Hands On: Antstream Arcade Brings Over 1400 Retro Games To Xbox 8

Xbox boss Phil Spencer has mentioned in the past how he feels emulation is a crucial tool in preserving the history of video games, so we probably shouldn't be so surprised to see over 1400 retro titles coming to Xbox later this week in the form of Antstream Arcade. It's also the first third-party cloud streaming service to feature on the platform.

Ahead of launch, we've had a chance to check out Antstream Arcade on Xbox over the past few days, and we've had a fun time so far! The games are enjoyable and varied, the extra features such as challenges and tournaments are surprisingly addictive, and the price ($29.99 for a year's access) seems perfectly reasonable for what you're getting.

Let's start with the games. There are a ridiculous number of playable titles here ranging all the way from the ZX Spectrum to the PlayStation 1, and this includes plenty of classics such as Super Star Wars, Mortal Kombat, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Earthworm Jim, Marble Madness and so many more. The selection is good, but keep in mind that it has a heavy focus on certain systems - for example, there are 358 C64 games and 201 Amiga games, but only 42 SNES games and two PlayStation 1 games (those are 40 Winks and Loaded for anyone wondering!). The service is adding new titles every week, so you never just know what might show up.

Each of these games includes some brief instructions, along with controls that have been specifically mapped for Xbox, and they all play as you'd expect. You can't stretch the image (not that we'd want to!) or add screen filters, but everything looks really good on a big screen TV, particularly in the case of some of the more modern Arcade games.

We've tested Antstream Arcade on a couple of wildly different internet speeds so far, with Pure Xbox video producer Craig Reid calling it "smooth as butter" and "super responsive" on his 700Mbps connection, aside from some occasional lag in the Antstream menus.

Personally, I have a fairly poor internet connection at home (around 10-15 Mbps), so I was interested to see how these games would fare compared to something like Xbox Cloud Gaming which barely functions at all. I'm pleased to report that Antstream Arcade still seems pretty well suited to a connection of this speed, with the main downside being that if the speed drops too low for whatever reason, the input lag increases for a short period. The service actually tells me that the input lag should be poor on my 10-15 Mbps connection, but for the most part it's been very minimal.

Something that we didn't expect to enjoy so much about Antstream Arcade was the "challenges" feature. Basically, the most popular games on the service come with specific challenges that you can complete — such as trying to score as many goals as possible in a game of Sensible Soccer — and once you've done this, you can level-up your avatar and acquire some virtual currency. There's a really addictive "one more try" nature to these challenges, and the beauty of them is that you often end up discovering a game that you haven't played before in the process. You can take this even further with the weekly tournaments as well as the team-based "community challenges", both of which prove engaging and help to add a community feel to the Antstream Arcade service.

And before we wrap up, it should be mentioned that you can save your progress via multiple save slots for each game, and local co-op is also a possibility if you just want to play some retro games with your friends on the same TV.

So, there you go! Antstream Arcade launches this Friday, July 21st on Xbox at a price of £29.99 / $29.99 for a year's access or £79.99 / $79.99 for a lifetime membership. If we take the yearly fee into account, it feels like good value to us at less than $3 per-month for a good cloud streaming experience and extensive library of games. Obviously the cloud aspect of Antstream Arcade will turn some people away, and we can totally understand why that's the case, but otherwise this is a fun way to revisit some classic games on Xbox.

Are you going to be checking out Antstream Arcade this week? Tell us in the comments below.