We had had Arcade Paradise from Wired Productions and developer Nosebleed Interactive on our radar for quite a while, and were eager to finally get our hands on it. It’s out now for PCs, Xbox and PlayStation – here are our thoughts on the PlayStation 5 version.
The start of why we had been looking forward to Arcade Paradise lies with UKIE’s digital competition for their “game of the show” for last year’s EuroPlay, which happened around Gamescom. We liked what we saw in the competition so much that we followed it up with a developer interview not long after, but it took Nosebleed close to another year to get their ambitious vision for the game to a state where it could be released.
The good news is that it mostly lives up to its retro-fueled promise, and will be a joy to play for almost anyone who fondly remembers the heyday of the videogame arcade – even though this one’s actually a management title rather than the usual ‘arcade game’ you associate with the retro arcade genre. There are times where you won’t even realize that though, and that’s the magic of the game here.
It can take a while before you get to that point though, as the game starts out with you running the King Wash, a laudromat that your dad (voiced by Doug Cockle) owns. This isn’t exactly what you were dreaming of, but the work (of cleaning up garbage and keeping the place running and clean) still has to be done. You’ll toss laundry into a washer, put it in the dryer afterwards, and sometimes you’ll even have to declog the toilets, so there’s a lot of not too exciting busywork at work – though thankfully most of it is handled through little minigames. Slowly but surely though, you’ll be able to turn the place into an arcade, and that’s when the real fun starts – although those toilets will always be a bother.
Building an arcade is a different type of business, with its own challenges, like machines breaking down. But where you start off with a few machines that people can plan on while they wait for their laundry, the “arcade” part of your establishment will gradually grow and become more than a little side thing in a back room. You’ll spend time tweaking how much you charge for a single play, how challenging the games should be, and thus how much time people can spend with them on a single quarter – affecting how much money you’ll make and if you’ll turn a profit.
And while that’s a lot of “management stuff”, which also includes enlarging your arcade by literally knocking down the walls of the laundromat, there’s also room for fun. You’ll still need to make enough in order to make these changes and buy new machines at the same time, but when you’re not working towards that you can also play any of these machines yourself. With about three dozen games to buy and play, there’s a lot to choose from – and as you’d expect you’ll probably gravitate towards some of them more than others. While some are somewhat formulaic and almost carbon copies of classics, others (like Racer Chaser) have more unique mechanics attached to them. But while you won’t stick with all of them, they’re all well made, and you’ll want to try out each game at least once.
Part of that is that everything about Arcade Paradise has a nice air of nostalgia about it. Obviously that’s true for the arcade games themselves, which sometimes even use green monochrome visuals for a really ‘retro’ feel, but it also extends to the general look and feel of both the laundromat and the arcade. Your in-game office included, as it gives off an early nineties vibe with the sweet sounds of a dialup modem connecting to the early internet. Add a great soundtrack with some 80s synths and 90s beats, and it’s a trip down memory lane even if the games are all “originals”. It’s not the greatest looking game on a technical level, but it nails the aesthetic.
Arcade Paradise feels like a campaign-driven management game more than a sandbox experience as things will start to feel a tad repetitive once your arcade reaches its full potential, but by the time you get to that point you’ll have spent dozens of hours building your arcade empire – and having a wonderful time doing so.