Insert coins, build an empire in Nosebleed Interactive’s cracking arcade management sim.
As you enter the King Wash for the first time, you hear the voice of your father via an answering machine message. Played by Geralt himself, Doug Cockle, he both admonishes his teen offspring for their lack of responsibility and gives them the job of managing his long-neglected laundrette. As Ashley, you’re tasked with washing and drying customers’ clothes, cleaning up rubbish, unclogging the toilet, and trying to turn a profit. Hidden in the back room, however, is a small selection of arcade cabinets, and with this discovery, the game’s real focus comes to light.
Your dad doesn’t want you running an arcade – to him, it isn’t a profitable endeavour. Your sister sees the value in coin-ops, though, and via a beige desktop PC in the office, she provides tips and support for expanding your gaming empire. The PC also provides the means to buy new cabinets, as well as real estate expansions and cool little perks. It’s all incredibly nineties – even the game menu is a PalmPilot, complete with its very own take on the endless runner in Llama.
New arcade cabinets appear the next day on the back of a truck after purchase, their crates falling open with pixelated sparks. The entire game is full of this gamified charm, where even mundane tasks like taking out the rubbish and pulling chewing gum from the undersides of tables are presented like one of the cabinets you’re curating, with scores and bonus cash rewarded for a job well done. Tending the washers and dryers in a timely fashion nets you money, too, which you can plough back into your secret backroom business.
Speaking of which, every arcade cabinet is playable. You start with the likes of Video Air Hockey, which is a bit dull after a couple of plays, but you soon add cabs like Strike Gold! (a Mr. Driller clone) and the OutRun-like Space Race Simulator. There are 35 games to add to your venture, and they can be hit and miss. But each one can be tweaked to earn more or less per play, have an increased difficulty, and they all come with in-game challenges for you to complete. Managing and expanding the arcade is a blast.
There were times early on where I’d find myself staring at the countdown timer on a dryer as I tried for an S-Rank by completing the task super-fast. This took away from my time with the star of the show, the arcade, but it equally felt like I was truly earning every new machine, and the fresh experiences those brought. There are so many awesome little touches and references throughout that have to be seen to be truly appreciated. Collecting money from hoppers has never felt more rewarding.