STAFF REVIEW of Arcade Paradise (Xbox One)

Monday, August 29, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Arcade Paradise Box art I’m glad to have grown up in the era of gaming that I did. Born in the 80’s, I not only grew up with home consoles in their infancy, but I’m also old enough to have many fond memories of arcades, an establishment that really isn’t as prevalent as it once was. Sure there are a few places that have arcade machines, like in bigger theaters and such, but it’s just not the same as it was ‘back in the day’. I would be given a few quarters each day so that after school I could stop at the local arcade and play a few games before coming home, so of course it was natural to dream of running my own arcade when I was a kid.

It looks like that time has come, even if it is virtually, as Arcade Paradise is essentially an arcade simulator where you not only run the business side, but can also play every single game in your establishment as well. Gameception! The catch? Well, you don’t actually start with an arcade per-se, but a laundromat that you eventually convert into the business you actually want. You play as Ashley, and after getting a call from your dad, you’re told that you’ll now be running the family business, a neighborhood laundromat. Exciting stuff, I know. So when she goes to start doing the laundry and cleaning up, she notices that there’s a few old dusty arcade cabinets in the storage room. So she does what any gamer of my generation would do; dust them off, plug them in and start letting customers know that there’s an arcade in the back of the laundromat.

Your father doesn’t seem keen on this idea, I mean, who’s going to place their hard earned quarters into the machines to play games when they will need them to do their laundry? Well, it’s time to prove him wrong that you can turn a profit, and maybe, convert the laundromat into an arcade fully, not just hidden in the back room. Oh, did I mention that your dad is Gerald and he’s away on a trip to the Riviera. Oh, and he’s voiced by Doug Cockle, yes, that voice actor best known as Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher. It’s a hilarious little nod that didn’t go unnoticed.

Before you’re able to begin your new arcade empire, you’ll first need to earn money for the basics. It’s a good thing you have a laundromat to start getting some cash flow, but that’s obviously not the business you want to be in for the long term. So to start earning some cash, you’ll do laundry of customers that leave their loads there. First you have to put the load into the washer, wait 3 minutes for it to finish, put it into the dryer, wait another 3 minutes, then finish sorting into a basket for pickup. If you do so quickly without much delay you’ll get a better rank and thus more money.

I’ll admit, the opening few hours are a bit dull and lackluster, as doing loads of laundry isn’t the most exciting gameplay. Sure, in between timers you can play some of the machines in the back, and are encouraged to, but I felt compelled as I needed to focus on the laundry side of the business. That was until the arcade side of the profits started to exceed the boring portion.

So what else do you do to earn cash early on other than some laundry? Well, you earn cash for taking gum that customers stick to random spots, cleaning the toilet when it becomes plugged, and taking out full bags of trash. Again, not the most exciting gameplay elements as it becomes tiresome to have to do so each day, but it’s a simple way to earn some cash early on. You’ll also eventually get daily tasks that you choose to work on that’s sent to your PDA that earn you some bonus cash if you complete them. These tasks usually have you playing a certain game for a set amount of time, clearing a set amount of gum and other tasks.

Speaking of your PDA, the epitome of 90’s digital communication, this is where you can track all of your business stats, settings for your arcade cabinets and more. Your stylish Casio watch also will beep when certain events happen, alteting you to complete laundry wash or dry cycles, toilets clogged, or games that need fixing.

So you’re becoming bored of the laundry business and want the arcade portion to take off, but not sure how exactly? Well, if customers see you playing certain games, they’ll be inclined to do so as well and its popularity will increase, thus earning you more money. Each game also has a list of challenges and goals to reach for those that want more to strive for, though completely optional. Most also have an online leaderboard which was completely unexpected and surprising, but well appreciated.

So if your arcade machines are earning money how do you get those quarters? Well, just like in real life you’ll need to empty out the hoppers, basically a basket where all the quarters stay until cleared out. With your PDA you can not only change the difficulty of each game, but the cost to play as well. Do you make a game that’s hard but cheap, expensive but easy or somewhere in between? The more customers play the games, you’ll see what earns you the most money per hour and can adjust. Of course it doesn’t cost you to play since they’re your machines thankfully.

So where do you put all these arcade machines as you save up and keep purchasing the more than 35 arcade games? Not only can you change the floor plan and layout, placing machines in specific spots, but maybe putting a game that doesn’t do well beside a game that earns the most might help it. Being set in the 90’s you’ll use your dial-up internet in the office to go onto the world wide web to purchase new arcade machines that will show up the next morning once you have enough cash to afford them.

So what happens when you bought all the machines and fill the back room? Well it’s a good thing you know someone that can get you a deal on expanding your back room. Looks like it’s time to take down that wall from the storage closet if that means room for a few more games right? That’s where the core gameplay loop comes in, buying all the available machines, then purchasing the building upgrade for more arcade room, repeat.

Of the 35 or so games you can purchase and play, while there may not be any official or licensed games we grew up with, there’s clearly inspired games from the classics that you’ll know what game it’s ‘supposed’ to be. More than just simple clones, many have their own twists and can be quite addicting to play, forgetting you’re playing a game within a game. You can expect everything from classic vector based games, air hockey, darts, all the way up to some Nintendo 64 or original Playstation era of games and genres. You might even get some emails from customers that want to challenge you to certain games’ high scores. Better yet, many of the games include multiplayer if you have someone locally that wants to play along or versus you, so a lot of effort went into making these arcade games feel like they would as if you were playing them in person.

Oddly enough, there’s two different types of currencies in Arcade Paradise. The most common is your regular dollars earned from doing laundry, chores, tasks and of course emptying the arcade hoppers, but you’ll also slowly earn British Pounds that is strictly used for passive upgrades for you, your business or new CD’s for the jukebox. Upgrades range from quicker walking, though barely a sprint, being able to see the trash and gum easier, buying a new car so you can get to work earlier and then work longer to earn more, among others.

Being an arcade business simulator, Arcade Paradise knows where its strengths are, with its own games, but aside from that there’s a lot of mundane to sift through, especially in its opening hours of simply doing laundry. I find it odd that there’s zero customer interaction, as there’s this weird pixelation that happens when you get close to people until they disappear. The visuals aren’t anything special, basically appearing like any other simulator type of game, but of course I have a soft spot for its gaming content. The soundtrack has some good tunes in the jukebox you can purchase (and earn quarters from) though I wish you could play the songs in a playlist instead of having to go back to play a song after each ends.

Being a simulator game, there is of course a grind, but it’s much more manageable when you’re spending most of your time actually playing games. With over 35 arcade games to purchase and play, you might forget that you’re playing a game within a game, but it certainly reminded me of finding a cool arcade as a kid where I would dump all my quarters after school. A ‘rags to riches’ story where you can also start raking in the money, one quarter at a time.

**Arcade Paradise was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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