Title: Arcade Paradise
Developer: Nosebleed Interactive
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: August 11, 2022
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed on the Xbox Series X)
Videos game are becoming increasingly specific these days, and Arcade Paradise is no exception. The game’s story is simple; you’re a young college drop-out in the mid-1990s who has to take over the family business while dad’s away on some extravagant vacation. The family business, in this scenario, is a dingy laundromat downtown. The game starts out with your character doing mundane laundry work, but as the game progresses you uncover a hidden gem that could be the key to revitalizing the business, and make you tons of money.
Hidden Inside a Closet
On the surface you would think this is a run-of-the-mill simulation game, tasking you with running the day to day operations of an inner-city laundromat. You take the bus in the morning, and you run the day to day operations until 11pm when it’s closing time. It’s a boring and mundane life you live, having “half of a business degree” as you note to your sister through an online chat box in the game’s equivalent to AOL Instant Messenger (older millennials will get that reference). You tell your sister that you’ve found a few arcade machines in the back that seem to be making a lot of money, and you’ve actually crunched the numbers; they’re turning in big profits! You talk to your dad about upping the arcade collection, and he’s not having it. “The laundromat is what the city really needs!” he says as he ends the conversation.
Well, you’re running things now, and you decide to steam ahead. Much to the disappointment of your father in the beginning.
The game is predominantly played in first-person mode as you run the daily tasks of the laundromat. You pick up garbage left behind from the previous day, you stuff laundry into the washing machines for a few minutes, then put them into the drier. After that, you set them out for pick up and you get paid. The great part about doing these mundane tasks is that the more efficient you are, the higher the score you get and the more money you receive. If you’re quick to pull clothes out of the drier, you get a good ranking (up to S Rank), or if you toss the garbage into the dumpster with a well timed button press in a moving meter. Even pulling chewed up gum off a seat or wall efficiently, and unclogging the toilet with aggressive use of your plunger! There’s more to running a laundromat than I ever would have thought.
That’s not all, surprisingly. As you raise money, you can log on to an online marketplace and buy arcade machines to put in the back of the laundromat. Every game you purchase and place in your laundromat is playable, from a video game version of air hockey, a Pac-Man meets Grand Theft Auto game (yeah you’ve heard that right, and it’s extremely addicting actually), a match-three game, and a Mr. Driller-like game. Every arcade game featured in Arcade Paradise is a love letter to the old retro games we all grew up playing in this time period of the 90s. There’s something for everyone here, like side-scrolling beat ’em ups to racing games, and more.
This is where the simulation style gameplay turns into a more management style.
As you progress in the game, running the laundromat and the arcade at the same time, you collect money from each and put it away in a bank. That money goes back into investing in your business, and the smarter you are with maximizing your profits, the faster you’ll earn money. For example, if you notice that one machine isn’t making as much money as others, placing it next to a higher-earning machine could potentially get more people to play. Arcade Paradise even incentivizes you to play the games and earn high scores so that others find attraction to beating your scores! Even selecting the difficulty levels can alter a game’s profitability; set it too high and no one will play it.
As you earn profits, you begin to expand by knocking down walls, expanding into unused spaces, and adding flashy colored lights, fixtures, and fresh coats of paint to get people to come in, do some laundry, and dump quarters into arcades. It’s a sound business model.
Retro Style Meets Modern Flair
Graphically, while you’re in first person mode running the laundromat, the game isn’t as highly detailed as most triple-A games out there, but it runs at a high stable frame rate while you run around your business doing odd jobs, cleaning, and playing games. The arcade games you play have retro filter and CRT scanlines reminiscent of the styles of the time. Very bright and synth-like neon lighting scatter around your spaces after you begin to upgrade your spaces, really bringing that old-school feel of what arcades were like in the 90s. The arcade games themselves are retro 8-bit to 16-bit graphics with simple sound effects full of blips and bleeps that is ASMR for the old fogies like me who grew up in these types of arcades.
Advancing Your Game
Although a simple game in form, running a laundromat and an arcade in one, the game can be incredibly complex and dependant on you and how you like to play. If you’re the type of person that likes to dork around and play video games all day, you’re going to find the days drag on and your profit lines being low. Your business will still run, but you’re chances of expanding will take a long time. However, if you jump into the work day grinding, running the laundromat and knocking out high scores and profits, and investing that money into expanding and revenue streaming, you’ll be making money in no time! The gameplay doesn’t advance forward unless you will it, and with that you get a sense of empowerment as a player. A period of self-reflection may wash over you as you think to yourself “am I a doer, or a player?”
Arcade Paradise brings warm fuzzies all over my 40-year-old heart when I walk in to my fully furnished and retro-styled arcade in the back of my laundromat. The blips and bleeps that echo throughout the space bring me a sense of joy and pride as I lavish in my accomplishments within the game. The game can be a grind in the beginning of the first week while you pump out laundry just to make bank, but trust me the sweat and tears you shed will be well worth it when you progress. It’s not a graphical-powerhouse by any means, but it doesn’t need to be. There are NPCs that scatter around in your spaces, unfortunately they lack in interaction and even flat out disappear when you approach them. It’s unfortunate because it could be so much better to be able to interact with your patrons and even get feedback from them instead of assuming throughout the entire game what they would like, or not like. My favorite aspect of the game is that the game doesn’t advance unless you advance; you are in control of how fast you grow, and you only get out what you put in. Kind of like life huh?
A simulation meets management game with over 30 built in retro games means you’ll never get bored and you won’t lose interest easily. There’s so much to do, and depending on how hard you work and what you put into it, you’ll reap the rewards and benefits that will become addicting over time. Getting to certain points in the game and witnessing the fruits of your labor is a great way to stick it to your father and show him what you can do, and what money you can bring. The grind in the beginning can be a chore, and the lack of interactive NPCs can break the immersion a bit, but nonetheless I’m sure that you’ll find something great in this game that’ll grab you. Maybe the llama jumping game similar to the Google Dino game on your in-game PDA will be your next addiction?
Stojan “Stoy” Jovic is a writer with the Boss Rush Network, and host of the EXPCast: A Video Game Podcast and a co-host with Leron Dawkins and Andre Wilson on The Cross Roads Podcast. Stoy can’t stop talking about Mass Effect, Mega Man, Resident Evil and racing games, so tell him to shut up on his Twitter page.
Image Source: Polygon