Update 07/24/2023: As of Monday following the Friday launch, local multiplayer is now working on Xbox! We successfully played Bad Dudes and Double Dragon in co-op.
Original story follows...
Antstream Arcade is a cloud-based retro gaming service that offers users access to hundreds of classic arcade, console, and computer games. These games range from big names like Metal Slug, Bubble Bobble, and Smash TV, to countless lesser-known classics and indie games. The Antstream Arcade client recently launched on Xbox, bringing an amazing quantity of retro thrills with it. There's only one problem: local multiplayer, a promised feature, just doesn't work at the moment.
Official features list:
- Over 600 original mini-game challenges, with new challenges every month. Take on your friends or the global leaderboards, or just try to earn gold in your favorite games.
- Participate in global weekly tournaments. Take on the world and show everyone your elite gaming skills.
- Set a community mini-game challenge with Giant Slayer. Take on the global community of retro gamers by setting a high score and challenging them to beat it. Will the community slay your score or will you be a giant amongst them?
- Pick up that second controller and enjoy some classic couch co-op action with some of the best Beat'em ups, Shmups, Fighters, Platformers, and more at your fingertips.
- Save your game at any point and pick up where you left off. Multiple people playing the same game? No problem, you have 4 save slots on every game to play with and a continue to pick up wherever you left off.
- Leave your mark by immortalizing yourself in the high score table of any game or challenge.
- Challenge a friend in Duel. Play any challenge and see if they can beat you.
Metal Slug X on Antstream Arcade
After spending a few hours with Antstream Arcade, I've been quite pleased with its features and performance. Game streaming mostly performs very well, with a minor amount of latency that's seldom disruptive. Platformers like Bubble Bobble, beat 'em ups like Double Dragon, and shooters like Strikers 1945 all play just a hair slower than if they weren't running on the cloud, but they're still fun. Mortal Kombat and other 1-on-1 fighting games suffer a little more from the cloud experience but can still be fun in a more casual sense.
Being able to play a vast, searchable catalog of classic games would be cool enough on its own, but Antstream Arcade ups the ante with Challenges and Tournaments. Many games have at least one challenge unlocked by default, with additional challenges unlockable through in-game currency. Players can enjoy unlocked challenges for free or wager a little currency to challenge a friend or the entire community. This really encourages users to try new games and play their best. Weekly tournaments run for a few select games that cost in-game currency to buy in but allow limitless retries until the tourney ends.
Minor issues that I've encountered with Antstream Arcade include generally clunky menus, a scarcity of game sorting options, and occasionally awkward controls. Controls can't be configured, so you're stuck with whatever defaults have been chosen for each game. Many games have fire/attack mapped to the bottom face button and jump mapped to the right face button, an unintuitive setup given that the standard is to map fire to the left button and jump to the bottom one. Some games like R-Type I and II are way too loud, too.
The Multiplayer Problem (Now Fixed)
A big part of my pre-release excitement for Antstream Arcade stemmed from its local multiplayer support for 2-4 players. On other platforms like PC, Mac, and mobile, the software definitely supports local multiplayer, and the feature is promised on the Xbox store page. Unfortunately, multiplayer just doesn't work on Xbox at present. Two controllers can navigate the menus, but pressing start to join on the second controller does nothing. We've verified the issue on three different consoles.
The broken multiplayer is frustrating because I was really looking to playing co-op in Bad Dudes and The Combatribes, two games otherwise not available on Xbox. We have notified Antstream support, so the issue will likely be fixed soon. I'm guessing that a client update will be required, though, so it might be a few weeks before the update gets published. Update: As mentioned above, the issue has been fixed. It took three days, not weeks.