Thursday, May 10, 2007

Back... and Burn'der Than Ever.

Back safe from my trip, and I have a little gaming PSA to share with my readers (both of you).

The state of the arcade game has gone from bad to worse in the last decade. I remember even 10 years ago, you could still find the odd struggling arcade out of the way somewhere, or you could go into arcade gaming's last refuge and at least find arcade games that even those from the boomer generation could understand how to play (drive this car with this feedback steering wheel, shoot this light gun at these bad guys or helpless animals, etc).

Woe betide anyone who dares to stumble into the arcade in a Carnival cruise ship. Every game costs a full dollar, and more than 50% of them are broken in some manner. Oh, but not in a manner that you will discover until after your dollar is gone.

And even if you find a fully functioning one? The paradigm has shifted. The latest brave, if foolhardy and coin-thirsty entrants into the arcade genre are actually retooled PC or console games. Arcade Mechwarrior 4, suckier than the PC version by far. Arcade head-to-head Mario Kart, pretty graphically but hobbled by the same paradigm shift as every machine in that dark, noisy, hydrodynamically oscillating hallway...

You lose even when you win.

You probably remember a few games like this from a decade ago... they're the ones everybody refused to play, where even if you won the race or beat the boss or did well in whatever respect the game requires to be classified as "winning," you still have to put in more money to continue to the next level. Well, no longer the exception, it is the rule. It used to be that most racing games would send you to the next race for free if you got 1st place, but not any more, especially not in the arcade version of Mario Kart. Hell, all your dollar buys you in arcade Mechwarrior 4 is 1 minute 30 seconds at the controls of an infinitely dumbed down Loki chassis mech (that's a Hellbringer for you clan types) and dropped with no exposition into an infinitely oversimplified 1-hit-1-kill time trial with no real way to earn any bonus time of noteworthy denomination.

Shame on you, Carnival Cruiselines. Shame on you for not only keeping your machines in terrible repair, but even moreso for populating your pathetic mock-up of an arcade with machines designed to take money from your passengers even faster than your slot machines and your 5 dollar well drinks and your automatic gratuities. Yes, I'm talking to you, crew of the M/S Ecstasy. Better to not even have an arcade than to have a darkened den of noise and charlatainry, and a terribly maintained one at that. You fooled me out of 5 bucks (love those non-refundable token machines, right everybody?), but I'm spreading the word.

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