I play and review games to escape from the drudgery of working life. From developer(s) Oiffy and Wolf & Wood and published by Wired Productions comes the complete antithesis of what a game to unwind after work should be, The Last Worker.
“The Last Worker is an immersive narrative adventure centered around a lone worker’s last stand in an increasingly automated world. Kurt works for the world’s largest retailer and is forced to choose between capitalism or activism.”
You play as Kurt, the only human left working at a gargantuan (size of Manhattan) warehouse. Everything has been automated, except for Kurt who not only works at this (not at all inspired by Amazon… honest) warehouse but, he also lives there. The company he works for is called Jüngle, the world’s largest retailer (definitely not at all inspired by Amazon… honest) and is tasked with finding and sorting people’s orders for delivery.
The opening of the game has you being sent to a package in the warehouse, checking its quality, to then send it to be delivered. You know, rather much like working in a real warehouse. Kurt uses his (company-issued) JünglePod, a flying contraption to help him get around the warehouse and to the 1,000s upon 1,000s of goods that the company sells. Kurt also has a (company-issued) JüngleGun, a multi-purpose sorting tool. This is how the basics work, you are sent to pick up a parcel using your JünglePod. When you find it, you then have to check the box and the details on it. Is it the right size and weight as to what has been ordered? Is the box damaged? Are the goods in date (no selling Christmas products after Christmas). If everything is okay and the parcel that you have been sent to matches up with the order placed, then you can send it off to be delivered. However, if something is wrong, then you have to use your JüngleGun to put a specific sticker on it (not the correct size or weight, damaged, out-of-date goods, etc) and send the parcel to be recycled.
That’s about it really. You get bonuses for sorting and correctly sending the parcels to be delivered or recycled. After your shift, you are then assessed for your work and scored. Perform badly and get sacked, perform well and keep the big boss happy. Yup, The Last Worker is a game about that drudgery of work that you really want to escape from when playing games. On the surface, this game is exactly the type of title that you really don’t want to play… or is it?
While the basics of the game may be about sorting and sending parcels to be delivered (still not at all inspired by Amazon… honest), there is so much more going on once you do get past that opening. I tend not to do story spoilers in my reviews, unless I have a damn good reason to do so. I’ll not be delving into spoilers here but suffice it to say, The Last Worker is about so much more than sorting parcels. After that opening, the story really begins to kick in and the game itself changes. Using the skills that you pick up in the opening of sorting parcels, you’ll soon find yourself in a world of puzzle and stealth-based gameplay.
The skills that you learn in that opening soon become your main tools for solving some devilishly created puzzles, action set-pieces and even boss fights. There is quite a learning curve to get to grips with as some of the action can really throw a spanner in the works when you are not expecting it. Failing and restarting from checkpoints will be a regular occurrence. Not that this is a negative in any way. If anything, it just helps add to the satisfaction of when you do finally master and work out a particularly tricky part that has left you stumped for a while.
The Last Worker has a very strong narrative that helps push the game forwards and keep you interested, brilliantly overserved and Written by Jörg Tittel. The story is engaging, engrossing and very clever. There is subtle (and non-to-subtle) anti-establishment satire and more. Just that faux opening of the drudgery or working in a warehouse and sorting parcels is the tip of a carefully constructed iceberg.
Then there’s the voice cast. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as Kurt really helps to sell the character. Jason Isaacs plays Skew, Kurt’s ‘helpful’ companion. Zelda (daughter of Robin) Williams even has a role to play. Everything is just rounded off and polished as the cast does a great job of bringing the awesome story to life.
Priced at £16 and available now on everything, including VR. I know that it is only April, but I’m already going to say that The Last Worker is the best indie game that I have played this year. It is crammed with varying gameplay styles that will keep you on your toes. Switching from puzzles, to stealth, to action to… sorting out parcels. You really have no idea what to expect next and when you do think you have the measure of the game, something will happen that will completely throw you off. Some wonderful comic book-style visuals add to the fantastic story and the gameplay just works. A big recommendation from me.
“War! Never been so much fun. War! Never been so much fun. War! Never been so much fun. War! Never been so much fun.
Go up to your brother, kill him with your gun. Leave him lying in his uniform, dying in the sun.”
Cannon Fodder, the game and its earworm of an intro tune, have been living in my head for almost 30 years now. A simple, but fun, war-based Shoot ’em Up that was one of the best games released on the Amiga. Now, developer Epiphany Games and publisher Wired Productions bring their own tiny soldiers to the battlefield with Tiny Troopers: Global Ops.
“Attention! Tiny Troopers: Global Ops is a fast-paced arcade twin-stick shooter in which you lead an elite squad of Tiny Troopers on action-packed missions to take down hordes of unscrupulous enemies from all corners of the world!”
This is my first time playing a Tiny Troopers title. It turns out that the franchise has been around for a while, with the original game released back in 2012 on various mobile platforms and the PC. Then there was Tiny Troopers 2 from 2013, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops in 2014, Tiny Troopers: Joint Ops XL released in 2017 and then, Tiny Troopers: Zombie Campaign from 2016. And I’ve never played any of them.
But now, a decade after the first game was released, I’m finally playing the latest in the franchise, Tiny Troopers: Global Ops. I don’t think that my mentioning of Cannon Fodder in the introduction is too misplaced. This is, basically an updated version of that classic and awesome shooter. Using a twin-stick control scheme, you can pick up and play Tiny Troopers: Global Ops with ease. Move with the left stick, aim with the right and shoot with the trigger button. No nonsense and simple.
You start out as a soldier going up against the odds as dozens of enemies line themselves up to be killed. You’re also really damn slow and the opening hour of this game is tedious. Thankfully, this game does come with a pretty decent-sized upgrade system. Complete missions, earn experience points and spend those points on a variety of upgrades. Movement speed is a must and you’ll go from feeling like you’re stumbling around in the mud, to Speedy Gonzales as you nip around the levels.
You have a primary weapon, which to can be upgraded from a pistol, to an SMG, to an assault rifle. You can unlock and upgrade secondary weapons like grenades and rocket launchers. More upgrades such as air strikes and drones are there too. Recruit soldiers to fight alongside you, who can be upgraded too. The point is that the upgrade system is pretty decent and that tedious opening hour soon becomes a distant memory. Then there are the cosmetics. You can customise your soldiers and have them looking like John Rambo or… a clown.
There are six countries (campaigns), split into smaller levels (missions) and all tied together via a humorous story. Multiple difficulties to play on and seasoned twin-stick shooter players will find normal a tad too easy (I did). A few upgrades later and even playing on very hard wasn’t really very hard at all. Tiny Troopers: Global Ops is (perhaps) a bit too easy. But it is no less fun for it.
The basic gameplay is just that, basic. Besides shooting a ton of enemies, you’ll occasionally be tasked with escorting a VIP, find a certain item, planting explosives, etc. It’s all the usual wartime fare and honestly, there isn’t a great deal of variety over the several dozen missions. Still, I kind of liked that. Tiny Troopers: Global Ops took me back to a simple time of gaming when it was all about just having fun. Fun is something that this title delivers like a much-needed military supply drop.
Around £16 is how much Tiny Troopers: Global Ops will cost your wallet and I think it’s very much worth it. Experienced players will probably reach the end credits in 4-5 hours as this is not a terribly big game. Still, if you want to get all of those upgrades, you’re definitely looking at several more hours. You can replay any previously completed mission and try to better your own (and worldwide leaderboard) scores, get more experience points and unlock all of those lovely upgrades.
There’s also a four-player online co-op mode that’s cross-platform too. Available right now on everything. Tiny Troopers: Global Ops is really great fun at a good price point. There’s an even harder difficulty to unlock that I found to be perfect for more experienced players. The only thing missing? The ability to rename your soldiers. Ever since losing Jools, Stoo and Jops and in Cannon Fodder 30 years ago, I’ve always wanted to honour them in a similar game. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to stick with my solider’s name of Poopy Dickens instead.
Nosebleed Interactive and Wired Productions’ Arcade Paradise is amazing. I gave the game a full review a while back, right here. For those not in the know, Arcade Paradise is a business sim where you turn a laundrette into a very 90s arcade. Within Arcade Paradise are over 30 in-game and very playable mini-games. There are so many games in the game that there are even games within games… within a game. Right here, I’m going to do a bite-sized look at every game found in Arcade Paradise. Going through the whole lot in alphabetical order, from start to finish.
Air Hockey: Everyone knows what this is, a staple of any and every arcade in the 80s. Controlling a paddle-thing, you have to try and score more goals than your opponent by smacking a plastic puck around. It’s air hockey and a decent digital version of it too.
Attack Vector: A kind of shoot ’em up… I guess? You play as a tank enemies appear at the side of the screen, ready to kamikaze crash into your tank. You have to move your turret around and shoot the charging enemies before they take you out. This one is quite tricky because the rotation of the turret is a little awkward and stiff. You’ll need split-second timing and reactions of a cat to rack up a decent score.
Barkanoid: The first game (alphabetically) to feature a member of Arcade Paradise’s mascot family. This is basically an Arkanoid clone… with a dog instead of a bat/paddle. Use Zebby the dog to bounce a ball around to destroy various coloured blocks, some drop power-ups. Destroy all of the blocks and move on to the next level. Simple but very playable stuff.
Blockchain: Or as I call it, ‘gaming crack’. I think that the best way to describe this game is, it is Tetris with a bit of maths thrown in. You have to place numbered blocks to destroy the ever-rising blocks underneath. The numbers that you drop have to match the vertical, horizontal (or both) total amount to destroy that block. As an example, if there is a single block at the bottom, then you’ll need to drop a 2 block on top of it to destroy it. The one block at the bottom and the 2 block you placed = 2 blocks in total. Put a 5 block on a grouping of four and so on. Sounds simple, because it kind of is. But when you have multiple blocks of varying sizes and random numbers to drop, things can get confusing. My favourite game in Arcade Paradise as it is simple and massively addictive.
Blobs From Space: This is a Space Invaders pastiche. Playing as a tank, at the bottom of the screen. Alien blobs keep descending and you have to shoot them before they reach the bottom. There are some boss battles that add a little variety. Other than that, this is Space Invaders. I have a little niggle with this game. The turret of the tank that you control is angled left or right, depending on which way you are moving. However, your projectiles always fire directly up. I keep thinking that the projectile is going to come out at the angle that the turret is facing and it throws off my aim. It’s just a little personal niggle in an otherwise fun little game.
Bomb Dudes: Have you ever played Bomberman, or if you are of a certain age and continent, Dynablaster? Well, that is what this is. Your character is armed with a bomb and you blow up walls and enemies to advance to the next stage. Some walls have power-ups in them to give you extra bombs, longer explosions and such. This is Bomberman, and a pretty good version of it too.
Bugai: This is the game’s version of Puzzle Bobble. Different coloured bubbles… or bugai, in this instance. Match colour for colour and drop the bugai onto your opponent’s playing field to make things more difficult for them. Win and advance to the next stage. The stages take place at locations all over the world and your opponents are various characters from the plethora of games in Arcade Paradise. An easy and fun to play puzzle game.
Championship Darts: It’s darts. What more do you want from me? Three different AI opponents to play against. You throw ‘arrows’ at a dart board to try and go from 301 to 0 in the fewest darts thrown. The first person to ‘check out’ wins. It’s darts.
Communists From Mars: A shooter that is most definitely influenced by the classic Missile Command. Missile projectiles rain down from above and you shoot them down and hopefully, while pulling off some chain reactions to minimise the shots you take. Really good and frantic fun in the later levels.
Cyber Dance: A rhythm-based dance game, not at all too dissimilar to Dance Dance Revolution. Only you can play without looking like an idiot by flailing your legs around. Instead, just tap the direction on the pad in time with the arrows on the screen and the beat of the music. Not my cup of Yorkshire Tea at all, I just do not like rhythm-based games. But hey, it does feature some pretty good music.
Fruit Crush: This is a Dr. Mario-type game. Only, instead of you having to match coloured pills, you match fruit. Match four of the same fruit and it disappears from the screen. Build up combos to get high scores and boom. A basic puzzle game that is easy to get into but hard to master as risking building high is the key to getting the combos, but also a surefire way to lose.
Graffiti Ballz: This is a little harder to explain. It is another easy to get into puzzle game, but it doesn’t really have a comparable counterpart. Playing as a spray can, you aim and shoot ‘ballz’ of paint and have to match colour for colour. In an ever-increasing and multiplying match ’em up title. Sounds really crap but honestly, I have spent way too much time on this (not as much as Blockchain) as it is really addictive once you get the hang of it.
Gravichase: Is a vector graphics game where you control a spaceship. There is an ever-decreasing circle, or black hole, or something that is made up of rings. Anyway, the ever-decreasing thing has one gap in each ring and you have to move your ship so it goes through the gap of each decreasing ring. All while gravity does its thing and pulls you and the circle thing into it. Fast reactions are key here and the frustration factor is high.
Hustler: It’s pool. What more do you want from me? Yeah, I know I did this with the darts game too. Still, it’s the same thing, just with pool. Three AI opponents to play against and you pot balls. I did find that this was terribly unforgiving and you can line up a shot that looks great, only for the ball to bounce out of the pocket when it really should’ve gone in. It’s an unfair game of pool that punishes you for being anyway half-decent.
Jukebox: It’s a jukebox. Okay, so technically not a game. Just a nice-looking machine that plays music. As there are some great tunes in Arcade Paradise, it’s worth mentioning the jukebox anyway. A good selection of 90s-inspired tunes with clear homages to the likes of The Prodigy and Oasis, etc. You can flick through the selection and pop on a song while you play some games.
Knuckles & Knees: An old-school styled beat ’em up with multiple characters and an upgrade system. A really good beat ’em up too. Mindlessly redundant, but really good. Things get a little meta with this one as you can go into a King Wash (which is the name of the laundrette in Arcade Paradise) within this game and find playable arcade games within the arcade game that you are playing… that is within the main game that you are playing. These mini-mini-games are just fun distractions over ‘proper’ games, but I did say that I was going to cover every game in Arcade Paradise, so… Flyguy: Is a Flappy Bird clone. Toad: An endless and stripped-back version of Frogger where you just keep crossing a road. Brick: A simplified version of Arkanoid. Snake: It’s Snake, that game that was on Nokia mobile phones in the late 90s. Racer: An endless ‘racer’ where you have to dodge traffic.
Line Terror: Oh man, this one is tough. You know games like Qix where you have to fill in the screen while being chased by enemies? Well yep, that is what this is… and it is punishingly hard too. I couldn’t even finish the first stage. If you are feeling a bit masochistic and want to punish yourself, play some Line Terror for a few minutes.
Llama: This one is found on the PDA that you use to manage various aspects of your arcade. Not a ‘real’ game in the sense of the others, more of a fun little distraction. It is a bit like Flappy Bird, in that it’s a continually scrolling thing with you having to avoid obstacles by jumping over them, as a llama. I think that this is a subtle reference to the work of Jeff Minter. If not, it is now.
Meteor Madness: Is a bit like Asteroids, kind of. You control a spaceship and have to blast asteroids away. Only, there is the added objective of picking up and delivering a gem. With vector graphics style and an inertia movement aspect that will really throws off how the ship moves when it has picked up its load. I really liked this one as I was a big fan of Asteroids back in the day.
Minesweeper: One of the games found on the PC in the office in the game. Yup, there are games on the in-game PC. There’s not really much to say about this, it’s Minesweeper. There are mines hidden on a board and you have to clear the board without setting off the mines. This game was a game that everyone had on their PCs in the early 90s, mainly because Microsoft included it as a free game with Windows 3.1.
Racer Chaser:Pac-Man meets Grand Theft Auto in this maze game. Playing as a yellow sports car, you have to avoid the police while trying to clear the screen of money. Pick up this game’s version of a power-pill and turn into a tank, so you can run over the police. Get hit by the police when in the car and you have to run around on foot and try to make it back to your car to continue, while shooting the chasing police with your boombox. This one is great fun and another game that I probably spent way too much time on.
Shuttlecocks: Is Pong. Nothing fancy, no additions, just good old Pong. I love how this one is presented in the game because it does look like the original Pong arcade cabinet. The screen even has interference and static just to add to the very, very, old-school vibes. The all-time arcade classic reborn in a game that celebrates arcade classics.
Slime Pipes: This one is a puzzle game that is very clearly inspired by Pipe Mania. You have to connect the pipes to create an uninterrupted flow for the slime to travel through and reach the exit. Playing against the clock as you only have so much time before the slime is released. You’ll have to work fast to get the pipes connected. Another frustrating but fun, ‘one more go’ type of game.
Solitaire: The other game found on the PC in the office and if you don’t know what this is, are you even a gamer? This, of course, is the classic card game in digital form and one of those games that you’ll often find added to those early 90s versions of Windows. Play well enough and everyone enjoys a cheeky game of Solitaire now and then.
Space Race Simulator: Take a pinch of OutRun, add a few drops of F-Zero and you have this. An arcade racer that definitely has a very 90s vibe. The cornering can be a little tricky at first but when you get used to using the break and sliding, it soon comes together and begins to feel right. There’s an upgrade system to improve your vehicle too. Good fun, though I’d have liked to have seen a couple more race tracks.
Stack Overflow: This is another puzzle game where you have to stack boxes… and it’s brilliant. The boxes are different colours and you can only stack a colour on top of the same colour. You have limited space to stack and a strict time limit to try and stay ahead of. Easy to get into and wonderfully addictive to boot. This is another one that, once I start playing, I find it very hard to stop.
Strike Gold: Another game featuring one of the Arcade Paradise mascot family. Playing as Woodguy Jr., you have to mine as deep as you can. Limited by your oxygen, you dig coloured tiles and pick up extra oxygen along the way. Mine for gold that can be used for upgrades. Try to get as low as you can without having everything fall in on your head. It plays a lot like Namco’s Mr. Driller and that’s a good thing.
Table Football: Surely everyone knows what this is. Foosball! Controlling a line of football players on a rod, you use those players to try and whack the ball into your opponent’s goal. I never liked this in the arcades when I was a kid but no retro arcade would be complete without one.
Thump-A-Gopher: Another arcade staple, this is Whac-A-Mole with gophers. Naughty gophers pop up through holes and you have to hit them by pressing the correct button on your pad for a high score. Don’t hit Woodguy Jr. though as you’ll lose points. A true test of reflexes and strangely hypnotic after a while.
Toad and Turtle: Is another clone of another arcade classic, Frogger. Controlling a toad, you have to make it across a busy road and all while dodging traffic. Jump on logs and turtles in a river, to then take little toad home to safety. Rinse and repeat while you try for that elusive high score. I loved Frogger in the arcade and I love this version of it too.
UFO Assault: This is kind of like a reverse Space Invaders crossed with a reverse Missile Command. A single-screen ‘shooter’ where you play as the attacking aliens. You have to drop bombs onto a city to destroy the buildings. The buildings vary in height and your UFO descends down the screen every time it reaches the edge. So, you have to destroy the buildings before you crash into them. This one is all about timing as you can only drop one bomb at a time and have to try to score a hit with (almost) every one. There is a little room for error, but miss too many buildings and it’ll soon be game over.
Video Air Hockey: I bet you can’t guess what this is? A digital version of air hockey… that is already in a digital video game. That’s twice the digital! It plays just like normal air hockey, but digital.
Vostock 2093: Plays very much like a classic shoot ’em up. Think along the lines of Galaga and Galaxian, only with a bit of a twist. See, this is a kind of sequel/follow-up to Nosebleed Interactive’s Vostock Inc. game. Shoot enemies, earn coin and spend that coin on upgrades so you can shoot more enemies and bosses. Good fun.
Woodgal Jr.: Here is where we really get into the whole Arcade Paradise mascot family. The game is simple but a hugely addictive test of reflexes and reactions. Playing as Woodgal, you have to chop away at a never-ending tree. Random branches get in the way on the left or right and you just have to dodge them as you chop by moving Woodgal left or right. Hit a branch and it’s game over.
Woodgal’s Adventure: Woodgal is back, in her very own adventure. A simple match-3 type game mixed with a little RPG. Solve the match-3 boards and earn items that you can use to explore the map further. More enemies, more match-3 boards to complete until you reach the end. Oh, and Woodgal is joined by her dog Zebby from Barkanoid.
Woodguy Golf: It’s Woodguy, the father, husband, brother (I honestly don’t know) of Woodgal. Anyway, he was also in the Strike Gold game further up this list. This is basically Golf from the NES and plays the same way too. A basic and simple to play golf game with some challenging holes to test your skills.
Woodguy Jr.: This is just Woodgal Jr. but featuring the Woodguy character instead. The exact same game and plays the exact same way too. However, Woodguy Jr. actually came first, as it was a mini-game in Nosebleed’s Vostock Inc. before appearing in Arcade Paradise. There’s a wonderful shared universe thing going on here.
Zombat 2: The last game on the list is also one of my favourites. A twin-stick shooter with you pitted against wave after wave of zombies. Kill the undead (if that makes sense) and they drop coins, which you can use to buy new weapons in the shop. Eventually building to a small arsenal of guns and explosives for you to kill even more zombies with. Bloody pixel violence that’s great fun to play.
There you go. All of the playable games found in Arcade Paradise. A great game that every arcade fan should play, so go and buy a copy right now. It’s available on everything.
I turned 46 years old in July and I’m now officially middle-aged. Still, being 46 means that I grew up in the golden era of arcade gaming. Family holidays around the English coast and I was never too far away from an arcade. But, even when not on holiday, I still had relatively easy access to arcades as we had one in the city centre of Birmingham, England and another one near a park called Lickey Hills. Anyway, the point is that I grew up in arcades of the 80s and 90s. Plus, I have a bit of a soft spot for business sim games. You know the kind where you’re given some property/land and a bit of cash, to then have to grow and expand your business.
From developer Nosebleed Interactive and publisher Wired Productions comes Arcade Paradise. A game that melds together classic arcade gaming with the business sim genre that I love so much. But is it any good? Let’s find out. Oh and before I get into this, do you know how long I have been looking forward to this game? Well, let me just say that I actually wrote a first draft of this introduction over a year ago…
Roughly around about the 3rd of May 2021 at 12:36 PM, in fact… according to my drafts.
“Welcome to Arcade Paradise, the 90’s-fuelled retro arcade adventure. Rather than washing rags for a living, you decide to turn the family laundromat into the ultimate arcade. Play, profit, and purchase new arcade machines, with over 35 to choose from, to build your very own Arcade Paradise!”
So, the story of Arcade Paradise is that you play Ashley and have to manage your father’s small laundrette. Bored of the drudgery of running an establishment where people congregate to wash their undercrackers, you eventually find a backroom with a few arcade machines in it. Realising that the arcade machines are making more money than the laundrette, you come up with a plan to build and expand that small backroom into a full-blown arcade. Only your father, Gerald, who is sunning himself in the Riviera… Gerald of Riviera? Sounds oddly familiar in more ways than one. Anyway, dad is not on board with the idea of adding more arcade machines and just wants you to run the laundrette. Still, he’s miles away, what he doesn’t know and all that.
So then, after over a year of my looking forward to Arcade Paradise and pestering both the dev and publisher for a review code over the last 14 months, was it worth it? No, no it wasn’t and Arcade Paradise is a massive disappointment…
… Bollocks is it! Arcade Paradise is amazing. An indie game that is crammed with so many things to do and gameplay that puts a lot of AAA games to shame. But before I get into all of that, I do have to get the rather boring opening couple of hours of the game out of the way. Seriously, my first impressions of Arcade Paradise were not great at all and I do think that if you play this and judge it on those first few hours, you will be disappointed too. I’m just putting this in as a warning and offering my advice to stick with it because, after the boring start, this game really does begin to kick some serious bum-cheeks.
The game begins with a very 90s, very MTV-inspired opening of you reluctantly making your way to the laundrette for your first day as manager. From there, you are thrown into the basics of how to run and maintain the laundrette. It is all kept simple and basic too. Press a button to pick up some dirty laundry and put it in one of the washing machines. After a few minutes, the washing is clean, pick it up and put it in a dryer. A couple of minutes later and it is finished, take it out of the dryer and set it aside for the customer to pick up. The faster you get the washing done, the more money you’ll make. As you wait for the washing and drying to finish, you can pick up rubbish. Sorry, trash, this is set in the US. You pick up trash and throw it in the dumpster at the side of the laundrette. This starts a little timing mini-game and the higher the bar when you press the button, the more money you’ll make for taking out the trash.
The toilet can become blocked and yes, you have to unblock it. Again, another mini-game and you can earn some cash. As you walk around the laundrette, you might find chewing gum stuck to various surfaces… yup you guessed it, mini-game, earn money. That is pretty much what you will be doing for most of the opening few hours or so of Arcade Paradise. Wash clothes, clean up trash, unblock the toilet and pick up chewing gum. The grind is very real and very annoying. All of these jobs are punctuated with a very typical and very 90s bit of vernacular… radical! To be honest, it’s not massively inspired gameplay and it soon becomes very tedious. You do find the key to the backroom and office of the laundrette very early on and the beginning of managing the arcade begins.
At first, you don’t make a huge amount of money and have to keep running the laundrette, doing the same jobs over and over and being stuck in the drudgery-purgatory of washing people’s clothes and keeping the place clean, just to bring in some coin. This is the bit of the game I mentioned earlier of it being a bit boring. Even though you have a handful of arcade machines out back, you really can’t spend much time with them because you need to keep the laundrette ticking over to bring in a constant and meagre flow of cash.
Then there is the safe in the office, one of the most annoying things in the game. See, to spend any of the money you have earned, it has to be placed in the safe first. Every time you do use the safe, you have to input the combination manually via a dial. You know, the old left 32, right 56, etc. It is fucking tedious, drawn out and gets annoying very, very quickly.
Honestly, the opening handful of hours of Arcade Paradise really pissed me off because you just can’t enjoy the arcade games, because you have to run the laundrette to make money to extend the arcade. The annoyances of using the safe, the watch alarm going off to remind me of jobs that need doing and more, it all really begin the grate and everything became very monotonous… until I unlocked the upgrade system. Arcade Paradise then began to really open up as a game and those annoyances disappeared pretty quickly, making way for some very engrossing gameplay.
You can hire an assistant manager to help with the emptying of the machine’s hoppers. Have less trash to clean up, move faster, extend the length of the working day and so much more. You can even upgrade to a new safe that you don’t have to keep manually opening it (though I suggest saving up for an assistant manager first… trust me). The upgrades mean that you can then spend a lot more time managing the arcade side of the business and this is when the game really comes alive. In fact, after a while, you can completely forget all about the laundrette and focus solely on the arcade.
I think that that was the point of the slow and monotonous opening though. It puts you in the frame of mind that what you are doing is fucking boring. It was designed to annoy, to piss you off. Then, when you get the arcade up and running, get some more machines in place and when you can afford to forget about the laundrette and enjoy all of those arcade games, that feeling of annoyance and being pissed off becomes a distant memory as the joy of having your own arcade takes over.
There are loads of arcade games in Arcade Paradise too, all original titles that are inspired by real-world games. For instance, one of the first cabinets you will have is called Racer Chaser and it is basically Pac-Man crossed with GTA (which I love because the original GTA was inspired by Pac-Man). Instead of controlling a hungry yellow dot, you control a yellow sports car. No being chased by ghosts here, it is coloured police cars instead. When you grab this game’s equivalent of a power pill, you turn into a tank and can run over the police cars. If you get stopped by the police, you will end up on foot and have to try to make it back to your car before being arrested. As I said, it is Pac-Man mushed with GTA. Pretty much all of the arcade games in Arcade Paradise can be likened to a real-world game or games. F-Zero meets OutRun = Space Race Simulator is another example.
Some of these games are massively addictive too. Blockchain is a Tetris-type game mixed with maths. At first, this one really confused me with how it works, mainly because I was overthinking it. But it is actually devilishly simple to understand and once it clicked, I couldn’t stop playing it. Blockchain is one of those games that you put on for 5 minutes and end up playing for an hour or so.
There’s even a connecting universe going on. Vostok Inc. was Nosebleed Interactive’s previous title, it was a twin-stick shooter about making money. There’s a sequel to that game in Arcade Paradise. Also, in Vostok Inc. was a mini-game called Woodguy Jr. and that game has a sequel here called Woodgal Jr. Then, the Woodguy character is the star of a new game called Strike Gold! There are several more connections to find as you play. The world in which Arcade Paradise takes place really is wonderfully realised and I got a serious Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong/Donkey Kong Jr. vibes with the connecting games. All these connections make the arcade games seem as if they could’ve existed in our world.
Managing the arcade is a tad more in-depth than running the laundrette. Each of the machines has a popularity rating. The more popular, the more money it will bring in. You can affect that popularity in various ways too. Change the game’s difficulty, how much a game costs to play and where you place the machine has an effect. Put a lower popular game next to a higher popular to give a little boost. Even you playing the games can make them more popular. The more popular the game is, the more money it will make.
Oh yeah, you can play all of the games here. Now, don’t go expecting pixel-perfect recreations of some of the real world’s biggest arcade hits. What Arcade Paradise offers you are more like a collection of mini-games, but really bloody good ones. Pretty much every genre is catered for. Racers, beat ’em ups, puzzle games, shoot ’em ups and more. Some of these games are ridiculously addictive. There’s a puzzle game called Stack Overflow where you just have to move and stack coloured boxes, that I can’t stop playing. All the arcade games here are simple and basic, but still very playable and there are over 35 of them to enjoy.
You know what? Calling the arcade games here ‘mini-games’ is a bit of a misdemeanour. Yeah, some of them most definitely are mini-games, the likes of a digital air hockey game really is the definition of a mini-game. But then you have titles like Woodgal’s Adventure. This is one of those match-three-styled puzzle games… only set in an RPG world. A world that you can explore, talk to characters, find/collect items and so on. To play through Woodgal’s Adventure from start to end, you are probably looking at the best part of around 4 hours. That’s pretty far from being a mini-game, I have played some indie games recently with a shorter game length. And this is just one title of 30-odd in Arcade Paradise.
Then there is the massively addictive Zombat 2. This one is a top-down, twin-stick shooter that has an upgrade system where you can buy new weapons with in-game currency, with a bit of a Rogue-lite emphasis. Honestly, it’ll take you a good while to obtain all of the available weapons equating to several hours of gameplay. Again, these are games within a game. With these longer games, your progress is saved, so you don’t have to try to finish the whole thing in one sitting. Not that the laundrette side of the business would let you anyway as you will pass out if you stay at work for too long.
Yes, the working day is timed, and so is how much you can get done. Start work at 9AM and the launderette closes at 11PM (in-game hours, not real hours). Though you can stay on after closing for a few more in-game hours to play some arcade games. But don’t stay too long as you will pass out and lose time the next working day. The games here have online leaderboards, so you can see how you fare against other players around the world. Several of them also offer local multiplayer. Team up with friends and kill some zombies or go head to head with some classic Pong action and more.
You can buy a jukebox and it is crammed with original and very 90s-styled music covering a variety of genres. I was listening to one tune and I swear that it sounded like an unreleased Prodigy song, to the point where I had to check the credits of the game just in case it was a Prodigy song that I had somehow missed. The PC in the office can be used in various ways, mainly as a shop for buying new arcade cabinets and expanding your arcade. It is also used to further the story via a chatroom and emails. The PC also has a version of eBay where you can buy the upgrades. However, it uses a different currency that you can only earn by completing your ‘to-do list’. With each new day at work, you will be given three random jobs to finish. These can be something like play a certain game for so many minutes, get a high score, wash some clothes and more. Each of the arcade machines even has its own set goals that can be finished to help them become more popular.
The managing of the arcade is controlled by a very 90s PDA and even that has a game on it. There are games everywhere in Arcade Paradise even hidden within other games. There’s a beat ’em up called Knuckles and Knees which has an arcade in it with its own games. So then, you are playing Arcade Paradise, which is a game about playing arcade games. One of those arcade games in the game you are playing has an arcade in it where you can play games within a game that is in a game about playing arcade games. There’s even an achievement/trophy called ‘Arcadeception’ if you get the high score on the arcade games in Knuckles and Knees. Fuck the metaverse, this is bigger. It’s pretty clear that the devs had a lot of fun putting this together.
Everything is tied via a story that follows Ashley (you) and the strained relationship with your untrusting and overbearing father. I tell you something, the story is really damn good too, twists and turns with things not going the way you quite expect them to.
Arcade Paradise is going to cost you around £17, depending on your chosen format and it is available on everything. I don’t do review scores as I have never found one that I fully agree with. What I do when I review is, I take the game, the price and everything and question if the game is worth what it is being sold for. In this case, fuck yeah! You get an absolute ton of gameplay here. There are AAA games with asking prices of £60 that don’t offer the amount of gameplay that Arcade Paradise throws at you. That opening few hours or so is horrible, grindy, tedious, slow and really did piss me off after looking forward to this game for over a year. But once you get past that, Arcade Paradise doesn’t so much shift up a gear, it goes into ludicrous speed and becomes one of the most generous and rewarding titles that you will play this year.
I have a thing I do when I’m given a game to review for free that I really enjoy, I buy a copy to support those who made it. However, I didn’t buy a copy of Arcade Paradise, I bought three copies, that’s how much I adore this game.
That’s not to say that Arcade Paradise is a perfect game. I personally found the management side of things a bit too simplistic. I’m not sure if it is even possible to fail, you’re always going to make money from the arcade and the money will continue to roll in with no threat or danger of loss, there are just some slight variables on how much money you will make. The main gameplay loop really consists of nothing more than buying arcade machines and making the arcade bigger to fit in more arcade machines. That’s about it. Of course, the 30-odd games that you can play here offer a lot more variety though.
There are a few bugs, but after a little exchange of Tweets with the dev, I know that they are being worked on. Plus, I tend not to bitch about bugs in indie games, as they use much smaller teams than AAA titles and actually do fix them in speedy time… unlike AAA titles. Arcade Paradise was delayed for a very good reason, which I’m not going to get into here, but that most definitely had a major impact on the development cycle and really puts the bugs thing into perspective for me. That’s why I’m not making big deal out of this. Yes, there are a few bugs but they are forgivable and will be fixed.
I do really like Arcade Paradise and it does cram in a lot of game for your money. This is a big recommendation from me, especially if you have an interest in arcade gaming history, even a fictional one. It could’ve done with more depth and variables to the managing aspect though, but that is just personal preference and not a criticism. What you really have here is a collection of mini (and not so mini)-games that are presented in a rather unique and interesting way. Each of the games looks and feels period specific for the era they would’ve been released. As an example, there is a version of Pong and the cabinet is very similar to the original, while the screen you play on is full of static. It is these little details that I adore. There are loads of jokes, nods and references for old-school arcade fans to enjoy.
Arcade Paradise is a great game, but one that is flawed if you are looking for a business sim, as the focus is definitely more on the games than the managing aspect. Once I got the idea of this being a business sim (in the vein of the genre that I love) out of my mind, Arcade Paradise became far more fun to play. It is the arcade machines that are the stars here, the running of the business takes a back seat. This is not the arcade management sim that I really wanted it to be and yes, that did disappoint me… for a while. But what really made me fall in love with Arcade Paradise was its attention to detail, the wave of 90s arcade nostalgia that slaps you in the face harder than John Cleese’s trout walloped Michael Palin.
Arcade Paradise took me back to my childhood and those family holidays, walking around the seafront and wandering into the nearest arcade. It made me feel like I was a teenager again, when I would skip school and catch the bus (it used to cost 32p) into town to play in the city centre arcades. I genuinely miss the arcades of the 80s and 90s. These modern-day retro arcades just don’t have the same appeal. Short of creating a time machine, Arcade Paradise is the next best thing to a proper arcade experience and it even has the annoying chewing gum stuck to surfaces.
Thank you Nosebleed Interactive for crafting this game and thanks to Wired Productions for all the support you gave to the devs in bringing this game to us gamers. This was well worth the 14-month wait and £17 price tag. Go and buy a copy now, Arcade Paradise is available on everything.
There’s a new game coming soon, based around the idea of running your very own arcade. Arcade Paradise, from Nosebleed Interactive and Wired Productions, is a game that I’ve had my eye on for over a year now. Fingers crossed, I’ll be reviewing it soon-ish too (#ShamelessFreePlug).
Anyway, my excitement for Arcade Paradise got me reminiscing over the good ‘ole days when the arcade was king. To the point where I decided to write an article to remember and celebrate those good ‘ole days of my growing up in and around the arcades of the 80s and 90s. This right here is that article.
Being born in the mid-seventies and growing up, as I did, in the 80s, allowed me to be in the midst of the arcade gaming boom. I began my gaming journey in the late 70s when we, as a family, got an Atari 2600. I may not have fully understood what gaming was back then as a young 4-year-old but I knew that I enjoyed it. Part of the mass appeal of the Atari 2600 back then was the fact it had several really good arcade ports. The likes of Space Invaders may not have been arcade perfect on the 2600, but the simple fact that we could play arcade games at home was awesome.
See, I grew up in Birmingham, England, which is part of the Midlands. And it’s called the Midlands because it is slap bang in the middle of England. Being in the middle of the country pretty much made it as far removed from the seaside as you could get. This was an issue because, well, the seaside was where most arcades tended to be back then. Being a hundred or so miles away from an arcade meant I had to rely on the 2600 ports for me to get my arcade gaming fix. In fact, I played pretty much all of those classic arcade games on the wood-finished beast that was the Atari 2600. The likes of Frogger, Pac-Man, Asteroids, et al were all first played on our family 2600 before I ever played them in their natural habitat.
There was the rare occasion I would get to venture into an actual arcade though. We had family on the coast in Ramsgate, Kent. Now and again, we’d have a summer family holiday in Ramsgate and when I got bored of building sandcastles or crabbing, I’d venture into an arcade with my older brothers. I remember being quite envious that the arcade games always looked and sounded better than they did on our 2600. I was too young to understand hardware limitations and such back then. I just wanted to know why Galaxian looked so much better in the arcade than when I played it at home.
Those early 80s of the arcade were where my love for gaming began to grow. As I got older, gaming quickly became my main hobby. Building sandcastles or going crabbing became secondary to visiting an arcade with each successive family holiday and with each year I aged. There was something special about the sounds of the arcade. You’d be walking along the promenade with some seaside fish & chips in your hands, then the all too familiar sounds of Pac-Man’s ‘wacka-wacka-wacka’ would call you into the nearest arcade, like a siren enticing a sailor… only not to your death but to your idea of heaven, an Arcade Paradise if you will (#StillAShamelessFreePlug).
I have a very vivid memory of walking around an arcade with my Nan while on a family holiday. As we walked among the many cabinets, Gorf called out ‘insert coin’, though the Votrax speech chip made it sound more like it said ‘insert cloin’. Anyway, when my Nan heard that, she just stopped in her tracks, looked at the cabinet and said: “Is that thing talking to me?”. She kind of sounded both surprised, impressed and insulted that a machine had dared speak to her. Those sounds of the arcade are little nuggets that have been inserted into my brain for eternity. I hear Pole Position say ‘Prepare to qualify’ now and the hippocampus and neocortex in my brain work together to pull a memory from 40 years ago of my older brother’s obsession with trying to get his name at the top of the high score table… then 6-year-old me would have a go, crash into a billboard and I’d think it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
1983s Dragon’s Lair was another game whose sights and sounds spark off memories too. It was the first time I ever heard my older brother swear. He would’ve only been about 12 himself at the time. But when we walked into an arcade and saw Dragon’s Lair… wait, technically we heard it first. There were the usual blips and bloops of the other arcade machines of the day. The occasional very rough speech sample that, in your memories, sounded crystal clear but when you hear them now, you realise how low-quality they were. Anyway, in among all of those very early 80s arcade noises was the always very loud, LaserDisc powered, perfect stereo quality speech of Dragon’s Lair. The booming voice of the announcer drew you to the cabinet, even when it was the other side of the arcade. Me and my brother walked towards the cabinet and the crowd that had amassed to gaze at the game’s beauty. When we saw those Don Bluth animations, that was when I heard my brother say “fucking hell” for the first time.
We also spent a lot of time in Barmouth, Wales for family holidays. That was amazing as there used to be three arcades all within walking distance right there on the seafront. Those three arcades were where my brothers and I would spend most of our holiday money. We’d pretty much live in them for the week we were there. In terms of arcade memories, Barmouth is where most of them stem from and where I played a lot of games for the first time. Paperboy with its handlebar controls and the music that I can still sing (or ‘do-do-do’ to anyway) beat for beat today. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was one of the games I would play often. I was a huge Indy fan back then, to the point that when I grew up, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. To be honest, I only ever really wanted to play the minecart chase bit of the game. I became a bit obsessed with it and I would purposely die when nearing the end of the level so I could stay on the minecart bit as long as I could.
My brother would play Karate Champ and he was really bloody good at it too. I could never get to grips with the whole double joystick controls thing as a kid and would just jump around or pull off moves that were nowhere near a connecting hit, until I got knocked out or time ran out… and I lost. Then there was Ghosts ‘n Goblins. I didn’t understand at the time just how fucking hard that game was. The idea of a game being unbelievably difficult ever entered my mind back then, I thought I was just missing something and that was why I kept dying. On the first stage, very near the start, there’s a bit where you can go up a ladder and there is a plant that shoots at you. To the left was (what I thought was) a shield pick-up. I got it into my head that you had to grab the shield to help you against the projectiles that the plant shot at you. So I’d spend most of my time trying to perfectly time the climb up the ladder and run to the left to grab the ‘shield’. Of course, it was just a bonus pick-up for extra points and all you had to do was shoot the plant. But my younger brain refused to accept that and I kept dying trying to nab that ‘shield’. I never did get past that part of the game, even after pouring stupid amounts of 10ps into it.
OutRun, I can’t explore my growing up in arcades without mentioning OutRun. I was obsessed with this game as a kid. For me, this Sega classic is still one of the greatest games ever made. It is arcade racing perfected and rarely ever beaten. I loved Ferraris as a kid (who didn’t) and I used to have a big Testarossaposter on my wall, one daydreaming that I’d own one when I was older. Being in the arcades circa 1987 was the only way I could experience driving around in a Ferrari Testarossa back then. Everything about that game just clicked. The graphics, the sense of speed, the sunkissed scenery and of course, that immortal music that you can hear in your head no matter where you are. Being on a summer holiday made playing OutRun just that little bit more special too. There is something that can be said for playing a nice sunny game on a hot summer day that adds to the feeling of the game. And if you were lucky enough to find one of the deluxe sit-down cabinets with the hydraulics and all that. Man, that was the only way to play OutRun properly.
Double Dragon, I really must give this game a name-check here as it was the first arcade game I ever finished. It was hard too as I didn’t know of the old elbow spamming trick back then. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many 10ps I had to put into this one before I got to the end. There was actually a little bug/trick during the big fight before the credits. You could get hit/thrown up to the area where the big boss would stay while his henchmen would beat the crap out of you. But while you were up there, the enemies couldn’t hit you and the big boss was ‘technically’ out of the game, so wasn’t programmed to attack from there, you could just beat the crap out of him and he’d do nothing. Still, getting to that point was bloody hard. I’ve always had a soft spot for Double Dragon as it was the first arcade game I got to the end of.
There was one game that brought me and my two brothers closer together, whilst making us bicker and argue at the same time, Gauntlet. I still remember the first time I ever saw that 4-player monster of an arcade cabinet back in Barmouth as a kid. The stunning artwork on the sides with the four characters battling monsters. The four joysticks in front of the larger than normal screen was unreal. My oldest brother Rob, he’d always play as Merlin the wizard. Graham, the middle brother, favoured Thor the warrior and I’d play as Questor the elf. Nobody ever wanted to be Thyra the valkyrie. Even today, if I ever play the original Gauntlet, I just instinctively play as Questor. The fact we had to work as a team in the game made us appreciate each other as we played… the fact you could shoot the food caused many an argument, especially when the game was telling us that “Wizard needs food… badly”. This was unlike anything we had played before and a summer holiday in Barmouth just was not complete without us spending a large chunk of our holiday pocket money on Gauntlet.
Honestly, I could sit here and type thousands upon thousands of words about arcades in the 80s and yes, I know I’ve not named a great many fantastic games. But I need to move on as I still have the 90s to cover yet. But before I do, I really must mention Dayvilles. This place was an ice cream parlour famed for its amazing selection of ice creams, thirty-two flavours to be precise. Anyway, a Dayvilles opened up in my home city of Birmingham in the 80s and as great as the ice cream was, it was what was under Dayvilles that impressed even more… an arcade. My oldest brother discovered it one day as it wasn’t really advertised and if you were just walking past, you’d never know that underneath all of those thirty-two flavours of that ice cream was a basement arcade. This meant that I didn’t have to wait until the annual family summer holiday to get my arcade fix as this one was a 40-minute bus ride away. Whenever my bother would go into town, which was every weekend, he’d take me along with him and every weekend we’d go into Dayvilles, down the stairs and spend hours playing arcade games.
Being in the basement, the Dayvilles arcade was a very dark and grim place. There wasn’t a great deal of room down there either and the selection of games was a bit slim. I’d say they’d have maybe ten or so cabinets. But to us, it felt so much bigger. It lacked the sunny seaside appeal of going to a bigger arcade during a summer holiday but still, this little underground arcade in the middle of the concrete jungle that was Birmingham City centre was better than a swift kick in the nards. It was where I first played R-Type and my love for the series was born. By the time the latter part of the 80s rolled around, the arcade scene really began to grow too. More and more city arcades began to pop up and there was a handful in Birmingham where I grew up, arguably ‘better’ ones too. Still, there was something special about that Dayvilles arcade, the fact it was hidden away underground made you feel like you had discovered a secret only a few knew of.
Anyway, the 90s. By now, gaming had exploded and the home market was quickly catching up with what the arcades could do. Home consoles such as the SNES and Megadrive were capable of giving us gamers almost arcade-perfect ports and sometimes with a few extra bells and whistles. I mean, the Megadrive port of Golden Axe was pretty damn great eh? Arcades had also grown and more began to appear too. The 90s was the point where gaming really began to be seen as less of a ‘dirty’ pastime. Oh don’t get me wrong, there was still a bit of a stigma attached to the whole gaming thing, but it was lesser than it used to be in the 80s. We used to take the family dog for a good run at a place called the Lickey Hills. It is this huge park in the middle of the countryside, a few miles away from the city centre of Birmingham. If you grew up in Birmingham in the 70s, 80s and 90s, then you knew of the Lickey Hills. We spent hours there as kids in the 80s and yet, it wasn’t until the very late 80s or early 90s when I learned that it had its very own arcade. This wasn’t some dark and dismal basement-dwelling either. The Lickey Hills arcade was huge, it was like the kind of arcade you’d find at the seaside… only not at the seaside. I’ve only just learned, while researching for this very article, that not only is the arcade still there (changed a lot over the years) but it has been there for a hundred years and has been owned by the same family for all that time too.
All those times that me and my brother would go into the city centre and spend hours underground cramped in at Dayvilles, there was this much bigger, more open arcade with many more games and only a few miles from where we lived at the time and where we often took the dog for a walk. I have no idea how we missed it for so many years. But I guess that was just how it was back then, arcades were not advertised and you only really know of them via word of mouth. Then there was the fact that arcades were most definitely more of a summer holiday thing. You’d expect to find an arcade when on holiday and on the coastline, but not so much a few miles from a major city near a big park in the countryside.
Fletcher’s Arcade (as it was called back then) was where I spent a lot of my teenage years. I turned 14 in 1990 and was well into my gaming by then and on my way to becoming an adult. This was where I first saw and played Street Fighter II. I remember it well because it wasn’t a ‘normal’ arcade cabinet, as is the standard kind of stand up arcade cabinet you’d usually see. It had a much bigger screen than the normal cabinet. Then it had an angled bench where you didn’t quite sit down, it was more a case of that you leaned back whilst standing up, resting your arse on the angled bench. It was glorious.
Street Fighter II is a perfect place to bring up the beginning of the death of the arcades, because it was when the home ports came out that we gamers realised that the arcades were becoming less and less of an attraction in the early 90s. I mean, the SNES port of Street Fighter II was so damn good that you really didn’t need to go to the arcade to play Street Fighter II anymore. This was the era when arcades had to do something bold that was hard or impossible to replicate at home.
8-player Daytona USA, as an example. I mean a home port of Daytona USA wouldn’t exist for a few years anyway and even then, it wouldn’t be 8-player. So yeah, the early and mid-90s was when the arcade tried to lure us console gamers back into the arcade with technology that you just couldn’t get at home. Sure the Terminator 2: Judgment Day home port was decent enough…. but you couldn’t match the awesome original arcade version with the 2-player, twin uzis. In a way, the early 90s of the arcade were going back a decade to the early 80s, by trying to entice people in with interesting cabinets and peripherals. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was basically Operation Wolf and while we may have had light guns at home, they didn’t have the force feedback as they did in the arcade. The sit-down racing cabinets of the 80s were now the multiplayer sit-down cabinets of the 90s. But it wasn’t just about rehashing old tech as new. Old game ideas were also being updated in an attempt to lure folk back into the arcades.
Sega’s Time Traveler was really nothing more than a more modern take on Dragon’s Lair… only now with holograms. It was the same (but improved) laserdisc technology, with the same QTE styled gameplay. But instead of hand-drawn animations, it was now ‘live action’ actors displayed using 3D holograms. I mean, both Dragon’s Lair and Time Traveler were designed by the same man, Rick Dyer. It was an interesting age of the arcade, seeing a lot of the older 80s ideas being brought back for a new audience. Sometimes, you could find a real beaut of an arcade cabinet too. Like the full scale Ridge Racer in Blackpool (I got to play this in its heyday). This truly was a thing to marvel at. You sat in an actual Mazda MX-5 (or Eunos Roadster if you’re from Japan) and the controls of the car worked to play the game on three massive screens. You used the actual car radio to select music, the gear-stick changed the gears and the air con threw air in your face as you raced. The full scale Ridge Racer was amazing and was a perfect example of what arcades were doing to try to keep people coming in.
Anyway, the great thing about Fletcher’s Arcade was that it sat between two pubs. As I got older, the family summer holiday gave way to hanging out with my friends, going to the pub for a few beers, popping in the arcade, going back to the pub for some more beers and rounding the day off with some more games in the arcade. But even so, around the mid-90s, it was fast becoming clear that the arcade was slowly dying out because the home market was not just catching up with the arcades but quite often exceeding it. Fletcher’s Arcade was great, it was big, it had everything covered. Older retro games and the latest cutting edge games too. I could pop in and play some Ghosts ‘n Goblins and still not finish the first level. To then go and play some Virtua Cop 2 just by walking a few feet. It really was the best of both worlds in terms of an arcade. But you know what it didn’t have? The likes of Resident Evil, WipEout and so on.
The ‘PlayStation era’, the 32-bit generation of home consoles, that was the nail in the coffin of the arcade. I mean, I could play Tekken at home now and with a load of extra stuff the arcade version just didn’t have. But I couldn’t play Final Fantasy VII or Grand Theft Auto in the arcade, could I? By the time 1995 rolled around, the home market had all but won. Sega had released its Saturn console and that was more than capable of playing all those great arcade hits. Sega Rally, Virtua Cop, Dead or Alive, RayStorm and so on. Tip-top arcade games that we could now play at home, why would you want to go to the arcade anymore? When the PlayStation became so dominant and popular, the arcade really didn’t stand a chance.
My visits to the arcade became less and less frequent as it was easier to stay at home and play arcade quality games (and more) instead. Of course, the arcade pretty much all but died out over the next few years in the latter part of the 90s. You could find specialist arcades though, the likes of Sega and Namco created their very own arcade entertainment venues to try and keep the arcade alive… but they just weren’t true arcades. They weren’t those dingy basement dungeons that felt secretive and as if you were an exclusive member, they weren’t the seaside escapes that you used to get away when you were bored of making sandcastles and crabbing. They were loud and brash ‘please look at me, I’m still an arcade… honest’ things that certainly had the games to keep you entertained, but they lacked the appeal of the 80s and 90s heydays.
It’s kind of sad to walk along the beachfront here in the UK and see what passes as an ‘arcade’ these days. We took a little family holiday last summer just for a week to Torquay. Myself, my lass and our two young kids. Our daughter is now the age I was when I first got into gaming and arcades. I thought it would be great to take her to a classic arcade and show her the games I grew up playing from 40 years ago, the games I played as a teenager and the ones I played as a young adult in the mid-90s. Could I find one though? Nope. I found loads of ‘arcades’ with claw machines and all that crap. Those semi-fixed machines that spit out tickets, which you can then swap for a shit cuddly toy that you could just buy for £5 anyway. Man, it was depressing to think that crap is what is considered an ‘arcade’ these days.
Still, it’s not all depression though as there are some great retro arcades out there, if you know where to look. Most of them with the business model that you pay a fixed amount for a set time, and you are unleashed on many classic arcade cabinets (set to free play) from the good ‘ole days. They may not be the seaside attractions they used to be, but they do still exist.
You see ladies and gentlemen, this is why I’m so looking forward to Arcade Paradise (#YupStillMostDefinitelyAShamelessFreePlug). It’s a chance for me to relive the glory days of the arcade, to revisit my youth and all, rather ironically, by not having to leave the house. Using the very method that killed the arcade in the first place to enjoy the arcade once more that I sorely miss. But seriously though gentle reader, if you are a fan of those classic arcade days, get Arcade Paradise on your radar, ‘cos it really does look awesome.
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