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Our first look at Game Streaming Service: Antstream

We first heard about Antstream last year, and it sounded right up our street! Anstream is pretty much “Netflix for retro games”, and offers you the chance to stream and play a whole bunch of retro-games on Windows, Mac, Linux and consoles for a monthly subscription (£9.99 per month, or you can pay yearly at a discounted rate)

Users who signed up to their Kickstarter campaign earlier this year have had early access, but the service officially launched yesterday for those in the UK, so RAM OK ROM OK took a look on what they have to offer.

Once you’ve downloaded the Antsream app, you’ll need to sign up. You can view the games available without starting your subscription, to see if it’s for you.

Netflix for Games

Like Netflix, games are presented in categories such as Platform Games, Beat-Em-Ups, Sports games. One thing that appears to be missing is the option to view by platform, so if you’re looking for all of the Amiga games then you have to hunt and peck for them (We’ve made a list of launch games by platform below).

Let’s Play!

Also the range of platforms is currently limited to Arcade (mainly Data East and SNK games), Amiga, Spectrum, Commodore 64 and a smattering of Mega Drive. Though an appearance from Nintendo is unlikely, it would be nice to see some offerings on other platforms. Hopefully this will happen in the future.

Okay, so let’s play. I’m going for Pinball Dreams for the Amiga. I used to be a wizard on the Nightmare table back in the day, so lets see if I still have the skills…

Clicking on Pinball Dreams shows a great big box giving you a small description of the game, but nowhere could I see a way of playing the game. I checked my subscription was valid (it was), and clicked a few other games to make sure I wasn’t going mad. Nope, still nothing.

How do I play the game?!?!?!?!?!

Okay, let’s check the website. Browsing the FAQ section it seems I have to click the game image twice. Nothing in the great big box telling me about the game mentions this, or gives the option to ‘play now’

From the FAQs

So I followed the ‘click twice’ instructions and it leads me to a page with more details about the Pinball Dreams. It is then that I am able to play the game finally!

You have the option to play via keyboard, joypad or touch screen (where applicable). An option to redefine keys would be good though as it would be nice to be able to use the shift keys in Pinball Dreams like in the original Amiga version.

How to play shows you what the controls are before the game starts
And you can double check the instructions too
Not as good at Pinball Dreams as I used to be

I must admit, I had concerns about the games being streamed, but when playing the games, they felt responsive with no noticeable lag. I wasn’t able to try on a 4G connection so YMMV.

One feature of Antstream is what it calls ‘Challenges’. Some games have essentially an achievements feature where you can win badges for making a burger in Burger Time or punching lots of people in Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja.

Super Burger Times comes with Challenges…
…such as how quick you can make a burger

The old cynic in me thinks that “we enjoyed these games in the past without all this patting on the back stuff”, but I realise I’m old and I reckon a lot of people would really enjoy it. Plus you can play the games normally without paying attention to the Challenges.

Here is a full list of games by platform (there’s a lot, so click on the categories to view them).

As you can see some games have multiple versions of them, so if you were a C64-lover and don’t want to play the Speccy version then that’s your choice!

I’m so dizzy, my head is spinning…

Plus in making this list, I’ve just seen they have Wizkid on there, so I’m going to stop writing this review now…


Summary

Antstream has a great list of initial games – there’s certainly something for everyone with a love of retro games to be getting on with. Certainly worth splurging on a one month subscription to see its for you.

Pros

  • Easy to just download the app and play games, so ideal for perhaps the casual retro-gamer who can’t be bothered to dig the Spectrum out of the attic or work out how to do emulation.
  • Different platforms of many games, recognising that people may have preferences to a certain versions.
  • ‘Challenges’ mode adds a new angle to old games.

Cons

  • May not be enough on the platform to satisfy the hardcore gamer
  • User Interface could do with being a bit more user friendly
  • Could do with additional platforms (Atari, Intellivision, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro)

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