So it's finally here. There's been a lot of talk about the pricing, the purpose and the point of Game Room but it was always going to be one of those apps that's impossible to judge until you tried it out for yourself.
Now it's been released, we've been able to do just that. The problems it had immediately after launch were well documented - server issues, leaderboard problems and the like - but these were always going to be temporary issues. Microsoft has ironed out the majority of these kinks, so what is Game Room? And is it any good?
What It Is
Game Room is essentially a hub full of retro arcade games. We're not talking the likes of Street Fighter III or Daytona USA but rather, really retro titles - Jungler, Adventure, Outlaws and the like.
The idea is that you can browse arcade games, pay to credits to play them, buy your own arcade games to place inside your own 'custom' arcade or visit your friends' arcades. Basically, imagine an arcade stuffed with retro games that gives you the option of taking the cabinet home.
How It Works
You have to download Game Packs before you can even enter Game Room. We're guessing the technical reason for this is so that you can instantly play the arcade games on view without having to keep stopping to download each game.
You can either buy arcade games or spend tokens on them but either way, medals are allocated for your performance - bronze, silver and gold for spending a certain amount of time playing them, hitting a certain score or surviving for a certain length of time. The purpose of these medals is that they tie into achievements (a full 1000 is on offer) and they level up your player.
Why do you want to level up? Doing so allows you to acquire more decor and themes for customising your own arcade. Your arcade serves as a hub for people on your friends list to visit, so you can take pride in customising your arcade with the games and look you want.
Why It's Great
While it's essentially a glorified games hub, it feels like a lot more, thanks to the various options that have been put in. You can send challenges, arcade cabinets have your friends' best scores in a banner above them and the arcades themselves teem with life and retro noise. It certainly looks and feels the part.
The emulation, for the most part, is also spot on. The Intellivision games call up the trademark numberpad where necessary and you can even play the games with a 'cabinet' view, which even adds in some of the de-interlacing lines that some of the older cabinets clogging up seaside arcades struggled with. Games Room is incredibly polished - there's simply no faulting how it looks or feels.
Why It's Not
There's no getting around it. No matter what angle you take or how you look at it, Game Room is expensive. Some people might have issue with the current games on offer, as they are really retro, but the library itself would be an easier pill to swallow if it wasn't for the price tag. 240 Microsoft Points for Scramble, a game that has already been released on Xbox Live Arcade for 400 Microsoft Points, just feels cheeky. Microsoft needs to lower the prices to get people through Games Room's virtual doors. It's that simple.
Game Room also a surprisingly clumsy beast to get to grips with, as menus are hidden behind menus and options are hidden behind options. It's great when you have your own haunted house themed arcade up and running, with a Shao-Lin Road mascot bouncing about as you send challenges to your friends but there's a little too much guesswork on the menus required to get everything to snap into place.