The traditional arcade with its video games teasing would-be players with attract modes and pinball tables demanding attention is an endangered species today, but sometimes there's a spark that brings back the old memories and experiences. Last weekend my girlfriend Nicole and I along with our friends Brad Hilderbrand (of Power Button fame) and his wife Barbara hit Game Warp 2012 in Orlando, Florida's busy tourist district off of International Drive. The Game Warp event brings in dozens of classic arcade and pinball games all set on free play for three days of lights, sounds, and paying twenty dollars at the door to enter. Plenty of classics were available to try from Street Fighter II: Champion Edition to the Super Mario Bros. pinball machine and beyond; so many old favorites were there showcasing decades of gaming. Let's go on a little tour of the room and see what the show had to offer.
Here I am playing Hercules, an oversize Atari pinball machine from 1979 that is supposedly the world's largest functional pinball table. Measuring in at eighteen square feet of table space, it's a beast to play and requires long arms to reach both of the flipper triggers. Gravity and physics work against the player on a table of this size, and the whole thing is really more of a novelty.
There were more manageable sizes of pinball table around such as this Super Mario Bros. table developed by Nintendo and Gottlieb in 1992. Sporting artwork and concepts based on elements from Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3, this table was one of the most popular at the show. There was always a family of four camped out to take turns, and I was only able to get to play it twice briefly in the four hours we were at the show. The table talks, too, calling out for Yoshi in Mario's voice (repeatedly enough to be annoying, in all honesty).
Here are Brad and Barb about to race in Sega's classic Daytona USA (which, surprisingly, was the only racing game at the show). The loud room drowned out the familiar Daytona song and the "Rolling Start!" jingle. Just to the left of this unit was a table featuring classic consoles and computers such as the Atari 2600 (with E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial), a Commodore Amiga, and even a Virtual Boy (but who'd want to stick his or her face into a communal Virtual Boy at a public event? You could try to wash your face afterward, but they don't make water hot enough.).
Nicole is the pinball queen. She knows the tables and how to run them. Black Hole, Pinbot, and even the unproduced Goin' Nuts all tremble in fear of her skills. She's about to teach Bride of Pinbot a lesson here. In fact, the tables are so afraid of her that they attempt to disable themselves when she goes on a high score run. Funhouse and Super Mario Bros. both needed a little quick repair and reset while she played them when the ball became stuck on ramps (I can't say that I'm any better; I had a ball stick inside the Batman table that day).
We couldn't go to an arcade show and not have some friendly competitions. Many of the games supported more than one player, so inviting Player 2 to step in had to happen. In this photo you see Brad boasting after he cleaned my clock at Sega's Virtua Fighter 2, but I got him back by demolishing him at Super Street Fighter II Turbo. We also tried to play the Street Fighter II: Champion Edition machine, but its second joystick didn't register any pulls to the left which made it impossible to perform any special moves in another sign that all of these machines are aging and breaking down in one way or another. Other match-ups that day included Nicole and I competing at Bust-A-Move on a Neo Geo arcade unit, challenging Tetris (where we both set high scores), and a switch-off game of Food Fight.
Game Warp 2012 was a complete success as far as I'm concerned and we'll gladly go again next year. To see more of our pictures from the day, be sure to check out the complete Game Warp 2012 photo album. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find a Super Mario Bros. pinball machine for sale and a place to store it that won't irritate the neighbors.