Well I knew it was going to happen at some point - it's been a month since I stopped playing Warcrack and regardless of
finding a suitable substitute have been sufficiently busy not to miss it too much... then came the announcement:

New Expansion set early 2008 called 'The Wrath of the Lich King' ! A new continent 'Northrend', a new 'hero' class 'Death Knight', new talents 'Inscription', new level cap '80', new siege weapons 'because blowing shit up is cool'.

Interestingly most of the folk I know who are still playing don't particularly welcome the news. Most of them have just spent the last six months levelling up to 70 and countless hours grinding reputation and doing long and drawn out 'attunement' quests to get into the bigger dungeons, all in the name of Epic gear. Gear which is about to become obsolete. Basically I could wait now till the expansion and catch up with them within a couple of weeks - if, of course, I went back to the game.

What will happen now - as happened last year - is that a significant number of the power players will disappear, either out of the game entirely or at least to their 'alt's' (alternative characters). Guilds will start to collapse and the whole game will end up in freefall by Christmas.... and then the expansion will come out and everyone will be 'happy' again - till Blizzcon 2008 and/or Starcraft 2 comes out - whichever is sooner.

Who knows - we might all just start playing Halo 3, Metroid 3: Corruption, Metal Gear Sold 4 or any of the obscene number of next gen titles gracing the consoles or god forbid another MMO like Lord of the Rings!

Anyway this week I spent a bit of time playing at the other end of the scale - I decided to check out what was to offer on the Wii Virtual Console, PS Network & Xbox Live arcade to see if there was any decent twitch games kicking about for the five minute fix.

I must confess that through the 90's I was a bit of an emulation nut - this was of course because i was such a geek through the 80's. It's kind of gone out of fashion but there was actually quite an exciting scene out there trying to get everything from the ZX80 to the Amiga, the Atari 2600 to the Saturn and Spacewar! to Virtua Fighter.

Obviously to actually play on these things you had to get roms from somewhere and breach numerous companies IP but early on the big guys didn't 'really' care it was too minority - too geeky - and anyway what am I going to do with a 20 year old game in our virtual reality universe. Then came the massive rise of mobile and mobile gaming - all of a sudden that dead IP found a new life...

Not only that but the scene 'caught up' - I remember fairly public gubbings when a fantastic N64 emulator 'UltraHLE' appeared and then Connectix commercially brought out a fully functional PS1 emulator 'Virtual Game Station' while both systems were still on the shelves - nostalgic curiosity became blatant piracy.

Currently for nostalgia nuts you don't have to go much further than M.A.M.E (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator) which has been in development for a little over a decade - what started as a Pacman emulation now supports x thousand arcade titles and M.E.S.S (Multiple Emulator Super System) which emulates literally hundreds of systems - while not necessarily being the best on the market for system specific emulators - you can't fault the sheer variety.

So what does any of this have to do with getting off the Crack?

Well it's pretty obvious - most of the games available for download from the various consoles are 'Retro' - I actually paid 400 m$ points for a copy of Scramble... which equates to about £4. I think I paid about the same for 'Jetpac Refueled' - coincidentally the first game I got on my sinclair spectrum. By the end of the day I had spent about £40 quid - the average price of a console game - on classic arcade games across all three consoles and for the most part was absolutely lovin' it. There is simply something about being able to play these games again with a proper controller as opposed to keyboard. A good majority of them are multiplayer... good clean simple fun. 8 hours flew by.

The highlights however were a couple of the 'new' made-for-download games 'Stardust HD' & 'Gripshift' (yes I know it's a psp game but it's only a fiver so am including it here) on the PS3 and 'Geometry Wars', 'Marble blast Ultra' and 'Pinball FX' on the 360. Absolutely fantastic...

I've started looking up the release dates for the up-and-coming downloadables... it may not be the lasting solution or keep me from kicking the Lich Kings ass but in the mean time it's a start.

Long Term Appeal: 8 - they just keep coming_
Body & Soul: 7 - not great for the body - but the soul is strong!_
Brain Activity: 5 - well to be honest it's more instinctive gaming_
Lasting Value: 7 - for that quick hit it's difficult to beat_
Rehab Score: 7/10 - still not the solution, but a bloody good fix.