By this point in time, discussing the greatness of an arcade really ostracizes a good chunk of the audience. Despite the fact that I pride myself on the extensive research I do on my articles’ subjects, I have no real idea where the age cutoff for arcade appreciation is.
Unfortunately, a huge portion of video game appreciating populace has gotten their gaming intake from home consoles their entire lives. Their only arcade experience comes from arcade imposters such as Dave & Busters. While places like these are a relatively decent place to waste time, to say they have arcade qualities is an insult. Dave & Busters consists of 95% mostly crummy ticket games, three shooting games, and Dance Dance Revolution. I think. Do people still play that game? The only great thing there is the trivia game, mostly because it’s the only thing I’m really good at.
I also like playing that game where the basketball hoop moves back and forth. The problem with that is I always have to give off an air of humorous nonchalance, because if people knew I was actually trying, and failing so miserably, it would look even more pathetic than it already does.
Don’t cry too hard for the current generation of younger gamers. They do, after all, get to play ridiculously good looking games while slouching on the sofa instead of Indian style (sorry, Native American style) on the floor three feet in front of the TV due to the limitations of their wired controller.
That said, the current video gaming experience has lost a lot of character. There is no more of the lining up of quarters on the game cabinet to cement your place in line. This was a foolproof way of keeping order, unless someone knocked the buttons too hard, sending the row of quarters into the game cabinet. Those were traumatizing events.
They also miss out on a very important tradition. Prior to the internet, when a new fighting game would come out, you would have to wait for the next issue of a magazine to come out to find out the moves. Sleazy people took advantage of this by hanging out by the brand new Mortal Kombat II and Super Street Fighter games, selling photocopied move lists. It wasn’t until you bought this list and the seller left, that you realized the information was almost entirely inaccurate.
You may have gotten screwed, but you had to respect the entrepreneurship.
The point of all this is that I was very pleased to find out that actual arcades are still alive, even if they are not well. When visiting my family in Colorado recently, my dad had told me about this arcade they had. He described it as being a block long, and that my brother and sister had loved it.
I tried to reverse engineer these statements, as oftentimes facts that come out of my dad tend to go through an odd logic filter. I understood these statements to mean that at some place, there would be a few games, and my brother and sister had acknowledged their existence.
Upon actually visiting this arcade, I was floored. It is in a strange area near Colorado Springs, called Manitou Springs. From the time spent there (not much), and from the attention I paid (not much), it seemed that the area was made up almost entirely of stores that sold jackets made from hemp. The theme of the stores seemed to be “Stuff you would see at a farmer’s market or local festival that isn’t vegetables or pies”.
The first view I had of the arcade was surprising. There was a section devoted to children’s rides, the ones you put a quarter in and it gyrates back and forth for thirty seconds. Except there weren’t one or two. There were, approximately, eighty.
Unfortunately, it was around this time that I realized that my camera was basically dead. So I couldn’t take individual pictures of each ride. I’m sorry, I know you’re disappointed.
But don’t even think for a second of knocking these rides. They may seem rather pedestrian, but a couple of them are pretty intense. If you don’t believe me, check out the airtime the kid on the orange 4×4 is getting.
Despite having the stupid glowing side panels and being emblazoned with “Batman Forever”, I have to say the coolest ride in the lot would be the Batmobile. If you don’t get why it’s the coolest, it’s just not worth explaining.
(It’s because I’m a loser and love Batman.)
There was very little rhyme or reason to the layout of the arcade. Apparently, either renting or owning these buildings is so dirt cheap, that whoever is running the arcade just basically bought a block of stores. It’s like getting a surprise arcade every time. I wonder what’s in this store, oh cool – arcade games! Let’s look next door, I want to see what’s in there. Oh, arcade games.
You’d think the novelty of that would wear off eventually. And you would be incorrect. Some games were inside, some were outside. The only real way to sum it up is that there are games everywhere.
Rounding the corner to the first batch of games, you knew you would be in for a good time. There was a block of classic games that you aren’t very likely to see too often: Space Invaders, Return of the Jedi, and Tron. Granted, I didn’t really want to play any of those classics. But it’s nice to know they were there.
Although I will admit that Jedi game piqued the curiosity of the Star Wars loser within. I don’t even remember this game coming out. Maybe it isn’t a classic; I can’t actually say. I would assume classics are remembered.
As it turned out, the Return of the Jedi game is actually pretty awesome. It’s done in a ¾ perspective, and mostly involves wildly swinging the control stick left and right, trying to avoid flying into a tree. So it does a great job of recreating those speeder bike scenes.
There were many more games in this outdoor grouping, but I forget what they are. But to make this paragraph somewhat useful, I will mention the very wonderful fact that what it costs to play these games is the price listed on the cabinet. That means a quarter for the vast majority, and a large number of them requiring even less. None of this “One dollar to play Pac Man” nonsense that places like the aforementioned Dave & Buster’s employs.
The next batch of games steps up the luxury factor, as you actually get to play them indoors. It is a collection of older games, and in most cases, much older games.
What was nice about these was that it reminded me that no matter what era they are from, and how primitive or advanced they might be, I am not very good at pinball games. It’s a different type of aggravation, losing at pinball. When you die in a video game, you can usually rationalize it. You got hit too many times, you made a stupid jump, whatever. But there is nothing quite as frustrating as watching the ball go from the top of the board, and slowly but surely make its way down the center, right between the flippers.
You can see it coming, you know what’s about to happen, but there is nothing you can do about it. Except shake the game, if you don’t mind making a public spectacle of yourself.
This genius idea occurred to me many years ago, whilst playing the Terminator 2 pinball game. Usually, I was content to just press start without adding a quarter, so I could hear Arnold say, “No way, Jose”. But once in a while, I would actually play the game. It was during one of these times that I had the bright idea that when I knew the ball was about to go down the center, to lift the game up and let it hit back down, altering the path of the ball.
Rather than a minor victory over pinball physics, I was treated to a loud buzzing, while the screen that displayed the score just said TILT. The buzzing didn’t stop until one of the arcade attendants came over, and reset something. I guess this isn’t a very frightening tale, but this also happened back when I was young enough to think that arcade attendants had the authority to hit you.
If the thrill of staring at Elton John’s posterior isn’t enough to lure you into playing pinball for an extended period of time, there are other ways to get your lascivious thrills. You could always take advantage of the arcade’s primitive adult games.
I don’t know what these games actually consist of, since they just seemed too creepy to try. Also, I wasn’t about to put my face against that viewer. And even if that candy looked good, that really is just terrible placement.
Unless you are already familiar with it, my describing Nunley’s amusement park just wouldn’t do it any justice. I would say “maybe in another article”, but seeing as I don’t have any pictures and they are hard to come by online, I don’t see that happening. Long story less long, Nunley’s was a small amusement park on Long Island. They had a handful of primitive yet awesome rides including a famous carousel.
As I got too big to go on the rides (note I didn’t say too old, just too big), I took more interest in their vast game assortment. What made this collection great is similar to what makes the Colorado arcade great – the large quantity of old games. Thankfully, the Colorado arcade contained one of my favorites from Nunleys.
The road test simulator wasn’t a very fun game by any means. It was supposed to either prepare you for your road test, or to let you know how good your current driving skills were. The “game” consisted of having your little metal car try to stay on the road, which was just a revolving wheel. I invariably would do terribly on this. Not so much because I didn’t have good technique, or I wasn’t paying attention. It was mostly due to the fact that this game simulated what it was like to drive a car without power steering. Every left or right involved Herculean effort. It made driving a strenuous, tiring activity. I’m pretty sure this game was created with the purpose of discouraging young people from driving.
On the way out of the retro room, we come across a rather large game. This is simply a cannon version of the Knock Down carnival game, which involved you actually throwing the balls. I always loved this game. It was a game that I was actually pretty good at. The throwing version, that is. I turned out to be pretty bad at the cannon version. I felt smug going into the game, with my “aim for the dead center since the ball goes right through the hair” experience. Unfortunately, I had no real concept of where the ball would shoot, and by the time I got the hang of the arc, I was out of balls.
Jumping forward in time, there are plenty of games to fulfill your desire to play games based on licensed characters. As I poorly explained many years back, licensed games are usually junk. Even when the core gameplay is decent, a lot of things can be a turn off.
Take Batman Forever, for example. The game itself isn’t bad, but by no means can it be called a good game. Walk right, punch, jump, kick, rinse, repeat. At the same time, I don’t want to play a game with Chris O’Donnell in it. Nothing against him, but… hmm, I guess there is something against him in that case. And if I’m going to play as a Val Kilmer character, it better be Doc Holliday.
On the opposite end of the licensed game quality spectrum, we have Turtles in Time. It is a fantastic game. In fact, my only problem with it is the placement of creepy “real” Ninja Turtles on the game cabinet. They are at a really awkward midpoint between toys and living creatures, like some sort of Turtle Realdoll.
While it is a great game, I never got into Turtles in Time as much as I got into the original Ninja Turtles arcade game. That game falls into a smaller group of arcade brawlers that is far above its peers, as well as it being a game that I just spent a lot more time (and money) on. The TMNT arcade game’s blood relative also taking its place in this elite group would be the X-Men arcade game.
Even the little touches in the arcade turned out to be pretty awesome. The soda machine was old, and even kept the old logos in the product selection buttons. My only disappointment was that the Mountain Dew cans didn’t have the old look as well, instead of the awful current design. Although I guess that would have meant the soda itself was old as well. But as we know, that wouldn’t stop me.
Now, we’ve all had a lot of fun learning about this unique arcade. Okay, I guess “a lot” is stretching it. That also probably stretches the definition of “learning”. I would just delete the original sentence, but it’s all the way over there. And this may not encourage anyone who hasn’t already been there to visit it.
But hopefully if you take something away from this besides “I wish I had my time back”, it’s the fact that little pockets of awesomeness like this arcade still do exist. So try to seek out these types of great things. Or just check them out of you happen to stumble across one and have nothing better to do. Which, admittedly, is my preferred method.