“Each was housed in a large rectangular wooden box containing a cathode picture tube with a set of crude game controls mounted in front of it. You used your hand and your eyes (and occasionally your feet) to play these games. There were no haptics. These games didn’t make you feel anything.” – Ready Player One, Ernest Cline, describing old cabinet arcade games
The consoles of the 80s were set in wood and fed on quarters. You could not swipe your hand to move nor say a word to engage a command nor view them in stunning HD. Most were at times unresponsive and simplistic with buttons. The high score was usually what mattered.
ArcadeCraft by Firebase Industries is a sim that that allows you to take the reins of a fledgling arcade store in the 80s. You need to cleverly grow and manage your business to attract the gamers and crowd necessary to keep you in business afloat, all the while constantly emptying coin chambers and slapping around mischievous customers.
ArcadeCraft allows you to control an arcade shop starting in 1980. You can purchase cabinets and place them in the store, hoping some weary travelers will happen to drop by and play some games. As you add more cabinets, your store’s rating increases, as does the amount of people that decide your arcade is the place to be.
You are allowed to change the cost of each play for games as well as the difficulty. The higher the cost, the less likely individuals are to play the game, a simple premise following the simple notion of supply and demand. As the months pass, more and more games are created and available to be purchased. However, outside factors, such as home releases of certain games and a local kid beating the high score, can drive the popularity of different cabinets and allow you to change the price per play accordingly. During the game, you will have several mishaps where machines break down from normal wear and tear, or just full out abuse from angry players. So, you tend to have to stay on top of everything, especially through the first year.You guide the arcade through 1986, buying and selling arcade cabinets along the way.
ArcadeCraft was designed in the same vein as the 2011 Bestselling Ready Player One. The game builds upon nostalgia of the video arcades of the 80s. And just like the novel, ArcadeCraft does a spectacular job at building something exciting and fun rooted in the past.
ArcadeCraft is kind of bare. The game allows you to micromanage the numerous arcade cabinets you have on the floor, jacking up the price per play up to the un-godly price of $1. However, the easiest way to succeed is not to mess with the price. Only a handful of cabinets stay productive after the price is bumped above a quarter, and part of the game is discovering the ones that actually allow you to do that. But, you are almost better off marking most cabinets at the minimum except when a certain game is placed on a bonus square, next to a sequel cabinet or the local gamer sets the high score on it.
While ArcadeCraft does have numerous cabinets available to place in the arcade, this is not Animal Crossing, you cannot play the games you buy and put in your arcade, for better or worse. While the idea would be interesting, if you really wanted to play a bunch of old arcade games, countless compilation disks are available to so do; this is a simulator similar to Zoo Tycoon.
ArcadeCraft is not easy to start off with. You really need to know what you are doing to fully take off. I, myself, had to re-start the game a few times in order to finally get the hang of everything and being on the right foot. However, when things get rolling, everything tends to fall into place, and you just follow the pattern of success the rest of the way through. Whether or not this was an intentional nod to the fact many start-ups fail in the first year, is debatable, the fact remains, ArcadeCraft starts off with a steep learning curve that generally levels out.
One tip, once you hire the kid to collect the coins, you can pause the game and let him catch-up with collecting coins. This is ideal if you want to maximize your profits, since games cannot collect more coins if they are already full; the downside is you have to frequently stop to let him do that. There is approximately a five second delay between when he finishes collecting one machine and starts another. But to be honest, I have no idea how much this actually helps; however, the process made me feel better and gave me a sense of calm compared to staying on my toes while running the place.
That brings me to perhaps my biggest gripe about ArcadeCraft, it keeps going – non-stop. Even the biggest, multi-national corporations have nights to regulate, reorganize and restructure the business. However, ArcadeCraft seems to be a 24-Hour Wal-Mart where the shop is open, even if no one is there. How difficult is it to ask for a minute break between days. No wonder the shop closes after six year; the guy hasn’t slept the entire time. Instead he emptied cabinets, tossed out numskulls and bought and sold more arcade games.
Again, that brings up another unfortunate aspect of ArcadeCraft; you only get to play through six years. Sure, they were six glorious years, but they go so quickly.
While you lack the intrinsic opportunities afforded to micromanage in the Tycoon games, ArcadeCraft is a simple game that can easily take up hours of your time. It is fun, addicting and aggravating at times, but sheer silliness involved in running your own arcade from clearing jammed coin slots to tossing out routs of friends’ fiendish avatars bashing on your machine to frantically emptying out the cabinet Bobby Danger the Gamer beat the high score on, ArcadeCraft delivers an experience that is extremely enjoyable, even if it only last through the mid-80s.
Final Rating: 9/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Time to completion: Four hours
Price Bought at: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
Current Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
Why you should buy it: It is a fun sim game that allows you to control an arcade.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: If you hate simulators of the Tycoon variety.