Arcadecraft (Second Chance with the Chick)

Arcadecraft has been updated three times since I last played it back in February.  Not only have a few bugs been squashed, but a lot of content has been added.  The length of the game has been extended by a full in-game year, with new machines being released during the course of it.  To give the game a more authentic arcade feel, different machine types have been added, including 2-player upright games, pinball machines, more cocktail tables, and more options to dress up your arcade.  Gameplay mechanics have been cleaned up as well, including the problematic hooligan, who is now easier to deal with.  The power doesn’t go out as much, and coin doors don’t jam as much.  Because the busy-work has been significantly toned down, Arcadecraft feels less like one of those plate-spinning things carnies do and more like an actual, professional sim game.

My arcade was never this organized. Nowhere near as bad as my Sim Cities were, but still..

My arcade was never this organized. Nowhere near as bad as my Sim Cities were, but still..

Which is not to say the game’s shelf-life is that much longer.  When Arcadecraft is done, it’s done. There isn’t a whole lot more you can do once you’ve run out the clock.  Replay value is lacking sorely.  Unless the developers could come up with scenario-style missions and side-quests, Arcadecraft probably won’t be the type of game you go back to again and again.  It also still gets off to too slow a start, though this can be negated if you have Firebase’s other game, Orbitron, or Bad Caterpillar by Kris Steele.  If you do, you can unlock cabinets for those games in Arcadecraft.  Games that you can bump up to 50 cents and push the difficulty to hard without them taking a hit.  Arcadecraft was a bit too easy to begin with.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, given that the Bad Caterpillar cabinet has what I think is a shout-out to me in it (or possibly Donna Bailey, but the narcissist in me thinks it’s me), but avoid those two cabinets if you’re looking for a challenge.

A game set in the 1980s has characters using the word "retro". That somehow seems wrong.

A game set in the 1980s has characters using the word “retro”. That somehow seems wrong.

Despite the lack of difficulty, I love Arcadecraft.  Love it.  It no longer feels like it’s in the Beta stage of development.  Arcadecraft is now a fully realized, glorious game.  It’s one of the ten best Xbox Live Indie Games ever made.  By all rights, this should be the next big simulation mega-franchise.  Unfortunately, Firebase has no plans to put Arcadecraft on PC.  Well, I simply cannot accept that.  So I propose that fans of this game line up in single file to set themselves on fire in protest of that.  Their charred remains are on your head, Firebase.  We’ll go in alphabetical order by surname.  I’ve never been happier that my real name is Cathy Zykozawitz.

xboxboxartArcadecraft was developed by Firebase Industries

IGC_Approved$1 (originally $3) have no idea how you would pronounce that in the making of this review.

Arcadecraft is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

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Arcadecraft

Update: Arcadecraft received a Second Chance with the Chick, where many problems talked about in this review were addressed, and new gameplay features discussed. The price is also now only $1 instead of $3. Continue reading this review and then click here for my updated thoughts.

Arcadecraft is brought to you by the guys who did the incredibly awesome Orbitron: Revolution.  What was Orbitron: Revolution?  Why, it was an insanely fast-paced modern take on the classic Defender formula that featured arguably the best graphics in the history of Xbox Live Indie Games.  It will undoubtedly go down as one of the most professional-quality, vastly entertaining games ever on the platform.

Total bust.  Sold fewer copies than an 8-track of Gary Busey belching into a microphone.

What went wrong?  Well, I think the name was way too generic.  Orbitron sounds like an off-brand anime that would air at 4AM on Cartoon Network.  The graphics might have also been too good.  Hear me out on this one.  I’m of the belief that XBLIG consumers are conditioned to associate good graphics with bad gameplay.  Unless those good graphics are of the 8-bit or 16-bit variety, “modern” graphic decency in an Xbox Indie means shitty play control, glitches, and typically rushed game design.  Trust me, I’ve reviewed over 300 of these.  The better the graphics, the shittier the game.  Orbitron is one of the rare exceptions to that.

There are other possible explanations that are beyond my scope of understanding.  Perhaps the demo doesn’t hook players in.  Or maybe the general gaming populace is indifferent to Defender.  Hell, I would actually believe some kind of Gypsy Curse is in play.  Either way, the guys at Firebase took no chances with their follow-up game.  It’s called Arcadecraft.  The presence of the word “craft” in the title alone is probably good for at least 2,500 units sold on XBLIG.  Kraft could put out a game where you build stuff out of macaroni called Kraftcraft and it would probably sell a gillion copies.  But Arcadecraft isn’t a “build stuff out of stuff” game at all.  A more accurate title would have probably been “Sim Arcade” or “Arcade Tycoon.”  But Sim Tycoon isn’t trendy on XBLIG right now and Craft is, and Firebase are capitalists first and foremost.

Face it guys, you're never going to hear people keep asking about if they can play the games.  Better get cracking on making it happen.

Face it guys, you’re going to hear people keep asking if they can play the games. Better get cracking on making it happen.

Sadly for me, lots of the things I planned on complaining about Arcadecraft are already being fixed.  Although the patch isn’t live yet, it covers nearly every problem I had.  So I’ll just focus on the gameplay.  Honestly, the shocking thing about Arcadecraft is that nobody has thought to make this game before.  Build your own arcade during the Golden Age of CoinOps?  How is this not already something that exists?  You have to buy games, set the prices, set the difficulty, place them, empty the coin boxes, buy more games, pay off your loan, kick out hooligans, buy more games, sell old games, upgrade the power supply of your building, allow world champion players to attempt to break records on your machines, unjam coin doors, buy more games, survive the gaming crash of ’84, stock soda machines, and buy more games.

So yea, it’s a time sink.

A lot of stuff I disliked about Arcadecraft is being patched out.  The hooligan won’t appear while you’re in menus anymore, and a more satisfying animation will appear when you boot him.  Not too satisfying.  If I owned an arcade and someone started kicking my machines, nothing short of Joe Pesci taking a nail gun to his temple would please me, and it would serve the little fucker right.  It would be totally justified too.  The kid starts kicking machines, somehow teleporting from machine to machine, disabling them before I can clearly identify him and eject him.  A better indicator of where he is would be nice, given the fact that he’s powered by the mystical forces of Satan and all.

And the power goes out a lot.  Like, at least every three game months, or about six minutes .  Where the fuck is my arcade at that the power keeps failing every three months?  There’s no “turn on every game” master switch.  You have to pick up and slam every machine against the ground.  Individually.  When you have 30 machines, this becomes a pain in the ass, especially when you’ll inevitably have the hooligan show up to start shit while this is going on.  I did find it mildly amusing that jammed coined slots are unjammed in the time-tested tradition of banging the machine repeatedly until it works again.  See, who says Armageddon wasn’t factually accurate?

I swear to Christ, every time the dude came by with the premium machines, my arcade was full. The game totally needs to give you the option to make him wait while you hock a machine to make room.

I swear to Christ, every time the dude came by with the premium machines, my arcade was full. The game totally needs to give you the option to make him wait while you hock a machine to make room.

My biggest gripe with Arcadecraft is how fucking slow a start it gets off to.  A lot of time sinks are lethargic in the beginning.  Arcadecraft is practically in a fucking coma, sort of like I’ve been over the last four days.  A common theme among players is one itty-bitty mistake forces them to start over.  I never had to myself.  I guess I had as perfect a run as anyone could have, but I still only finished 99th on the Leaderboard (now like 118th or some such shit).  I could see why others would die though.  You’re given too little of seed money and new games cost too much money early on.  In theory, you can set a machine to 50 cents a play, but that causes its popularity to plummet.  Here’s a hint: sink a soda machine pretty much anywhere and set the price to $1 per can.  Occasionally a “hot spot” will appear in the arcade that increases a machine’s popularity, but they’re typically in the least convenient spot.  Like in front of the bathroom door, where you then trap a helpless little shit inside, not to mention the kid that made it.

With all the planned changes, plus future expansions, Arcadecraft feels more like a really good beta than a finished game.  That’s okay, because it’s a really good beta, sort of like Lexiv was.  You can see the potential.  If Firebase plays its cards right, they could probably make this a hit iOS game with microtransactions up the ass for years to come.  Think of all the stuff they didn’t include this time around.  There’s no novelty games, no redemption games, no pinball machines, no skeeball, no air hockey, no cigarette machine in the corner (you know, for the adults, wink), and only a limited supply of larger cockpit games.  Arcadecraft has a chance to be a full-blown franchise, and we’re getting in at the ground floor.

You also don't get enough info on each game. Again, there's lot of patchwork needed here.

You also don’t get enough info on each game. Again, there’s lot of patchwork needed here.

And by the way, in case you’re wondering, it’s fucking awesome as hell.  For all the problems, of which there are numerous, Arcadecraft is one of the best sims on XBLIG.  But, let’s face it, it doesn’t belong on XBLIG.  This should be on PCs, with the convenience of a mouse and keyboard.  This would also allow the expansion packs I mentioned above.  Plus, let’s face it, we all want to play the actual games.  Dead serious when I say that I would pay the full disc-based retail price of $60 for a version of Arcadecraft where you could play the games.  Assuming they didn’t suck.  Which I’m guessing they wouldn’t.  I mean, Firebase did make the coolest modern version of Defender on the market.  This would give them a chance to make the coolest versions of EVERY vintage game.  Which they should be doing right now.  They’re capitalists after all.  Don’t believe me?  Their next game involves making stuff out of feces.  It’s called CrapCraft.  And it will be fucking awesome.

xboxboxartArcadecraft was developed by Firebase Industries

IGC_Approved240 Microsoft Points want the machine kicking kid to be attacked by the game machines, Emilio Estevez  style in the making of this review.

Arcadecraft is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  And trust me, there’s room for upward mobility. 

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