IIt’s the early 1990s, and you – a school dropout – have been tasked with keeping your chronically disappointing father’s laundry business going. It’s not exciting work. You pick up the trash, you unclog the toilets, you load the laundry into the machines and you take it out. But in the back room there’s a small collection of arcade machines to help customers while their shirts dry, and there’s enough cash in their coin hoppers to buy a brand new one. cupboard. And so you begin the slow process of secretly turning your dad’s business into a successful arcade, reinvesting the money you earn from washing people’s dirty underwear into buying more video games.
Arcade Paradise is a low-key management simulator that goes at its own fairly languid pace. You don’t have much influence over how much money you make or how fast you can grow; you do laundry, play games and wait for the money to accumulate. Looking after customers’ clothes earns you some quick bonus cash, but why would you sit by the washing machine when you could be playing the arcade machines out back? There are over 30 to collect, all charmingly inspired by classics from the 70s, 80s and 90s: there’s a crossover between GTA and Pac-Man, some twists on Space Invaders, a puzzle adventure game match-3, a zombie shooter. Frustratingly, they tend to take longer from you than the average wash cycle, so you have to choose between running the laundry proficiently and having a satisfying time with a game.
Winning new games is the motivation to persist in daily menial work, but unfortunately most of them are unfortunately average. The old arcade classics have endured because they’re masterpieces of game design, with just the right balance between the frustration of failure and the dopamine hit of success. Most of these tributes don’t come close to being real, and so after a few hours I wondered why I was working so hard to buy them. However, they nail the look, whether it’s vector graphics, 16-bit sprites, or the first 3D colors – right down to the cabinets themselves and the in-game posters announcing them. The feel of early ’90s gaming culture is lovingly recreated here, and it’s endearing.
Completing daily arcade machine challenges earns you cash on top of your laundromat income, allowing you to buy upgrades that make your job easier, like, scintillatingly, bigger trash bags. But man, does it take ages to earn enough for meaningful improvements. I fell into the rhythm of Arcade Paradise pretty quickly, only to find that after a few hours of play EVERYTHING started to feel like work, including playing the arcade games. Trying to win a frustratingly inaccurate game of digital air hockey for money while your watch is constantly ringing because it’s time to empty the dryers isn’t much fun. I’ve never found a balance that allows me to fully enjoy laundry management or arcade games. You’re still splitting your attention between them, and neither is interesting enough on its own.
Arcade Paradise seems a little confusing at times: if the premise of the game is that you run an arcade in your dad’s laundromat in secret, for example, why is your dad the one paying you bonuses for those daily game challenges? ? ? It has the feel of a game that changed shape a few times during its development. Nonetheless, it’s more than a collection of average homages to arcade games. Intentionally or not, it captures something of young adult boredom and 90s Gen X disillusionment with menial work – and how video games have always been a colorful escape from the boredom of everyday life. .