This week an indie game launched on Xbox's Xbox Live Indie Games channel that I'd been waiting for since the reveal trailer was posted some time ago. A sim game where you get to run an arcade during the 1980s? Sounds awesome! I've put a couple hours into the game at this point and can say that while it can be fun, it also has some issues that keep it from being great.
First let's talk about the good. From checking out the trailer you can tell that this is one good looking indie game, with great lighting and lovingly crafted arcade machines to buy for your arcade. The machines don't have animated screens, which is kind of a bummer, but they have a single screen on their monitors, different control panels and unique art for the cabinet and marquee. The sound effects for the machines are all unique, and as time goes on your arcade will get machines that have much more sophisticated sounds than their predecessors. You can purchase decorative touches for your arcade to personalize it, coloring the walls, floor tiles, buying neon to run the perimeter of the arcade, etc. These touches not only add some personal touches to your arcade, but help with the popularity as well, which your customers will decide by a number of factors, such as layout, cost, new machines, variety of genres, etc. It does a good job of feeling like a real arcade.
Probably my biggest complaint is that, from my limited time playing so far, it seems like if you play poorly, you're pretty much doomed, but if you play well, you'll be doing so well that it becomes a bit boring. My first time playing, I made some bad decisions, and ended my first year (1980) with only two machines left, and I wasn't making enough money to purchase a new machine and afford my rent. I restarted and decided to blow through my loan money early, buying lots of machines to earn money. It worked like gangbusters, and now I'm in the early part of 1984 and have more money than I know what to do with.
Apart from that, there's some things that could use some tweaking. One of the things your arcades popularity is decided on is your diversity of genres. The only place I can see the genre listing for a title is in the menu where you purchase the machine. That becomes a problem when you've got 30 machines in your arcade and want to see what genres you may need. It's especially annoying because there is an info window you can bring up for each machine, but it simply doesn't list that. There's occasionally events that happen to throw some variety into the game, but they're few, far-between and will repeat often. Things like power-outages that require you go double tap each machine to reactivate them before they'll start making money for you again, champion players asking to use your machine to set a record score (you won't make any money on the machine but you may get a huge surge in popularity), things like that.
Is it worth playing? If your love arcades then I'd say look into it. The developers were obviously passionate about the topic and it shows as you do things like kick out players that are roughing up your machines (before they outright break them!), or showing how home console games can effect the popularity of your machines. I've just started 1984, and the 'game crash' hit during the holiday, drastically hurting the popularity of my arcade. I'm interested in seeing if they go anywhere with that, but at the same time I'm already feeling a bit burned out on the game. It's only $3, however, so I definitely feel like I've gotten my money's worth, but can't help but feel that this game is SO CLOSE to something I want, but doesn't quite hit it.
I know it sounds like I'm being hard on it, but admittedly two evenings in a row I sat down with it to play for "just a bit", and that turned into a couple hours. So there's really something addicting about it here, and I did enjoy my time with it so far. I'm just afraid I may have seen all there is to see already.