When I first took a look at Pierhead Arcade, I thought it was going to be a bunch of retro style arcade games like we used to have here in the U.S. back in the 1980’s like Ms. Pac Man, Centipede, Galaga, etc. Instead I was treated to something more than I could possibly have bargained for.
Pierhead Arcade by Mechabit is a building that houses some of the best physical arcade games ever created! We’ll get to those in a bit, but first let me walk you through the game as I first experienced it.
Outside the arcade
When you first boot up Pierhead Arcade on Steam you’re presented with a bunch of blue painted wood signs propped up on the floor, much like the “wet floor” yellow sign we’re so used to seeing in stores, except these signs, much like everything in the game, is in theme. They look look like old blue painted wood signs you’d see outside of a building on the pier. That’s the setting, you’re on the end of a pier with a building in front of you. On the signs you’re presented with several options such as Single Player, Multi-player, and the standard set of instructions. The coolest part about this game is the authenticity of which everything is created. From the old paint looking signs like I mentioned, down to the wood paneling on the floor. Everything has the old-school rustic feel to it bringing you back to your childhood memories of these buildings like on the Santa Monica Pier or Coney Island, and of course, playing the games.
Much like a lot of the games we’re playing in VR today, it uses a teleportation system for moving around but with a twist: you don’t even need to turn your body if you don’t want to. Sure, a big part of VR is walking around but another cool part is not having to walk around if you don’t want to. The developers at Mechabit decided to have a compass based turning mechanic which I haven’t seen used before. It works like this: you hold the menu button down (the button above the track-pad) and turn your Vive controller either left or right. If you’re staring at your feet you can see the compass and which way you’re standing. When you hold the button down and turn the Vive controller you can see the needle on the compass rotate and show you which way you’ll be facing once you release the button. So, in essence, you don’t ever have to move your body the entire time you play any of the games if you don’t want to. Loving VR as much as I do, however, I left that mechanic alone and walked over to the various places within the confines of my VR boundaries.
While you’re outside you also have the opportunity, to adjust your height using a slider. This comes in handy when playing certain games where height has a distinct advantage.
Inside the arcade
Once inside you are transported back to your childhood where all your favorite games are not only present, but they play and feel exactly the way they did when you were a kid. I’m not kidding. The realism factor of this suite of arcade games is amazingly authentic and the creative director, whomever that is, is obviously extremely detail oriented. For example, one of the first machines you see when you walk through the front door, either on your left or right side, are two variations of the Crane Game. You remember this machine, right? It’s the machine where you sunk at least $5 in quarters in order to get that arm to move back and to the side to eventually drop down and pick up whatever prize you’re hoping to catch. Well, when you catch a plush animal in Pierhead Arcade, which isn’t easy, you can bring it right up to your face and see the type of cloth it was made with. That’s the level of detail you’ll find throughout the entire game. I can’t say enough about this because it adds so much to the realism of the arcade.
I’m not going to give you a review of each game because I could spend hours talking about how much the Shooting Gallery felt like it did when I was 12 years old, or how I tried to cheat in Skee-ball but was caught doing so. At least in VR there’s no manager telling your parents you walked to the side of the machine and threw the balls in the holes with the highest score!!
Combining new tech with vintage games
One of the coolest parts of playing the games in Pierhead Arcade is that you get to win tickets at the end of every game, assuming you made a score high enough to get tickets. Trust me, there were plenty of games where I didn’t get a single ticket but then there were others where it spit out over 100 tickets and I felt like I was winning the lottery!!
At the end of every game, while you’re receiving your tickets (which fly out of the machine and in to the air), this super cool translucent square pops up showing you the 4 different leaders boards: local, friends, all time, & multiplayer. You can spin the square with your Vive controller and if you’re lucky enough to get a high score you can enter it in at the end of the game using a keyboard with the controller. The other cool high tech addition is the instructions. Back when I was a kid I had to watch the other kids play the game in order to figure out how to play and not waste my money. Since you have unlimited funds (don’t you just love 21st century video games?), you can either try and figure it out, or you can look down to the side of the machine at a translucent “i” which, when touched, brings up the game’s instructions.
You can redeem your tickets at the counter in the back of the arcade. The developer was even nice enough to give us plenty of shelf space to display our spoils. So far I’ve got a tiger, a parrot, a drone, a construction cone, and a frisbee.
Want more authenticity? The game Super Shoot, where you have to throw basketballs at the hoop, gets even harder when the hoop moves from side to side. I can go on and on about how these were the same games I played when I was little but for some reason they’re so much more fun now! Maybe it’s because I’m not pumping in quarter after quarter in to the machines trying to win tickets to get a giant stuffed animal.
When I think about how much money I’ve spent at places like Dave & Buster’s, Six Flag’s, Disneyland, etc. playing the exact same games Pierhead Arcade has, trying desperately to win enough tickets to buy my sweetheart that huge stuffed animal, I want to kick myself because now they’re all free, after you buy the game on Steam of course.
The game is currently priced at $9.99 but in my opinion it’s a steal at twice the price.
As with any game, there are always things to be improved upon. In Pierhead Arcade, you can walk through walls and get stuck, lose those precious animals you won in the Crane Game, walk on water, etc. Losing the stuffed animal really bugged me because I worked so hard to get it, and when I was teleporting over to the shelf to store it, the plush animal disappeared in to thin air!
The only other thing that bothered me was the fact that there was no ambient music. Sure, you could go to the Jukebox in the game, but you need to have music stored on your computer in order for it to play anything. If you just simply walked up to the Jukebox and try to press Play it will give you an error message telling you to look for music on your computer. It really brings you out of the fantasy world you were in when you first walked in to the arcade.
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