As some of you might recall, it was just a couple of months ago that I was lamenting the decline and fall of the video arcade. At the time, I had no idea that there was anyone out there with the chutzpah to bring an arcade back to the Eastside, much less to put it right in the heart of downtown Bellevue. But much to my surprise, just a few weeks ago it was announced that Lucky Strike Lanes in Lincoln Square (the Eastside’s only bowling alley with a dress code) would be expanding to add an arcade called Power Play. Even more shocking than the very existence of an arcade in this day in age is the price tag, purported to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million. Of course, when you’re located in some of the costliest real estate in a town that’s getting pretty costly as is, expectations are going to be pretty high for a place like this. Does Power Play deliver? To be honest, I’m not so sure. I’ll elaborate on this, and take a look at some of what passes for arcade games these days, after the jump.
Power Play actually opened this Thursday in what appeared to be some sort of invite only event. I went over to check the place out, and found a scene of ropes, security guards and a whole lot of evening wear. Suspecting that I was uninvited and (thoroughly) underdressed for the occasion, I didn’t bother investigating much further than that. Nonetheless, I took it as a bad sign that someone seemed to be missing the point here. It wasn’t until this afternoon that I got a chance to actually go over and check the place out.
As could be expected, all that money bought some pretty elaborate machines, including this 4-screen and up to 8 player (the players take turns) motion simulator OutRun 2 setup. For the time being this seems to be Power Play’s showpiece. In fact, a significant number of the machines being offered right now are driving games.
There are also a lot of ticket redemption games here as well. Normally I haven’t bothered paying much attention to these since my attention in the various arcades has usually been directed elsewhere, but I actually found that Deal or No Deal seems to be well suited to this format.
Over in the ticket section they’ve also got some of the old standbys, such as Skee-Ball (or Ice ball in this non trademark infringing version thereof,) where beating a certain high score will net you a bonus of 100 tickets. There’s just one problem with this: The current high score is impossible to reach. With 9 balls and 10,000 being the maximum you can get from one ball, you could hit the 10,000 hole in the corner 9 times (which by itself would be nigh unto impossible for someone who isn’t a professional Skee-ball player) and still be 2,400 points short of the bonus score.
Power Play also has a couple of these UltraPin machines, which I have heard of before but never seen. These are virtual pinball machines which display the field on a large LCD monitor under the glass, and also feature what appears to be an actual dot matrix display. There are 12 different simulated Williams/Bally tables being offered here. I actually developed a couple of now long forgotten tables for the Visual Pinball engine that powers the simulation in this machine, so it was interesting to see this, but I still don’t think it’s a proper substitute for real pinball tables. It does have some nice features like actual flipper solenoids to create proper flipper sounds when the buttons are pressed. Sadly, there seem to be no real pinball tables in sight here.
To be honest, there really isn’t a whole lot to see here, especially for as much as was purportedly spent to bring this place to Bellevue. Sure, there are all sorts of big simulation machines, a pretty decent redemption game section (it’s like gambling for kids) and a bar/restaurant serving up what I would assume to be food and drink (but didn’t see any of when I was there,) but I still get the sneaking suspicion that someone missed the point. For a $4 million arcade with 80 machines, I counted a total of two joysticks in the whole entire place, and they were both on the same machine. I’m sure part of this has to do with the virtually nonexistent state of the American arcade industry and the limited supply of machines that it leaves a place to draw from, but there weren’t a whole lot of arcade games in this arcade, just a lot of slick racing games and ticket stuff. They don’t even seem to have a single Dance Dance Revolution machine in the place, which seems to be the only thing that’s keeping any of the existing arcades around here afloat (they’ve got one of the Pump it Up clone machines, but it’s still not DDR.) Even a token Ms. Pacman/Galaga machine in some dark corner or a couple of actual pinball machines here and there (yes, someone does actually still make those, and there’s probably enough room in a $4 million budget for them too) would have been nice. Even though fighting games (a longtime arcade staple) have been mostly relegated to the consoles these days, a Street Fighter 4 cabinet or a Tekken 6 would surely bring in some of the devoted fighting game fans out there (I’m not one of them, but I definitely know they’re around.) If you don’t mind a bit of a stretch, they could even bring in a couple of the popular games from Japan where there’s still some life in the arcade industry. I wish the best of luck to the people who had the guts to bring an arcade back to Bellevue (sort of,) but I get the sneaking suspicion someone might have missed the point entirely here.
(If you’d like to see a few more pictures of Power Play, a post on the Downtown Bellevue Blog has these.)