Ortega’s Big Day Out – Arcade Club

I mean, would you look at that? Retro-gamer heaven, right?

I recently spent a day with a few friends at Arcade Club, a small franchise providing an old-school arcade experience in a few locations around the UK, and I can thoroughly recommend it.

You pay an entry fee, get a wristband and then dive into several floors of free-to-play arcade machines from the 80s to the 2000s. It’s a perfect day out for somebody of my vintage, provided you can handle being surrounded by loads of old-school CRT screens in full attract-mode long enough to get your money’s worth.

The ground floor is devoted to Sega’s later-generation machines and its hellscape of noise and light is inevitably a bit of a shock to the older gamer’s system, but that didn’t stop me and a mate hitting the two-player point, shoot and duck classic Time Crisis 2 – a precursor of all modern FPS games – as our warm up. That is until we couldn’t handle it any longer and had to retire to the quieter second floor, which houses the oldest of these old-school cabinets.

I’d read the list of available marvels carefully before we set out of course, and quickly sought out what I’d already decided would be my first port of call from the 80s – the original Time Pilot cabinet.


After satisfying myself that my muscle memory from the Commodore 64 version of this classic was still present and correct by setting the early day’s high score, it was clear that claiming the highest accolade on as many of the greats as possible was the most important matter for the rest of my day.

And thus time was spent plugging away at Missile Command (big trackball cursor controller, awesome), Defender (much harder than I recalled), and the original Pac-Man (nothing further need be said) in between bouts of completionist fervour with friends on the great multiplayer games of the 90s like Golden Axe, Operation Thunderbolt and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You can relive a lot of these via emulation on home systems these days of course, but there’s something magnificent about taking them on together (with infinite credits…) in their original configurations.

In fact, we rapidly became so engrossed in reliving the old days when all these games were relevant that my group hardly ventured up to the third floor, where there’s a whole raft of modern Minecraft-related PC gaming and several room-scale VR setups to enjoy.

The day’s highest scores overall definitely went to one of our number who committed themselves to Bubble Bobble in a display of nostalgic stamina so complete they had to be reminded to eat and drink as the day ran on; and to the two souls unconnected to our group who took it in turns playing Cybertron for six hours solid, and were still going strong when we left.

It just remains to give my special mention to Asteroids – my most-played game of the day as well as the oldest in the place, which I appear to have been far too busy having just one more crack at to get a decent picture of. Suffice to say, it’s easily the most addictive of the games I enjoyed, complete at Arcade Club with the unusual and endearing vector display, and cements its status as a masterpiece for its skill-based, precision-rewarding game loop. I didn’t manage to top the high score on that one though, so third place will have to be good enough until the next time.

People say the old games are often the best and Arcade Club proves the maxim for a day out, at least. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy too, I recommend giving the closest club to you a go.

Just one more…

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