Many gamers of my generation have fond, and often rose-tinted, memories of our first foray into videogames. For most of us this was not an in-home experience, but one shared with friends with what little pocket money or part time job pay we could muster. The sounds, the smells and the environment of the arcades, all made for a communal experience that you can no longer find in modern gaming.
Arcade Paradise taps directly into this almost Neanderthalic part of the older gamers psyche and turns it all the way up to 11.
From the opening cinematic with its nod to early 90’s trends; the drone of the alarm clock everyone owned, the orange foam headphones and Walkman, and even the parody NTV music channel all draw you in to Ashley’s world from the outset.
You have just left your job at the “Pizza King” and your dad Gerald, voiced by the unmistakeable Doug Cockle, has seen fit to let you loose to run the local Laundrette he owns while he relaxes on the Riviera. This requires you to clean up after the slobbish patrons, load their laundry to wash and dry, while making sure the facilities don’t break down. The major perk is that the laundromat back room is kitted out with a couple of arcade machines from when your older sister undertook this parental rite of passage before you, and these are far more profitable than your first day washing clothes. Against your father’s instructions you and your sister conspire to make the Wash King Arcade successful to prove him wrong.
As you progress and upgrade the laundrette, you will get tips and new opportunities from your sister as she tries to help you make a success of the business.
Most of the tasks you perform requires you to complete a simple minigame, from cracking the lock on your safe to deposit your daily takings, attacking the toilets health with a plunger to unblock it, or even timing the perfect pull to remove stubborn chewing gum, you will find yourself quickly getting a routine for these tasks as the days roll on, with some rewarding you additional cash depending how well you perform the task.
Thankfully, it is not long before you earn enough money to increase the arcade machines you have in stock, or even expand your property to give you even more room to fit cabinets. Playing and completing goals on each of the machines improves its popularity meaning more games per hour and more money in your coffers. There is a very well-balanced progression in the early game, with more of your time focused on the running of the laundromat, rushing off any time your watch alarm goes to notify of a completed wash. Delay too long, and your earnings fall rapidly so to begin it is quite difficult to balance the books while also getting time to play the arcades, until the cabinets become profitable enough that you never need to wash another garment again.
As you progress, you also unlock daily to-do tasks which reward you with a second, premium currency allowing you to buy upgrades ranging from reducing how often the facilities or cabinets break, unlocking new functions on your very basic PC, (including minesweeper and solitaire!!!), advertising your business, or hiring an assistant to collect your profits from the hoppers for you, all helping to leave you free and clear to play as many arcade games as you want.
The games themselves are pretty faithful recreations or interpretations of classic titles like Outrun, Pac-Man, Merc and even air hockey, and with over 30 cabinets there is bound to be a few that you will find yourself being told to leave the property at 2am because the working day is over. Racer Chaser featuring prominently with the additional mechanics of being able to pick up a speed boost that lets you outrun pursuers, or even run to a new vehicle whenever you are caught, stunning police with your Ghetto Blaster music, allowing a little more flexibility and survivability over the original game.
Early on you unlock a jukebox as well which has an eclectic mix of trance, grunge and pop all reminiscent of the hey-day of 90’s music which just elevates and accentuates that “lightning in a bottle” that was 90’s gaming.
Regrettably, during my playthrough I did have a few irritating bugs occur. Most are minor such as To-do tasks failing to update, individual hoppers becoming un-interactable until you return the following day or reload, and I even had a critical bug where the delivery guys dropped off a cabinet twice, locking me into the map as there was no space to place the second cabinet. (Thankfully this occurred early, as I had to completely wipe all saves to allow me to start again, but I was always wary about buying a new cabinet in case I didn’t have room).
Arcade Paradise is a competent and enjoyable title that has something to bring to the table, whether that be to re-trigger those preteen/teenage endorphins of getting a high score on your favourite machine or to experience some of the storied history of gaming if you were born after arcades were in vogue, there is a lot of fun to be had in this title despite the minor flaws.