Making one game is hard enough, regardless of being a one-man team or a group of hundreds. Sometimes, minigames are added in to provide respite or a fun little escape even from the larger game in question. A game-within-a-game.
Arcade Paradise has over thirty-five ‘mini’ games within the overarching laundromat management simulation premise, and each one of these could quite easily be given their own separate release such is the quality of them. It’s helped by the fact that there are so many, with a lot more depth to them; much more than you would initially expect. It all adds up to make Arcade Paradise one of the best games of 2022 – even some of the smaller games within could break into my personal top ten for the year.
In what would be a fantastic basis for a Hollywood coming-of-age tale, you have inherited your fathers’ pride and joy, the community laundromat in the year 1993. Your father, known as Gerald, has gone away to the Riviera, voiced by Doug Cockle AKA Geralt of Rivia. And this is just the tip of the riffage iceberg.
Stashed away in the back of the laundromat are a couple of arcade machines. Now, you could sack off the washing of other people’s dirty laundry in favour of spending all day on these machines. But, in the early hours at least, it pays to keep the clothes clean. As you start earning money, you can invest this into the business by buying new arcade machines. It won’t be long before you realise that there is far more money to be made from the games rather than the laundromat. There is only a finite space to begin with too, but it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know. With an older sister who works in city planning, you can ask to expand the arcade side of the business when floor space is at a premium.
Progress far enough and you may even have the opportunity to move the arcade into the front of the store.
Providing you turn over a healthy profit, you will be in regular contact with your father and your sister. Of sorts anyways. Your dad will leave answer phone messages for you from time to time, and they both can be reached via instant messenger on the computer in the office.
Other than the occasional message or email though, you are largely on your own in Arcade Paradise. You will see regular visitors to the shop but get too close to them and they phase out of existence. The first time this happened I thought there was going to be a subplot involving a woman whose ghostly figure appears from time to time, but it happens to every NPC.
You can employ an assistant, but some actual face-to-face conversations would have been a decent addition. You could argue that these would detract from the arcade machines, because each and every one of them is playable. There are those that aren’t afraid to challenge your high scores on certain games, but even this is done via email. I would much prefer the gauntlet to be laid down face-to-face.
Everything in Arcade Paradise has been created in such a way that you have to double check that it isn’t a thing in the real world. It is the highest compliment I can pay to the overall package. The games themselves, the music on the radio and available to choose from with the jukebox – it is hard to believe these have been made solely for Arcade Paradise. It harks back to this being an excellent coming-of-age film, because the world building is so strong.
Initially, there will only be a couple of machines to play, but it won’t be long before you start adding to your collection. They can be purchased from the computer and are released in batches; complete one batch, expand the arcade, purchase more; that is the general gameplay loop.
Some of them such as Video Air Hockey and Championship Darts are fairly self-explanatory in terms of what their objective is. Both these and a few others can be played in local co-op too.
The machines represent a broad era of gaming, ranging from early vector games to those reminiscent of the 32-bit generation. And many wear their inspirations on their sleeve: Woodgal’s Adventure is essentially Candy Crush Saga, Racer Chaser is a good Pac-man clone with a Grand Theft Auto overlay (instead of eating pellets you are driving around, picking up stacks of cash whilst on the lam rather than dodging ghosts) and Space Race Simulator – a personal favourite – is Out-Run if it was set in a world designed by Simon Stålenhag.
Some games are even sequels to previous Nosebleed Interactive titles such as Vostok 2093 and Zombat 2.
Even those that are more subtle with their inspirations effortlessly convey their respective time period. There is a wide variety of graphical capabilities and even techniques like old-school vectors, Mode7, and beyond on offer here.
It isn’t just the arcade machines that are gamified. Almost every action in Arcade Paradise has been designed to appeal to gamers. Some may be as simple as holding a button to remove the washing or aiming for max power when shooting a bin bag into the outdoor bin. Even cleaning the toilet becomes a boss battle as you hammer away at a health bar with nothing more than a plunger.
There will likely come a time where you subconsciously stop tending to the washers and the driers and instead focus purely on the arcade machines. Whether that be to achieve one of their associated goals to increase their profit, or purely just to play them for fun. Even then though I always made an effort to remove the chewing gum and pick up as much rubbish as I could. That is easy money to be made, though sometimes it is tricky to get lined up perfectly in order to pick up the rubbish. Some areas of the laundromat – such as the counter between washing machines and in front of the office window – are effectively dead zones; any rubbish on these is impossible to pick up.
The same goes for the hoppers on the arcade machines. There are a few that are very hard to highlight to be able to open them. It will briefly pop up to interact with it but will quickly switch to the game itself, as you accidentally start it up instead of emptying it.
The term ‘meta’ is one of the big internet buzzwords at the moment, but Arcade Paradise may be the most meta game I have ever played. It isn’t just a single game, it is over thirty-five games in the one package. It feels like a compilation title similar to the Capcom Arcade Stadium titles, but with an overarching metagame of running the arcade. Thankfully, each one of these titles is deserving of their place in my arcade. All except Woodgal Jr, that can get in the bin.
The amount of depth in Arcade Paradise is the biggest surprise. What could have easily been thirty-five throwaway titles are instead fully fledged creations, with some taking longer to complete than many full Xbox Store releases. Arcade Paradise is a love letter to the days of those summer afternoons, spending pocket money in these delightfully dingy places. It could also be the final nail in the arcade coffin, because no real-life arcade can offer this many good titles under one roof.