Sundays are lazy days in our house. We typically take care of some overlooked housework and then lounge around for the rest of the day. This past Sunday my daughter, Mae, seemed a bit restless and wanted to get out and go do something. Having just finished vacuuming out the car, I still had a few quarters in my pocket and thought, “Hey, let’s go to the arcade”.
Luckily, in my neck of the woods we have a pretty decent arcade. Hidden towards the back, behind a few pinball machines covered in a thick layer of dust, I found what I had wanted to introduce Mae to: retro arcade cabinets! I don’t really like the idea of modern arcades where children gamble for tickets to exchange for cheap, plastic garbage. I had always preferred to spend my quarters going for a high score or competing with others in racing games. It was always about the experience of playing the game, rather than the prizes won.
Our local arcade, Family Fun Center, has a variety of pinball machines, arcade games and plenty of the newer, interactive stuff too. Walk past the broken NFL Blitz machine, (RIP) and you will find some of the most popular examples of the retro gaming scene out there. Arkanoid, Frogger, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Aero Fighters, Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons and Area 51. We even found a few that I hadn’t seen before and they turned out to be really fun. One of the great things about playing retro arcade games is that most every game is a quarter. Most of the newer machines at Family Fun Center range from 2-4 quarters, but I only found one of the older machines that took two. This gives you access to a wider selection of games to spend quarters on. Too often have I parted with 4-6 quarters for some amazing looking arcade game, only to be killed or lose after a few seconds. Few things are more heartbreaking to a young child than seeing all of your money disappear on one game.
Mae and I first had a go at Frogger. I played the first round to show her how it works and she set off jumping and dodging cars. She was able to consistently make it past the cars, but wasn’t able to navigate the logs as easily. Centipede was also a hit because of the funky trackball vs. the traditional joystick. She lost pretty quickly, but at least she had a good time spinning the trackball as fast as her tiny hands could go. We also played two retro racing games that Mae thoroughly enjoyed: S.T.U.N. Runner and Race Drivin’.
S.T.U.N. Runner is a fully 3D racer that has you traveling over 900 mph! You sit on what resembles a motorcycle and use a fancy yoke-style controller with triggers to fire laser cannons. I was impressed with Mae’s ability to navigate the speeder. S.T.U.N. Runner looks great and has very responsive controls for a 30 year old machine. One small issue we ran into with the retro games was that the sound was distorted or broken on pretty much every machine we tried. This isn’t too much of an issue in a loud arcade where the sound of a small cabinet would have been drowned out by the incessant thumping of a nearby DDR machine anyway.
The other racer we played was called Race Drivin’ and it had to be one of the most detailed arcade cabs of its time. The cockpit has a seat that swings out and allows you to climb inside and be fully immersed in the game. The wheel uses force feedback and includes an ignition key, manual shifter and a clutch. The UI even includes unique, detailed dashboards for each car. Luckily, there was an automatic mode and my foot fit snugly on the accelerator while Mae would steer the car and careen into objects at top speed.
In total we spent about an hour at the arcade and used maybe $3 in quarters, which was more than enough to try a wide selection of retro games. This was a great way to spend part of our afternoon without breaking the bank.