ArcadeCraft – What We Think:
ArcadeCraft began life as a popular XBOX 360 Live Indie in 2013 and was then ported to PC and distributed via Steam in May 2014. The game retains the trademark XBOX 360 avatars, though here they will not be customized to you. Looking at these bobbleheaded XBLIG-styled avatars, I feel nostalgic for that precious era, now just as long gone as the era of standup arcades simulated in this game. ArcadeCraft also offers full native gamepad support, which feels right, since that is how it was originally meant to be played.
Besides these small meta delights, ArcadeCraft starts out as a rather good simulator/resource management game. That isn’t saying much, given that most sims these days are unplayable slogs and time-sucking money-wasters, but ArcadeCraft is actually engaging and offers more depth than I at first imagined it could.
The Game of Business (and Vice Versa)
Another clever aspect to the game’s design is that it plays like an arcade game; you are tasked with not only stocking and decorating your arcade but, as the money comes in, manually clearing the coins out of each machine. With a gamepad, this is done by hitting the Y button. On a keyboard, with the spacebar. If a player becomes ornery, you must pick them up by the scruff of the neck and drop them at the exit, lest they damage your machine, costing you repairs.
Not only are you managing repairs, the cost per game and restocking your pop machine, but you also have to make sure your games are current, your decor seasonal, and that your lease is paid every month. As years go by, new titles are introduced and old titles are released to home gaming systems, thus decreasing their popularity. Popularity is the main currency in play in ArcadeCraft, and most variables affect it.
Banking on Popularity
The major failure states include losing all your popularity, mismanagement of cash, and not paying your lease. But the biggest threat is the original loan you must repay after two years, including interest; otherwise, it is lights out.
To keep things from getting as stale as the neon green paint on your stucco walls which depreciate over time, you will occasionally get a visit from a random assortment of NPCs who may offer to buy or sell you specials, or even challenge your machine’s high scores for international fame. This can lead you to lose money in the short term but gain the ever precious popularity you so desperately need to keep the jukebox on in the interim.
Players Just Wanna Have Fun
While I had a couple of software hangs and crashes while playing, the product more than made up for it with nice touches throughout. Saves are made easily and restored elegantly. For example upon rebooting from a crash, the opening images upon restarting reflected my neon-customized arcade from the outside, assuring me that everything had been saved and I was still in the happy little 1980s world of my creation.
I also found that, because of the sometimes frenetic pace of cashing out or repairing machines, placing new ones, recovering from power failures or other calls for action, the camera wasn’t ideal. You get two options: a 3/4 top down view that feels and even looks a little like a city map from XCOM: Enemy Within (OK, maybe that’s a reach) or a more eye-level zoom. Rotating the grid for some reason isn’t as easy useful as it could be:
For starters, it would be great if objects in my line of sight became transparent – things like pillars or walls. Second, it would be much easier if I could rotate 360 degrees like Tempest, as opposed to having a stopper and having to go all the way back the other way.
Game Over, Man
In the end, ArcadeCraft gave me a few hours of fun – I daydreamed that I could find an empty brick-exposed space in some developing neighborhood, invest in a couple classic machines and reboot the coin-op era. It sure is fun to play standup arcade owner for a while, but once it becomes evident that you’re basically just grinding away towards nothing in particular, it is GAME OVER. File under “as much fun as riding a stationary bike” – really exciting at first until you realize that after an hour, you are still at the starting line.
Watch the trailer for ArcadeCraft below: