The rise of the simulator genre in games has been one to watch, as players get to indulge in everything, from growing a farming powerhouse to achieving peak zen by power washing dirt and grime off surfaces. With Arcade Paradise, we can now add running the arcade of your dreams to the list, and despite some rough edges, this is one nostalgic management trip that makes for the perfect time sink.
Developed by Nosebleed Interactive and published by Wired Productions, Arcade Paradise lets players assume the role of Ashley, a somewhat unwilling manager of a rundown laundromat owned by none other than Geralt of The Witcher series himself, Doug Cockle, whose constant voice messages in the game are full of advice and warnings, but also a delight. Of course, washing rags and drying clothes are never fun, and some quick thinking sees a change in goals, with us embarking on a ‘90s retro adventure to create the ultimate video game arcade.
Things are understandably slow at the start, with limited hours each day to get your tasks done in whichever manner you wish. Washing and drying clothes is a steady but boring income, there is trash to be cleared, and sticky gum to remove. The toilet gets clogged too, and it is all up to the player to get these chores done to keep the place ticking along.
Thankfully, all of these tasks either earn you cash or work in your favour in attracting more customers. And with the progress made each day, you will slowly build up some savings, paving the way for a backroom with a few arcade game cabinets, to gradually expand operations into a paradise raking in the money from eager customers.
The gameplay loop in Arcade Paradise is quite straightforward in a sense, getting players involved in the day-to-day running of the laundromat with the diversion of managing the growing video game arcade. However, there is always freedom in choosing what you want to do.
Eschewing your laundry tasks and playing the actual arcade games is a great way to pass the time, but will also increase your profit in the long run. Each cabinet has its own set of gameplay goals as well, which enhances its popularity upon completion, and with over 35 cabinets to buy and manage, there’s plenty of gaming to get into.
Most, if not all of the games are inspired by the colourful history of the medium itself, be it the early vector games right up to the 32-bit era. If you ever needed a trip down memory lane, all the various experiences in Arcade Paradise will do just that. Co-op play is also possible on some of the cabinets, making it a true arcade experience of yesteryear.
From a Pong-like badminton game in Shuttlecocks to fighting off the zombie invasion in Zombats 2, there is something for everyone. That said, not all games are made equal and depending on your preference, certain cabinets will become your go-to, while others languish in the corner, serving only as another unavoidable step to progression to grow your empire. Just like in reality, not every game is going to appeal to you, unless you feel the need to complete all the goals.
Add to that the options to tweak the difficulty, set prices, and figure out the best placements for your cabinets to boost plays per hour, and Arcade Paradise reveals another layer that could do with smart thinking and planning. Expansion becomes inevitable, and between fixing the toilet and literal debugging of your machines by flicking cockroaches off the motherboards, the choice is clear.
There is also a separate upgrade system for Ashley, which uses pound sterling currency instead of dollars, and money can only be earned by completing daily goals. If you want to move faster, have a bigger trash bag, or make time slow down while playing games, but these daily to-do lists are not to be ignored.
All in all, there is plenty of charm in Arcade Paradise, and supported by the interesting blend of arcade games; it ensures that nostalgia isn’t the only factor that keeps players coming back each and every day. The banging songs on the unlockable Jukebox are also all worth listening to, but even so, there are some niggling issues that will affect the player experience.
Clearing trash makes for some quick profit at the start, but there are instances where items become impossible to pick up. It can also be hard to spot sometimes, blending into the environment and leaving players to wonder where the impact on their cleanliness score is coming from.
Another potential issue is how slow it can be to purchase those personal upgrades, with only three random to-do tasks each day that generates about £30 – 50 on a good day, but the upgrades are priced in the hundreds. It is also not a given that you can get these tasks done easily, as it’s all random, you might land on a game you are not particularly great at.
And while staring at those neon lights reminds us of a simpler time, visually, having random streaks of light reflected on the screen while you are trying to play doesn’t help, even if the use of scanlines on specific games adds that magical touch.
Ultimately, what you’ll get out of Arcade Paradise is your appetite for repetitive chores, at least at the start, and your love for the arcade experience. With the laundromat being the gateway to a fun and engaging management and simulator experience, it is well worth washing those dirty rags to allow our dreams of a bustling arcade to come to life. And like its real-life counterparts, there is certainly magic in these dimly lit halls, even if it ends up just a few steps short of paradise.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Arguably the greatest gaming era beckons in Arcade Paradise, but it will require some hard work and patience to taste the sweet nectar of nostalgia. Prepare yourself.
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 7.5/10