Review: Arcade Paradise – An Arcade Purgatory

Arcade Paradise is a fusion of fun, flair and frustration. As stylish as it is buggy, and as exciting as it is mundane. The title promises a paradise, but whilst far from being hellish, instead it comes in a form of purgatory. There’s a whole lot to like in Arcade Paradise, a bit to dislike, and a lot to improve going forwards. 

Arcade Paradise is a laundrette and arcade management simulation game, brought to us by indie developer Nosebleed Interactive and published by Wired Productions. In the game, the player needs to wash and dry the clothes of their customers, and can spend those profits on turning the backroom into an arcade. The player’s father who owns the laundrette has no idea about the arcade being built, and is wonderfully voiced by Doug Cockle, better known as The Witcher 3’s Geralt. 

A screenshot of the King Wash in Arcade Paradise
Players spend their days working at the King Wash, owned by their father.

The core gameplay loop is inherently satisfying. The washing and drying mechanic is gamified, giving you an S, A, B or C rank depending on how timely you are doing the laundry. The laundrette and arcade both also get comedically dirty overnight, so you can do a daily clean up of the junk food packets, drinks bottles and leftover chewing gum. Even cleaning the toilet when it gets blocked becomes a minigame, with the plunger dealing damage to a HP bar until it’s defeated and clean.

Your backroom arcade expands and becomes more populated as you develop it and buy more arcade cabinets. The NPCs that visit the arcade are quite bizarre looking, and even stranger, they turn into pixelated nightmares when you stand too close to them. This is just an innocent little quirk likely to stop you getting blocked by or clipping through them, but I can’t help but feel a little creeped out every time one of them disintegrates into a blur of pixels. 

A side-by-side screenshot Arcade Paradise demonstrating the pixelation of an NPC wearing a blue jacket
A side by side demonstration of how NPCs get pixelated if you get too close.

The arcade machines are great fun. There is a wide variety of different arcade games, with many being clearly inspired by arcade classics like the Pac-Man and Grand Theft Auto hybrid ‘Racer Chaser’ game, or the Space Invaders clone ‘Blobs from Space’. The games were definitely my favorite part of the Arcade Paradise experience, and they made it addicting to return to. I wanted to keep completing new goals, getting high scores and making my machines more profitable. Not only do the machines vary in their genre, but in their art style too. The arcade machines can be 2D, 3D, or even in-game interactable sports like darts or eight-ball pool. 

The in-game sports can be incredibly frustrating due to just how imprecise the controls are. It isn’t fun to play a game of air hockey when the puck is literally moving at light speed and you’re controlling your virtual hand with the keyboard instead of the mouse. Likewise, playing the table football game felt impossible at times. Controlling your rows of players on a keyboard is tough, but when camera glitches make it ridiculously hard to even see where your players are, it’s irritating to say the least. These inaccessible games become more disappointing when you take into account their goals. Completing machine goals will increase the popularity and earnings from a game, but it’s tough to get through them on the games that control poorly.

A screenshot from Arcade Paradise showcasing the Racer Chaser game.
The GTA and Pac-Man fusion of Racer Chaser is a unique and fun combination.

Also revolving around the use of arcade machines is a list of daily to-do items. Completing a to-do quest rewards cash that can be spent on new features and upgrades to run your laundrette/arcade more efficiently. These are a good incentive to play the arcade machines you wouldn’t usually play, and being able to purchase some great upgrades is a nice reward. This being said, my playthrough also had some glitches with the to-do list. Sometimes I’d do what the list wanted and not receive a reward, and other times I did literally nothing and got the reward. These frustrations do bog down the experience a fair bit, but the overall evolution of your arcade and the new games that come with that does make for an enjoyable time.

The other part of daily management is tending to your customers’ laundry. As stated earlier, the ranking mechanics of cleaning the laundry is fun. However, the mechanic never really evolves throughout the entire game. Besides one major change towards the end, the laundry mechanic is just washing for three minutes, drying for three minutes and then placing it on the side for collection. 

A screenshot of the Arcade Paradise tutorial introducing the player to their chores
The laundry tutorial gameplay never really changes through the game.

The loop is probably kept simple so you have plenty of time to tend to your arcade, but it makes the laundry mechanic feel pretty mundane. An additional step later in Arcade Paradise would have been welcome to add variety and potentially increase rewards. For example, perhaps some customers could have requested to have their clothes folded, or perhaps some customers would like you to use certain types of fabric conditioner. Anything to make a wash load feel more unique would have gone a long way in making the repetitive grind of laundry more interesting. 

Most of my criticisms of Arcade Paradise have a similar message to them – the game could be better, and hopefully it will be. The bugs and glitches have a good chance of being ironed out now Arcade Paradise is released, and that alone will improve the moment-to-moment experience. Some of Arcade Paradise‘s issues might be more permanent though, like the grind-y laundry sections.

A screenshot of the Arcade Paradise Debugging minigame.
Debugging your arcade machines is silly and fun, but perhaps the Arcade Paradise devs need to do the same.

There are too many small glitches I experienced to go over in this review without writing another thousand words. To highlight just a few, I had a puzzle game cabinet glitch so the fruits you have to match started to have their sprites overlap each other, a bomb-mining game where my character got stuck to a wall and died, and the table football game got stuck in action replay mode. 

If the technical issues were resolved, Arcade Paradise would rate far higher for me. Underneath the bugs, glitches and sometimes repetitive gameplay is a truly enjoyable arcade management simulator. I do like the idea of needing to start from trivial beginnings to create something exciting, and the execution, even in its buggy state, isn’t that bad. The neon colours and varied gameplay of the arcade really pops against the backdrop of dull grey hues and monotonous laundrette gameplay.

A screenshot of the Arcade Paradise cabinet obtained animation, showing bright neon lightning fly out of the cabinet.
Arcade Paradise has potentially the coolest item obtained animation ever.

If you’re a fan of ‘90s arcades and retro gaming, there’s definitely enough here for you to confidently dive in now, and deal with the bugs as they come. If you’re hesitant or unsure, it might be best to wait a few months. In its current state, Arcade Paradise has a ways to go before becoming a true gaming paradise, but what we have is still fun.

Have you played Arcade Paradise, and if so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments below, and keep your eyes on GameLuster for more reviews.

Bobby played Arcade Paradise on PC with a review key. Arcade Paradise is also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

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