Arcade Paradise Preview – Spin cycle while you’re winning

Arcade Paradise Header

Sticky floors, cigarette burns, and a fundamental lack of understanding about the positive qualities of deodorant may take you on a sensory journey to memories of backstreet boozers. However, if you grew up in the 90s it might take you somewhere else entirely. At the time arcades were the zenith of gaming entertainment; ageing cabinets and their mysterious burns nestling next to dayglo plastic guns with thick metal cables and floor-filling Ridge Racer setups. It brought everything about gaming together in one place, and the experiences were still far beyond what you could recreate at home.

Somebody at Nosebleed Interactive sure remembers those heady days where you had pockets filled with 50p coins. They’ve seen fit to craft a game that’s not only set in and about running an arcade, they’ve made a bunch of games to go in it as well. Now, that’s certainly worth a few goes.

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The excitement at the start of the game is far from palpable. You’ve actually been given a laundrette to run. You’re Ashley, a wayward kid with “half a degree in business management”, and your unsupportive Dad – played by a distinctly un-Geralt-like Doug Cockle – has left you the keys, the bin bags, and the plunger. He hopes you’re going to turn this dirty, forgotten launderette into a slightly tidier, slightly less forgotten one. However, your half a degree means you quickly see more chance of success with the ageing arcade machines hidden away in a dusty back room. It’s definitely the more exciting option.

You’ve still got to run the laundrette as well as the arcade – you’ve got two ways to rinse your customers, it turns out! Your day begins by tidying up the mess left from the night’s laundry-toting patrons, picking up pizza boxes, clearing suspicious socks and peeling gum off the seats. You also have to unblock the lavatory. All of these maintenance tasks have simple power gauge minigames, and a better performance earns you extra income to put towards the side of the business you’re actually interested in.

Besides cleaning up, there’s laundry to do. People drop off their baskets – these are annoying invisible people who seem to be able to silently leave a whole basket of washing the moment you’ve turned your back – and you wash and dry the contents, patiently watching the timers on the machine tick down to zero. There is however another option other than watching digital LEDs; you can go and play video games!

Arcade Paradise laundrette management

Tucked away in the scruffy back room are a batch of arcade machines, and they’re playable in-game. Nosebleed Interactive has crafted fully interactive experiences, staying true to the 90s aesthetic by taking in the 8, 16, and 32-bit eras. Amazingly they’re not simple placeholder pieces, but genuinely engaging games. It’s all too easy to forget you’ve put a wash on.

You start off with three machines in place, with the ability to buy more the early driving force for your activities. Woodgal’s Adventure is a match-3 puzzler with a vibrant hub world, mixing Candy Crush with Toejam and Earl as you try to feed the local critters. Meanwhile Racer Chaser is a cheeky take on Pacman, with you trying to escape the cops while collecting money. If they catch you there’s the opportunity to run away on foot and collect another car, extending your play. It’s an overtly clever reworking of the old dot collecting we know and quietly endure.

Strike Gold is Mr Driller by another name, while Stack Overflow is a puzzler that’s heavily influenced by the old Tower of Hanoi setup. They’re later joined by even more evocatively titled games like Penguin Push, Smoke ‘Em 3D and Bomb Dudes, the last of which I’m pretty sure must owe something to Capcom’s men with bombs.

Arcade Paradise original retro games

There’s launderette management and arcade management to balance here, all the while as you’re trying to stay on top of the mundane tasks of running a business. Having emptied your punters’ pockets, you collect money from the machine’s hoppers, banking it in the safe in your office to spend on new machines – another minigame lurks here. The commitment to the 90s’ aesthetic extends to logging onto your computer with the crackles and beeps of a 56k modem, before using a classic desktop setup, though it reminded me more of the Amiga than a PC.

The clever twist here is that you need to play the games in order to maximise their profitability. Each game has a series of goals that improve its popularity, and these are tied to in-game achievements. Get a high score or complete the level on Woodgal’s Adventure and you’ll unlock two of the four goals. There’s the other factors you’d expect of a management sim: change the price per game to draw people in, though at the risk of increased wear on the machine, or up the difficulty to make people spend more, etc. It’s never been done in quite this way though.

Arcade Paradise is shaping up to be a retro gaming delight. It’s particularly going to hit with those that grew up in or around the era, but the unique setting and the original games make this a management sim you can’t help but become involved in. Making money is still key, but your desire to clean up is only the starting point.

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Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.

1 Comment

  1. Looks cool. All depends on the price though.

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