Arcade Paradise, an upcoming retro management simulator from Nosebleed Interactive, wastes no time in transporting players straight back into the mid-90s. From MTV-inspired logos to handheld PDAs, Arcade Paradise leans into the aesthetic — hard.
The player begins as Ashley, a teen boy tasked with running his father’s laundry business while he gallivants across sunnier shores. The introduction of these characters establishes the game’s tongue-in-cheek tone; Ashley’s father, Gerald, is voiced by Doug Cockle — the gravelly voice behind Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher series. And where is Gerald in Arcade Paradise? Well, he’s in the Riviera, calling every now and then to remind the player to pick gum off the washing machines.
As you enter the laundromat, you’re met with rows of grotty machines. On the floor lies trash, discarded socks, and generic grime. If there’s a video game you can smell, it’s this one. Keeping the space clean and the toilet unblocked is part of the daily grind at King Wash, and the player earns a neat pocket of cash for every task completed. The bulk of the hard work comes from the laundry itself. Baskets of clothes ready to be washed will begin lining themselves up on the counter. As the sole worker, it’s the player’s job to put the clothes into the washing machines, transport them over to the dryer, then deliver them to the counter, freshly cleaned and ready for collection.
The amount of money you earn from each load of laundry depends on how quick you are to get it through the process. A solid ‘S’ rank performance nets a total of $30. Not bad, but there’s a bigger money maker waiting to be exploited.
In the back, behind the laundromat’s main room, sits a dim space housing a small collection of arcade machines. The game’s loose story is told through a series of instant message exchanges via a chat room on the office PC; one from your sister prompts you to open up the coin boxes. Inside each machine is a healthy deposit of cash, which you soon surmise is best spent on more arcade machines.
Cue the game’s main challenge: work hard or play hard.
Playing the selection of arcade games, which are creative knock-offs of classic titles such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders, increases a machine’s popularity — earning you more cash each day that far exceeds that of the laundromat. The games themselves are well-crafted and addictive, quickly eating away at your time while you wait for the next load of clothes to finish in the wash. Get too carried away and you’ll find yourself leaving it later and later before you rescue the wet clothes from impending mildew.
There’s an incentive to neglect your duties, however. Gerald soon provides you with daily challenges via your PDA to complete, like playing a certain machine for five in-game hours or achieving a lofty high score in one of the games. The reward for these challenges is a currency which can only be used to buy personal upgrades, such as new shoes to increase movement speed or a computer literacy course. It’s a particularly special, fantastical currency — the pound sterling.
As you earn more money, your sister suggests that another way to put it to good use is to expand the business, opening up the back room to squeeze in bigger and better arcade machines that’ll melt the hours away. Of course, arcade machines are expensive. As you seek to procure more you’ll need to be willing to put down even more of your profits.
In the game’s current state there isn’t much other than machines and expansions to spend your money on, so sinking it all into those is a no-brainer. This eliminates the stress of resource management, but it does funnel the game into a linear experience. It’s crying out for more customization options — upgrades for the laundrette, custom decoration, anything that allows players to put their own little stamp on the gameplay.
While the arcade generates a far healthier cash flow, you’re still running a laundry business. Failure to maintain King Wash will result in a dirty laundromat and a disappointed father. Neither of which you’ll want in your escapist management fantasy. Your end goals are to rise above the tedium of day-to-day life, get rich from the arcade, and earn Gerald’s respect.
As addictive and fun as Arcade Paradise is, it’s still a work in progress. It’s enjoyable, and a great time sink, but leans dangerously close to monotonous gameplay. The finished product, however far off it may be, is set up to be a promising and irresistible retro-inspired simulator — if it gets those extra sprinkles of player autonomy. Without that, the game passes up the chance to encourage replayability.
Arcade Paradise doesn’t have a definitive release date as of yet, though Nosebleed Interactive and Wired Productions are aiming for one this year. The game will be released on Steam, Epic Games Store, GOG, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.