A game about arcades featuring more than 40 playable retro arcade games? What’s not to love? Well, that’s surely Super Villain Games’ intention with King of the Arcade. Space Invaders, Duck Hunt, Street Fighter 2, Final Fight. Platformers, FPS games, sports simulators. Even a dash of pinball and claw machines. It’s all here, but as this King of the Arcade review will prove, it’s kind of a mixed bag.
You play as Mac McCormick. An arcade champion at 12 years old. Since, he has fallen on harder times. Just like the industry which brought him success. Now 28 years later, his local arcade looks set to be bought out by the ruthless Jimmy Joysticks. Even worse, he wants to turn it into an NFT. Somehow. Nobody’s quite sure. In order to prevent him from doing so, you must beat his crew of seven gaming experts at each of their chosen games. I mean, it’s as reasonable a plot as any.
It should go without saying at this point, but King of the Arcade is intended to be a comedy experience. And it certainly does have its moments. From the 80’s montage to the self-referential humour, it’s perfectly capable of bringing a smile to those in the know. Given the premise is those 40 retro arcade games, if you’re thinking of buying King of the Arcade, you probably have some experience in that regard.
So how about the games themselves? Well, they are a bit all over the place. Often feeling like cheap rip-offs of their legitimate counterparts. The platform game is an incredibly simple take on Super Mario Bros.. The racing game has ridiculous handling. Even the pinball has slow reacting paddles. Other games are more enjoyable, such as the aforementioned Space Invaders clone. Sidewalk Fighter 2 is a welcome distraction. Even the side-scrolling beat-’em-up has merit, though is hardly a blip on the radar of classic such The Cowabunga Collection. What King of the Arcade does do well however, is to incorporate these as side shows for its amusing campaign. From the arcade games to the hidden phone with Snake on a pseudo monochrome screen, to the tic-tac-toe machine; there’s bound to be something to spark almost anyone’s sense of nostalgia.
Oddly, the local multiplayer is a bit of a fumble. King of the Arcade isn’t exactly going to pull you back for it’s retro thrills regularly, but if it were to do so it would be for the couch multiplayer. Sadly, the very brief campaign limits progress to solo play only. You can play in multiplayer here, but it won’t count towards your goals. It seems instead that Super Villain Games expect you to want to come back later. Sadly, for while the story is enjoyable in it’s brevity, if you want to play retro games you’re better off buying the likes of SEGA Genesis Classics or Atari 50.
That is in essence the gist of this King of the Arcade review. It’s a game that’s targeted at a very specific demographic. Not for hours of rekindled memories of their favourite game, but instead for nostalgia of the industry as a whole. If you’re the kind of gamer who only buys a handful of games a year – or hasn’t bought one since the 1980s – King of the Arcade is going to be wasted on you. But if you’ve been playing games for more than a couple of decades in all of their varieties, there’s a decent evenings worth of entertainment to be had.
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