I've expressed my fondness for arcades, and the games typically found within them, several times before on these pages - most recently in reference to some very tiny cabinets that are pretty much only playable by ants, and a plug-in fight stick loaded with a stack of really cool (and just a few weird) coin-op titles. TL;DR: I dig these things, and if I had the room, I'd definitely set up a few cabs at home. Like my wife would ever let me...
Anyway... Numskull's range of Quarter Arcades seems like a neat way to build out a tidy collection of cabs when space is in short supply. These are, as the name implies, quarter-sized models of famous arcade machines, featuring classic titles such as Galaga, Bubble Bobble, Pac-Man and Space Invaders. Already curious as to how they'd feel in person - to play, of course, but also the build quality, given the RRP of £129.99 apiece - I jumped at the opportunity to check one of these things out when Numskull offered a review unit.
These things look fantastic in promotional photography - and they're also fantastic in person, too. I got sent Numskull's Ms Pac-Man Quarter Arcade, as an example of the range, and it makes a really strong first impression with era-authentic artwork on the front and sides of the cab, scoring and gameplay info beside the screen, and a light-up marquee panel above it. Having seen the proper, full-size arcade version of Ms Pac-Man a fair few times in my gaming life, I can confidently say that this captures the essence of that machine pretty successfully.
And the cab's surface-level impressiveness continues into the materials used to build it. This is a solid unit, with thick wooden panels ensuring stability (thick rubber grips underneath help, too) and 1UP and 2UP start buttons that spring back into position with reassuring immediacy - no stickiness here, nor does anything catch on nasty bits of poorly cut plastic.
The stick in the centre, while tiny, has a very satisfying clickiness to it. And the screen itself doesn't suffer too much from any glare problems, given it's positioned at a deep angle within the unit. There's some reflection of the on-screen action, within the screen itself (if that makes sense), but it's mostly only noticeable in the menus and never an obstacle to gameplay.
Quarter Arcades run on a rechargeable battery, or can be kept plugged into the mains - there's a micro USB port on the back, and a lead (but no plug) is included. Also around the back you'll find the power switch, a battery indicator light - red means it's time to add more juice - and a volume control, as well as some vents and a small plaque with the product's code on it, as well as engineering and manufacturing information. The volume goes up quite a way, but there's no headphone socket for those of you wanting all the noise without disturbing your housemates.
As for the game? It's Ms Pac-Man, what more do you need to know here? The 1982 game plays exactly as it did 38 years ago, when Midway introduced it into arcades as the sequel to - obviously - Pac-Man. The difference being that you don't need to rummage in your pocket for loose change to keep playing on this Quarter Arcade, you simply press the 'insert coin' button. I'm yet to play any other games in the range, but if this unit is indicative of their quality, I'll be checking for sales in order to add a couple of friends for Ms Pac-Man here.
That said, the scale of the controls means that it's unlikely, surely, that the Quarter Arcade range will move from puzzlers and simple platformers, maze games and old-school shooters and into faster action games and one-on-one fighters - I can't imagine Street Fighter II, for example, really working in these proportions. Bubble Bobble, fine; Final Fight, not so much. The tiny sticks would die.
The regular RRP for a Quarter Arcade unit such as Ms Pac-Man is definitely on the premium side of things - making this a product you pick up because you either really love the period these games are plucked from, or because you want to surprise a retro games-loving pal with a high-quality gift. But while it's a lot, I can't say that it's overpriced, given the feel of the product. I know that's vague, but to have this in hand, on a desk, perfectly positioned for breaktime five-minute bursts - it's just so much better than any other shrunken-down arcade cab I've played around with, in recent years. One for players with a few quid to burn, then - but once bought, no more quarters required.
Wanna know more? Find Numskull's site here. Cheers to them for sending a review unit my way; though also, damn them, cos now I want more of these things.
Featured Image Credit: Numskull
Topics: Retro Gaming
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