Arcade machines are the perfect visual representation of videogames. Tall totems that fill a room with artificial light and sound that harks back to the roots of where gaming came to life in a public environment.
For many of us, owning a piece of this nostalgic history would be but a dream. If the cost of a traditional cabinet, its expected refurbishment, and maintenance weren't enough to put you off, then finding the space to keep one permanently would make many think long and hard about such an investment. That's where the Quarter Arcades series steps in.
Coming in at - believe it or not - 1/4 scale of their original namesakes, the Quarter Arcades series aims to bring that look and feel of owning your own arcade cabinet, without the apparent drawbacks. The first in a line of reincarnations is the one I got my hands on today, everyone's favourite yellow blob (sorry Pikachu): PAC-MAN.
Numskull Designs - the creators of this range - are well known for their officially licensed collaborations with franchises such as Star Wars, Spyro the Dragon, Harry Potter, and Rick and Morty to name a few. With this Bandai Namco collaboration, there's no expense spared. Numskull clearly wanted to take advantage of a gap in the market between the full-size replica/original cabinets that take up a lot of room and cost an arm and a leg, and the mass-produced bargain bin builds that lack the polish, authenticity, and impressiveness.
The machine feels quality as soon as you get your hands on it - none of this shrink-wrap, glossy acrylic nonsense. The housing is made of wood and metal with every replica button serving a functional purpose (with the coin rejector button as an exception, obviously). For example, repetitively tapping the credit button will - expectedly - add more credits to your game. This detail - when compared to its cheaper alternatives - is often missed. The design of the sides, top and even the back match the original perfectly, creating a truly authentic look, right down to the instructions and point scoring notes beside the vivid colour screen. As for the most important part - the joystick - it feels very durable and has what feels like four tiny mechanical switches for each direction of movement. Traversing PAC-MAN around his maze is a joy. It seems silly, but it was somewhat mesmerising how accurate and consistent a slight tilt of the stick was. The form-factor didn’t detract from the experience in any way.
Despite its obvious quality, the cabinet is intentionally very light. It sports an internal battery, making it portable as well as a pretty thing to keep on a shelf. Powered by micro-USB, the internal battery is expected to last dozens of hours of play. Obviously, you aren't going to be whipping this out on the train, but for a party, being able to plonk it on a picnic bench without worrying about it dying is a massive advantage, and would certainly be a talking point.
You may be thinking: ‘but, isn't it just PAC-MAN? I can download this for free on my phone or can chuck this and 1000 other games onto a Raspberry Pi for a fraction of the cost!’ Make no mistake, this is a cabinet for enthusiasts and collectors. Whilst the price of this miniature - at £149.99 - could be a deterrent for some considering it houses just one game, those that are die-hard fans of the PAC-MAN series or Namco memorabilia will consider it a must-buy, especially as it runs on the original ROM, not an emulator. Included with every purchase is a certificate of authenticity, displaying the number for each limited unit (out of 10,000), and a collector's coin that you'll only be able to get by purchasing the cabinet itself.
The Quarter Arcades series is set to be a loving collection of homages to the original cabinets with each tiny detail considered. Sure, the market for this will be small, but Numskull seems to think it would be big enough to extend the range beyond just PAC-MAN that's releasing in December. Already confirmed cabinets for launch in 2019 include Galaga, Galaxian, and PAC-MAN's counterpart, Ms. PAC-MAN - so, depending on sales this range could be around for a long time to come.
Eager fans looking to purchase this Quarter Arcades cabinet can pre-order theirs now from various online retailers. Here’s a link to its official site.