of you who watch G4, you already know what Gametap is. For those of you who don't know, Gametap is an online gaming service that caters to "old school" games. Fancy some classic Atari or Commodore 64 games? Then Gametap may be for you!

Gametap provides an online emulation service for systems like Atari, Genesis, Gamegear, Nintendo, Genesis, DOS, Dreamcast, Intellivision, Sega 32x, Sega Master System, Windows games and even arcade games. Right now there are only a few hundred games in their system, but they have plenty of great games that some of us may remember playing when we were youngins.

Remember Barnstorm? They have it. Centipede? Chopper Command? Wonder Boy? Oh yes, my friends, they have them. Gametap has a nearly full list of the games they have on their website for you to examine. They will also provide you with a link to get a free two-week trial. And, what's more, it's only $14.95 a month. Not too bad for a ton of games.

Hrm, so how good is it?

I've been playing with Gametap for nearly two weeks now (free trial, of course!), and I have been fairly impressed by their choices. While they may not have all of your childhood favorites, they're guaranteed to provide some of them. And they do add several new games each week. When you first start up an account, you must download the Gametap client. The client is a fairly decent-sized application for a dial-up modem, but nothing anyone with a faster connection would complain about.

After you start the program and enter your username and password, it will bring you into the main selection screen. Here, you can choose to view games by their system or by their type, as well as viewing your list of favorites and those specially picked by Gametap. The interface is easy to navigate, and each game has directions on how to play, as well as some hints. Unfortunately, the client does not allow you to change the default controls to the games (as far as I've found). In the "My Gametap" section, you can change your display resolution, how much space is dedicated to storing the games (they do have to be downloaded first) and attend to other account maintenance. Here you can also add game pads or controllers.

Another somewhat-neat feature is Gametap's Mediaplex. Mediaplex is a service Gametap provides that gives you interviews, trailers and all kinds of other information about games. It's kind of neat, but it is more of an after-thought than an integral feature. I honestly can't say that it piques my interest much.

Now, you may be wondering: How well does Gametap emulate the games they offer? Through the dozen games that I got to work (more on that later), most were very well done and played like the original. You may ask, "Can I save my game?" Yes, if the game had the ability to save in the original, you can save now. Very cool! As I previously mentioned, one of the main caveats present in Gametap's current client is that you can't change the default controls on the keyboard. This is extremely annoying, since the default controls on some games don't make much sense. At least the client provides you an option to use a game pad, but I don't believe you can change the default control settings on those, either. However, as I don't have a working game pad right now, I can't really say.

Agg... I'm dead!

One of the most trying problems I found with Gametap was its instability. In my evaluation of the software, I often got blue screens of death on my machine. This was more than a bit of a surprise, since I've rarely had a program reboot my machine. Even while loggin in Gametap, my machine reboots occasionally. I have yet to find the cause of this, and it is EXTREMELY annoying. So far, Gametap appears to work when it wants to, and that's about it. For those who are curious, I'm running an Athlon 64 3000+ with an ATI x800XT (AGP), and I have a gigabyte of RAM installed. As I've never had an issue like this, I find it hard to believe it's due to my hardware. Though it may be a known compatibility issue with my motherboard (nForce3) or some other piece of software, I have not bothered to fully investigate. The problem could be easily fixable; however, I must review this as if I knew nothing about computers.

It also can take a very long time to download some of the newer games. Though Gametap can hardly be blamed for this, those on dial-up may run into some problems trying to play some of the more modern games, such as Beyond Good and Evil (one of my favorite games of 2004).

Overall, I really dig this idea. A legal way to play some of these games is such a great idea. Honestly, I hope that Gametap succeeds. I just hope they improve the stability of the client. Even though there are only a few hundred games, they do add several games every week (close to a dozen). Everyone one of you who bothered reading this should go ahead and try the free trial. It is very retro, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Of course, I'm sure most people will stick to using emulators. I hope those of you who do try it will post your opinions on here.

Score!

I give it eight stars out of 10!




Nash, the extreme gaming haaaX0r!

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