I love retro gaming, and have been a collector of old games and hardware for some time now. The lovely folks at Antstream feel just the same way, but there's an issue with wanting to have so many games, and that issue is space. What if there was some way that you could let someone else take care of that and instead just stream those games to your device of choice? Well, soon there will be.
Antstream is not entirely unlike PlayStation Now or Google Stadia, but unlike those services, it's being launched with retro gaming in mind from the outset. Initially there will be around 400 titles available but the company are promising that number will increase massively as time goes on. The version that we played in Manchester had games for the Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Arcade. Other platforms will arrive over time and with them many more games.
The company spokesperson that we chatted with was keen to stress that this is emulation and streaming so it may not be 100% perfect in every case, but from my experience playing a few different titles, I couldn't tell any noticeable difference. Controls are responsive and snappy with no noticeable lag, even in fast-paced games like Metal Slug. The games are also just as hard as they used to be back in the day, with Wanted: Monty Mole causing just as many deaths as I remember when I played it on the Amstrad back in the day.
I played on both an Xbox One and an Android device, both of which ran perfectly. The Android device was a little fiddly to play on a touch screen, but that's par for the course. The service supports Bluetooth controllers so if you want tactile feedback on the go, you have plenty of options.
As well as the games themselves, the interface contains a number of nice touches, including achievements for most games, and little snippets of trivia about some of the titles. Controls are customisable, and one feature that I loved is that the up direction is usually mapped to a button as well as the D-pad/joystick. This means that for games from systems like the Spectrum that only had one fire button, you don't need to use up for jump or accelerate, making control a little bit easier. It's a little touch, but it made the jumps in Fantasy Land Dizzy a bit less perilous for me.
Whilst it's 8-bit and arcade titles at the moment, the system will be expanded over time to include the larger and more complex titles from the 16, 32 and 64-bit eras. The company are actively expanding their library and at the Expo they announced that fellow attendee and Manic Miner creator Matthew Smith had signed an agreement with them. As well as classic titles, the company is actively seeking new homebrew titles to add to the service, with the long-term goal to offer those alongside the games you already know and love.
The service will be launching in just a few weeks for many of the 861 Kickstarter backers who pledged £70,301 between them. If you aren't in that number then keep an eye here on GameGrin and we'll update you with how full launch preparations are progressing.