Arcade Paradise seeks to fulfill a childhood dream of many: to own an arcade.
Sure it’s a simulation video game of that ideal, but it’s the closest many of us will ever come to running a coin-op place ourselves.
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That said, it’s still a ‘simulation’ game, which typically means grinding out repetitive but satisfying tasks for incremental improvement.
Can Arcade Paradise escape the trap that has kept so many games back?
Let’s find out.
What is Arcade Paradise?
If the opening spiel didn’t give it away, Arcade Paradise is a simulation title that lets you take control of an arcade. Sort of.
In truth, you start out being forced into running your father’s semi-successful chain of laundromats. You discover a bunch of arcade machines in the back room and quickly start to change the business model.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can do what you like, as your father keeps tabs on you. Before you can turn your business into Star City, there are a lot of soiled undies to get through first.
You’ll need to keep your business doing well and slyly purchase new machines and expansions to your space without your dad noticing that you’re changing his business.
What’s the Story?
As mentioned above, the story of Arcade Paradise mostly revolves around your relationship with your father. He’s a successful businessman who wants you to take on the family business.
On the other hand, you are a starry-eyed dreamer who wants to run an arcade. Despite trying to convince your father, he refuses to change the business, so you go behind his back with the help of your older sibling.
Your job is to keep the front of being a successful laundromat while pumping money into new arcade cabs and upgrades. As you keep accruing more money, you hope to prove to your father that the business is more viable than he thought.
Realistically, the story isn’t as present as it might seem. It mostly takes place through answering machines and internet messages, and you can safely ignore it for the most part without missing out on too much, at least at the beginning.
Enter the Simulation
The main crux of the gameplay is pretty simple. You have an action button and walk around in first-person doing mundane tasks by pressing the button on different contextual button prompts.
You’ve got to keep your laundromat clean if you want people to visit it, and while the token machine will collect money automatically, there’s much more cash in doing laundry for other people.
Of course, there’s also a fair bit of downtime while you’re waiting for clothes to clean and dry, and that’s when you can go into the back and mess around with the arcade machines for a bit.
After you’ve finished the day, you run around and empty out all of the coin hoppers. Dump it in the safe, jump on the bus, and start the next day. Repeat ad nauseam.
Arcade Paradise Cracks About to Show
When you start out in Arcade Paradise, things can get pretty samey quickly. Your day-to-day job is mostly to shuffle laundry around the business to make money.
You can technically play the arcade games while you wait, but you’ll constantly be stopping to swap clothes from the washer to the dryer or cleaning up the piles of mess that people leave all over.
Luckily, once you’ve got some money, you realize you can ignore all the active laundry tasks. The coin hoppers in the building accrue cash rapidly once you have enough of them, and there’s no real reason to do people’s laundry anymore.
Even the side tasks you do for character upgrades mostly revolve around the games. The occasional “do X loads” tasks aren’t worth the reward.
Finally, a True Arcade Paradise
It’s at this point where Arcade Paradise comes into its own. Once you’ve got enough interesting machines, you spend your days playing games and running the arcade: cleaning up the mess and emptying hoppers at the end of the day.
There are even a few mini-games related to arcade maintenance. When a machine breaks down you have a literal bug-zapping mini-game to get it up and running again.
These little moments help break up the monotony a bit while you’re waiting for new cabs to arrive or to save up money. On the plus side, there’s a healthy influx of new machines throughout the game so so you’ve always got something to try out.
But What About the Games?
Since the main point of the game is arcade games, the real question it whether or not those arcade games are any good. For the most part, they are.
There’s a nice variety of different arcade genres, from racing games to shooting games and even dance machines. Everyone is probably going to find a decently made game that would be right for them.
The only real way to know if you’d enjoy Arcade Paradise is to know if you enjoy playing arcade games. After all, these kinds of games aren’t for everyone, and finding just one or two cabs you like, is probably not going to be enough for the entire game.
On the other hand, if you do enjoy playing a bunch of different arcade games, then this will keep your attention. Especially so if you’ve ever dreamed of owning an arcade in real life.
Janky, Yet Charming in the Graphics Department
Gameplay aside, how does Arcade Paradise look and sound? Well, it looks a lot like a mid-range indie simulator game. The graphics aren’t particularly stylized, and the animations are janky, but that’s part of the charm in many ways.
The music comes out much better, with a decent soundtrack of synth-heavy vaporwave and 90’s rave-style tracks. You can even buy a jukebox to play them over for full ambiance.
If I had to make one complaint, it would be that there’s no way to play several tracks at once. Each time you want to listen to something new, you have to go back to the jukebox and select another disc.
Final Thoughts on Arcade Paradise
The truth of the matter is that Arcade Paradise isn’t going to be for everyone. The tasks can be repetitive, the graphics are janky, and not everyone enjoys rip-offs of arcade classics and weird homage games.
That said, if you’re into games about incremental improvement and enjoy messing around on random arcade machines for minutes at a time, you can probably get a lot out of this.
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The music is fun, most cabs are fun, and there’s enough variety to keep you playing through to the end. The story is also enjoyable if slightly pushed into the background by the day-to-day running of the business.