[Review] Arcadecraft — Simulating Nostalgia

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Arcadecraft is a game that Firebase Industres wants to sell. While their first game Orbitron: Revolution was good, it didn’t set the world on fire both literally or figuratively. So with that mindset, they set out to utilize the two most popular Xbox Indie Games marketing tools to boost sales with avatars and anything ending in “craft.” Whether they will garner the success off this shameless ploy is anyone’s guess.

What I do know is whether it is good or not. After we interviewed the developers, I was very intrigued by the title as it really felt like they wanted to tap in to some retro sensibilities with this game which makes it far more interesting than the avatars would let you believe.  With their hopes riding on growing support leading to a  Steam release, let’s see how they did.

I’m going to start this off by simply stating it: Arcadecraft feels like a work in progress.  It has all the pieces in place and it is indeed complete enough to get what you signed up for. It just feels like the developers wanted to put so much more in to it. We already know from the interview that they had to retool the memory which did indeed change what their original goals are.  This issue effects the pacing.

Any simulation game lives off of a great pace. Building to some form of goal or striving to persevere against in game goals makes for an exciting system.  In effect, Arcadecraft has this. Then you pay off your loan after 2 years and you have another 4 to go.

See Arcadecraft runs from the months of January 1980 to January 1986 with everything following being a bit of pointless fun. In doing so you are tasked with building the best darn Arcade you can in those years. It is kind of fun to build and craft your arcade in to something successful. For two years that is. Then it all devolves in to a mindless goal to be the best on the leaderboards.

That loan payment was a solid goal. It just made sense and nothing really follows it.  The crash of 1983 is the cause of this and that crippled the arcade market and the gaming scene. Which for a game about replicating the arcade experience in the early 80s is actually quite brilliant to think about.  Except I still was raking in cash and customers almost annoyingly with years to go and a cap on the number of machines I could fit in to my tiny little arcade.  Sure I could get rid of that vintage Asteroids (sorry, Space Rocks) machine that still is actually making money due to simple nostalgia, or I could sell it for the newest machine that looks almost exactly like it just to add a bit more cash to my cash mountain.

See for those of you that don’t know much about arcades, the industry or why people are nostalgic about Atari, in 1983 the big bubble that was video games popped. Unlike comic books in the 1990s, the industry recovered years later with Nintendo’s push in to the console market.  At this point it begins to get really interesting as the console and arcade markets start to transform in to something unexpectedly brilliant.

This game only takes place in the boom and bust era of Arcades and it’s frustratingly narrow and it’s not even like the game feels cut for content otherwise.  You have a full game here.  It’s just not the full game you leave satisfied with. It is something constrained and you’ll feel this when you begin to notice all your machines stop evolving in shape and display.  You notice this when you start creeping in to the $100,000 and up range.  When you begin to want a fun new game and you have plenty of cash to burn, but nothing is really coming except another reskinned Monaco cabinet.

Now this has all been harsh for a reason.  This game is not only going to get better, but it has the opportunity to.  It is a decent enough simulation game. Most simulation games have you take to a sense of time to burn through. This is the only one that attempts to really recreate it.  It sorta does, but the attempt alone is fun in itself.

Not only is it a fun dip into nostalgia, but it also happens to be one of the most active simulation games I’ve burnt through.  Like all arcades, yours comes with one big problem: it runs on coins.  Coins have to go in to the machines and they overfill, get jammed or just plain break down.  The game forces you to constantly maintain these machines, or you could hire a less competent employee to help you do the same job in a less efficient manner.

Then there is maintaining a sweet spot with your machines amongst customers. Difficult and very expensive games do poorly, but rake in cash faster so maintaining that precious sweet spot to make a machine popular is crucial. Otherwise somebody might come in and drop kick your machine in rage.  This is actually one of the most fun parts of the game as people on your friends list will come in periodically and decide to smash your machines for no reason.  I don’t know why Muaz always comes in to mess my humble arcade up, but it’s hilarious to kick him out every time. I usually don’t get in to the whole avatar thing, but booting out Muaz because he was being a jerkface was some primal fun.

It even has surprisingly decent audio that sounds like you put some classic 80s styled music inside a casino.  This just adds to the foundation that the game can be something more. They want it to be more, I want it to be more.  Instead, I’m stuck with a mostly decent experience of building, placing and managing arcades.  It doesn’t have quite the finesse of a Kairosoft game, but it’s a hair cheaper and a bit more interesting in premise. It is a game that can only get better if Firebase chooses to.

Firebase crafted a fun little game that focuses on a very narrow point in arcade history.  It is even a good looker that just needs a bit more to be amazing.  More set pieces or more customizations.  More arcade styles and choice.  These things are apparently coming in some form, but what we have right now is the $3 version of what could have been an amazing $10 game.  They have an update coming which fixes many bugs while expanding on some little issues like the retro enthusiast only wanting to come in and take your oldest machine despite the fact THAT I STILL WANT TO KEEP IT, ALEX.

Arcadecraft is just maddening because it isn’t quite there yet. It could be and Firebase wants it to be.  We just have to wait to see if something really comes of this.  Like Minecraft before it, this feels like step 1 in a process that could turn out to be something fantastic. All I know is that I want a PC version simply because they won’t have that memory limitation issue anymore to hold them back.

Final Breakdown: Good

[+Good Music] [+Plenty of Nostalgia] [+Fun Gameplay] [+Good Looking] [+Fun Focus on History] [-Needs More Machine Types] [-Needs More Focus in Goals]

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About Author

(Senior Writer)

I have been gaming for 20 years and have seen this industry go from one geared towards children, to one that has grown to accept all demographics. I've grown up side by side with video games and I've seen it turn into this phenomenon. Of course I also enjoy entertainment in all mediums whether it be film, book or sports. I'm just a huge nerd that loves writing about his hobbies.

  • MikeEaton

    Snowbanks out front of the arcade — such a Canadian touch. haha

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