Clear back at last year’s E3 we got a chance to visit with the crew of Arcade1Up and check out all the retro arcade cabinets they were coming out with. The company was basically getting licenses at the time and building up their collection of smaller arcade cabinets that stand about 4′ tall. The ultimate retro item for adults without a ton of space, or who want to play arcade games with their kids who are roughly the same size as the cabinet itself. We were lucky enough to be sent one for review with the game Rampage as the main attraction, so we built it up and tested it out.
So for starters, this is a cabinet you build yourself, which for a lot of retro fans is a godsend because a lot of people who are into arcade games love to built and tinker with them. While it may not be a full reproduction of one you would have received in the ’80s or ’90s like I used to work on, it does have everything necessary to have a home unit that doesn’t require constant cooling or to remain plugged in all the time. As you can see from the photos below, this is basically the same as building a bookshelf, just with a few extra parts. The only parts that required real attention were the monitor and the control panel.
The reality of the construction is that those two harder elements were pretty much us being careful not to mess up the wiring or the placement so the monitor wouldn’t get cracked and the control panel was secured before hooking it all together. Once you close the main cabinet it’s just a matter of taking all the protection off the marquee and other places, attaching the ball tops to the sticks, and making sure you got enough room to get the power cord to an outlet. The cord we have was 6′ long after it left the cabinet, so there’s options on the length and positioning for most homes with outlets either at floor level or chest height.
The design of the cabinet is an original one made to look like a Midway arcade cabinet from back in the day. The design is original and doesn’t look anything like Rampage or the three extra games thrown into the mix. Those games are the original versions of Gauntlet, Joust, and Defender. We’ll get to those in a moment. The cabinet itself is pretty sturdy and takes up only 2/3rd the space a regular sized one would. Doesn’t hurt that the cabinet by itself is only 4′ tall. With the version we got, the company threw in this booster box on the bottom with the Arcade1Up logo on it. The box adds an extra foot of height to the cabinet, bringing it up to 5′ tall. That way if you have kids you can put it flat on the ground, and if you’re an adult you can add some height so you’re not bending over as you play.
The control panel is a decent design as it harkens back to the original Rampage for three players. As you can see, it also comes with an On/Off switch at the top for the power and volume control. Unfortunately, the volume only has three settings: High, Low, and Off. There’s no adjustment for anything in-between, and in case you’re wondering, there’s no audio source to plug the audio into anything else like speakers so you can adjust it from there. The push buttons and the sticks are perfect the way they are, an almost exact replica throwback to the way they were on the original. You can tell the material is made from a slightly different plastic, probably done for health or environmental or cost-effective reasons, but it’s nothing to get angered over.
When you flip the screen on you get to choose one of the four games. After you select a game you can hit the buttons as many times as you like for player select to pop in “credits”, even though there’s nothing here to put money or tokens in. The beauty of home arcades. the LCD monitor is that it captures the arcade look and feel perfectly, even though it’s not being broadcast over a tube television. All the colors are crisp, the lines are clean, the interactions are flawless. No real complaints in that aspect.
As for the games themselves, they pretty much play like the originals as well. Rampage is by far the best when it comes to the multiplayer experience. The experience still holds up, especially with three players as you head from city to city eating humans and bringing down buildings. Joust is still a killer game to do as a two-player battle, I always found the one-player experience to be unfulfilling as you basically have a couple of goals that are easy to achieve, but two players can mess each other up frequently and it makes for a much better and entertaining game. Defender on this version plays well, no real complaints about the game other than when you hit the higher stages it gets difficult as hell. The game that just fails for us on the arcade version was Gauntlet, and I know it’s a classic title that people love to death, but some of those levels are basically a test of patience and willingness to keep going without walking away from the never-ending onslaughts and tedious level construction.
Overall, I loved this cabinet. Arcade1Up did a masterful job of creating the old experience with modern tech and materials that isn’t a burden to construct and doesn’t require a ton of space to store. I will say that I wish I had a greater game selection, but I feel like the choices were more in line with whoever owns the games wanted and not so much what Arcade1Up wanted to put in here. There’s no online shop to purchase these at, you have to find them in retail stores like Walmart, GameStop, and Target to name a few. Depending on the unit you want, they go from $200-300. So they’re on par with used arcade cabinets for the curious collector. If you’re a hardcore arcade person, chances are there’s something you’ll dislike about it not being authentic to the original, but it’s worth the buy if you can put that out of your head. To average gamers who are looking for a setup with classic titles, this is a good option that you can take pride in building yourself.