Bonus Rounds are short, 5-minute musings on quirky titles that either end up hidden down the back of the sofa, or lost among the endless pile of Steam games and Bundles you own, but have never got around to playing. These could be reviews of PC, iOS or console games, Early Access titles, games made as part of a Game Jam, and so on. They’ll predominantly be games made by indie developers, and usually (but not always) published on a Sunday.
According to Firebase Industries’ promotional blurb, Arcadecraft invites you to “enter the exciting world of arcade ownership and play through the 1980’s arcade revolution” – a scenario myself and I’m sure many other video gamers (and Tron fans alike) have often dreamed of. Arcadecraft promises “over 100 unique arcade machines, a variety of events, a customizable arcade, and even hiring employees”
On paper it certainly sounds exciting and fun; unfortunately, the fun remains firmly on paper – with the game itself being as boring as the now-cult The Waiting Game arcade machine, but without the added incentive of receiving a taco coupon at the end.
Arcadecraft’s first impressions, however, are promising. You start with a limited amount of cash to spend and only a small handful of machines to buy – every decision matters. Failure occurs quite frequently at this point, as you strive to find that perfect combination in order to generate a steady income. Each month you survive sees new arcade machines being released, and in turn more customers coming in – it sounds like the perfect blueprint for a half-decent arcade management simulator, a decent management game that has the potential to be a bigger-budget version of Kairosoft’s finest mobile titles.
Unfortunately, once the money starts rolling in and once you’ve bought a new machine, that’s pretty much where the game ends – little else happens. At the start there’ll occasionally be a power cut or your vending machine may run out of cans, but other than that Arcadecraft simply becomes an exercise in sitting there and staring at the screen until you have enough money to buy another machine. Worse yet, after several in-game months of doing this (it’ll feel like real-world months), you’ll have generated such a surplus of cash that you get to the point where there is nothing you can actually buy – meaning you end up waiting again, just to be drip-fed new machines.
After an hour or so, you’ve placed your brand new arcade machine on the non-alterable arcade floor and have enough cash to buy every arcade machine several times over. At this point, the better management games – even the mediocre ones – would throw a spanner in the works by introducing additional factors to determine the appeal of your business to the punters. Decor, perhaps; keeping an eye on your rivals and undercutting them; customers with different tastes.
Unfortunately, Arcadecraft limits you to using money to change the color of the arcade floor or walls, or spend some money buying a jukebox. But while those options are there (however limited), none of them make any noticeable impact. And after this brief decision, you’re back to waiting to buy yet another machine to place right next to the one you bought several minutes ago. Wait, click, position, rinse, repeat. It’s utterly soul destroying.
There are sliders for each machine which supposedly affect game prices and level of difficulty, but the reality is – like every feature implemented in this game – they do virtually nothing. You’ll constantly be clicking on the machines to get money out of them (becoming a tiring click-fest the more machines you have, why the hell this isn’t automated is anyone’s guess), and occasionally you may move a machine around to position it onto a bonus floor square; but again, there’s no discernible whether you do it or don’t. You can purchase a Christmas tree to place on the arcade floor in December, or rent a pumpkin at Halloween – but you don’t even get to position the latter, it just appears on the counter.
this is as deep as Arcadecraft gets.
The reason I’m so harsh on Arcadecraft and actually quite annoyed by it, is because it’s such a wasted opportunity. It feels like an incomplete, half-hearted effort at best, and a cynical cash-grab at worst. Arcadecraft often feels as though Firebase Industries has cashed in gaming nostalgia, without giving any kind of actual game to play. All of the listed features appear to have been thought up and added simply to create a list of promotional bullet points – solely for the purpose of enticing you to purchase the game. Features which don’t work as they should, are poorly implemented, offer no depth or challenge and add nothing to the game.
Like the bullies that used to hang around the arcades back in the day waiting to take your money, avoid at all costs.