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‘Arcade Paradise’ Review: Fresh Britches And Coin-Op Riches

‘Arcade Paradise’ Review: Fresh Britches And Coin-Op Riches

Launderette management sim with a gaming sideline is an oddly compelling experience

Arcade Paradise’s pitch is certainly original: manage your dad’s launderette in a beaten-up part of town to see what it can teach you about work ethic, making your own money, responsibility, all that supposed adulting stuff. Plot twist: there are some old arcade cabinets out the back, but dad isn’t interested in those, just leave them be. But as you, playing as the initially-a-slacker 19-year-old Ashley, realise on day one of getting off the bus and shuffling into the King Wash, these games can make way more money than all this clothes-cleaning junk. Also, Geralt of Rivia is your dad. So there’s that, too.

Check out a trailer for Arcade Paradise below

Set in the 1990s, with all of the nostalgic (for me, anyway) styling that comes with that, Arcade Paradise is a management sim with a wonderfully varied array of arcade games mixed in, over 35 in total, which puts it in a niche of one so far as I know. The laundrette side of gameplay sees you spend each working day washing and drying customers’ dirty drawers and skimpy smalls, keeping the litter under control (what is with these people who come in and can’t use the abundant trash cans?), picking gum off of seats so butts don’t get sticky, and even unclogging the toilet when nature has called a little too violently. Completing each of these tasks translates into a score, which converts to cash, which can be banked in the office safe to subsequently invest in the arcade side of the business - a direction encouraged by your sister over DMs, despite dad’s aversion to it. 

Arcade Paradise /
Wired Productions

The washing and drying routine is pretty simple - first get the dirties clean and then get them crispy fresh. Plonk down the completed basket for collection in the quickest time you can for the best S-rank and the healthiest tip in your wallet. There’s a really appealing rhythm to this - grabbing the bottoms and tops, tipping them into the washer, then promptly transferring them to a dryer and then onto the pick-up table - that proves really compelling. Hypnotic, even. It’s basic, but there’s a palpable rush to seeing that S-rank pop up, knowing that the better you are at this part of the business, this part of the game, the quicker you can get to the fun stuff under the neon lights. 

Taking out the trash and yanking gum away from where it’s stuck are (very-mini) mini-games using a golf-game style gauge to get the sweet spot for pulling or tossing (the fiery end is the good end), while plunging the potty clear of punter-produced blockages is a simple case of finding the yoink point on your right analogue stick (on Switch, anyway) and then putting in some elbow grease (the elbow grease in this case being tapping the shoulder button). Shifts are supposed to finish at 11pm but there’s a good chance you’ll still have a few tasks to complete before you can get back on the bus for home, whether that’s banking the take (via a super-simple safe dial mini-game) or waiting for that final load to finish its cycle.

Arcade Paradise /
Wired Productions

But this isn’t really about sparkling up folks’ soiled sweatpants - it’s all about taking those starting few cabs out back and turning the seed of an idea into a blossoming coin-op empire. And luckily for you there’s space to knock through, expanding the back room into a fully fledged arcade before too many in-game days have passed - your dad naturally being under the impression that the extension is for added laundrette machines. (And no, it’s never not weird having Doug Cockle, the voice of Geralt, leaving you answer phone messages - not quite ‘as’ Geralt, but it’s impossible to not hear the monster hunter on the other end of the line.) New cabs are ordered via the (dial-up, nice) internet on your pleasingly beige office PC, and these progress from fairly basic affairs to SEGA-like ride-on thrillers and even multiplayer games - which you can play alongside an IRL pal.

Ah yes, I did rather neglect to mention this earlier, at least explicitly: every arcade game is playable. From a Mr Driller-alike downward miner to a Space Invaders pastiche to a Pac-Man clone that’s wearing distinctly Grand Theft Auto-ish looks, everything is a lot like an obvious touchstone yet feels unique enough in its presentation to give Arcade Paradise its own alternative-1990s gaming history aesthetic. There are achievements for each (trackable in your pause-menu Palm Pilot rip-off, another brilliant period touch) and leaderboards to climb, and careful management of your arcade’s layout will help popular cabs influence the performance of others and bring in the big money. There’s also a pool table and darts to install, a whack-a-mole unit, and a dance(-dance) machine and jukebox, all of which can be shuffled about to create just the right vibe for your rapidly growing side hustle.

Arcade Paradise /
Wired Productions

While Arcade Paradise isn’t a photo-real game by any means, which some of its Switch visuals definitely appearing a little compromised, that doesn’t negatively impact the overall atmosphere of being in this dual-business property, dashing as you do between emptying the coins from each cab and clearing the contents from every tumble dryer. (All that’s missing is the smell of cigarettes and leftover junk food.) A few days in and you know every nook and cranny, where disrespectful customers are likely to leave their gum, and you’ll get your pattern of play locked in, understanding the length of time each wash takes and just how much of it you can commit to beating your high score in Zombat 2 or Blockchain (lol, indeed). More machines, more money, more growth: that’s the core aim of the game, but obviously(?) there are surprises that pop up as you’re stockpiling chump change like some kind of grungey Scrooge McDuck. Your pops Geralt, he might eventually have something to say about your investment decisions. 

But all of that’s for you to discover. What you need to know now is that despite the elevator pitch for this one being all sorts of I’m Sorry What, Arcade Paradise is hugely compelling. Lunchtimes, evenings, sneaking a virtual day’s work in when the real job’s demands are left to the side: I’ve become completely wrapped up in its spin cycle of weirdly rewarding menial labour and magical multi-game good times. It really won’t be for everyone, and perhaps my own lived-through-the-’90s experience is a factor in my enjoyment here, but if you’re after something that’s really unlike any other game you’ll play in 2022 - or, y’know, ever - Arcade Paradise is as much of a no-brainer as breaking down that first wall into the neighbouring storage space and covering it in puke-concealingly colourful carpet.

Pros: No other game quite like it, there’s a weird fun to the clothes-cleaning gameplay, some of the arcade cabs are terrific beyond quick-play bursts (but keep an eye on the time!)

Cons: ‘Musak’ and certain sound effects do grow gratingly repetitive, interaction points on objects like gum and coin slots are frustratingly precise, graphics and presentation won’t appeal to all

For fans of: Capcom Arcade Stadium, PowerWash Simulator, The Touryst

8/10: Excellent

Arcade Paradise is released on August 11 for PC, Nintendo Switch (version tested), PlayStation 4 and 5 and Xbox One and Series X/S consoles. Review code provided by the publisher, Wired Productions. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Wired Productions

Topics: Indie Games, Nintendo Switch