If you’re old enough to have lived through the eighties or early nineties, you may recall that arcade machines used to turn up in the most random places. It wasn’t uncommon, for example, to spot a battered Space Invaders cabinet standing in the corner of a fish-and-chip shop, covered in a film of grease, or to stumble on a Double Dragon machine at the back of a café, its buttons lightly melted by cigarette burns.
Nosebleed Interactive founder and CEO Andreas Firnigl is certainly old enough to remember that bygone era of ubiquitous coin-ops: he still recalls the first arcade he ever visited, tucked away in the “grotty back room” behind a VHS rental shop. Arcade Paradise, then, is a management game steeped in Firnigl and his team’s memories of that era: “You start off working this dead-end job in your father’s launderette,” he tells us, adding that it’s a scenario “very much influenced by a bunch of dead-end jobs” he did himself as a youth.
There’s a motivation for completing your daily chores, though: you play as Ashley, whose long-term aim is to turn the dusty room behind the launderette into a buzzing arcade, and so all the cash earned from completing minigames is funnelled into buying cabinets for your new venture. “We try to balance things so that the player is rewarded for everything,” Firnigl explains. “So collecting rubbish is like a mini RPG fetch quest ending with a little basketball game where you throw [the rubbish] in the bin… cleaning the toilet is a little boss battle, and winning increases the business’ cleanliness and reputation, so you get a little boost.”
There’s more to Arcade Paradise than management, too. All the machines you acquire for your arcade are playable, and can range from fictionalised takes on the monochrome shooters of the late seventies to more advanced, late nineties-style brawlers with detailed sprites. You’ll even find a Bomberman clone among Arcade Paradise’s roster of 35-ish games. “We wanted to do a sort of historical whistle-stop tour of the different graphical styles throughout the decades,” Firnigl explains. “So you’ll see some old seventies cabs with vector graphics and really low-resolution monochrome displays. The older the machines, the kind of worse the displays are, so one of the oldest games has this really dodgy monitor with loads of noise and screen tear and so on.”
Like everything else in Arcade Paradise, playing those games will result in rewards in the management area of the game: playing a coin-op will boost its popularity and, in turn, increase your profits, for example. But whether you choose to spend all day tapping away at your collection of coin-ops or earn cash by completing other tasks around the launderette, there’s always a motivation to progress – not only will you be able to purchase more machines for your arcade, but you’ll also have an impact on the environment around you. As the business grows, you’ll have the option to expand the premises; meanwhile, the surrounding neighbourhood will gradually flourish from a grey hellscape to a clean urban community.
Given that Nosebleed Interactive has a 3D open world to build as well all those arcade games that exist within it, scope has been a major challenge during development. “I think by far the biggest challenge is the sheer size of the game,” Firnigl tells us. “The physical space you walk around in might be restricted to the street outside, the launderette, and the arcade, but in terms of systems and the variety of gameplay on offer, it’s absolutely huge. I think even next to some of the bigger, open-world triple-A games, we compare very favourably on that front. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so balancing and tweaking each of the arcade machines has taken a lot of time and effort. It’s our goal to become known as the most generous developer out there.”
All that perfectionism is going into a game that, if all goes to plan, will provide the ultimate nostalgia fantasy for players of a certain age: you’re building a mini-empire, one hulking chipboard cabinet at a time. “When Ashley buys a new game for the arcade, the player has to wait until the next day for it to be delivered,” Firnigl enthuses. “They still have to do these chores, so there’s some suspense and anticipation there. But when it arrives, we play this totally elaborate and over-the-top loot box-style animation. For Ashley, it’s exciting because the business is growing, but for the player, they’re looking forward to being able to try out a new game, too.”
Genre: Management sim
Format: PC / XB S/X / PS4 / PS5 / Switch
Developer: Nosebleed Interactive
Publisher: Wired Productions