Have you ever wanted to turn your local laundromat into an arcade? For the three of you that have, boy do we have a game to recommend you. Created by Nosebleed Interactive, the same developer behind the well-received Vostok Inc., Arcade Paradise puts you in the role of Ashley, an inheritor to a run-down laundromat called King Wash. Tucked away in the backroom are a handful of arcade cabinets that Ashley soon realises could earn much more cash than laundering dirty clothes. Problem is, Ashley’s father – voiced Geralt of Riviera himself, Doug Cockle – has little faith in the arcade business, leaving Ashley to prove him wrong by buying new arcade games with the laundromat’s profits, slowly turning it into the hottest gaming spot the sleepy town of Grindstone has ever seen.
While this might not sound like the most exciting premise, Arcade Paradise has a couple of things going for it. First, the gameplay loop of managing a laundromat – transferring clothes between washers and dryers, picking up garbage, removing gum, unclogging the toilet – draws from other simulation games like Stardew Valley. You only have a limited time each day to get everything done before closing up, so time management becomes paramount. Pulling clothes from a dryer as quickly as possible awards you higher score, which comes with more profits to buy arcade cabinets with. And the cleaner the laundromat, the more people willing to spend money on the arcade games tucked away in the back, thus earning more money for more cabinets.
Second, and most importantly, you can play all of the 35+ arcade games. The majority of these games are superb, packed full of features and nostalgic soundtracks that harken back to their classic inspirations. A Pac-Man clone with a Grand Theft Auto reskin? An Out Run and F-Zero-inspired racer? A match-three puzzle game with light RPG elements? Yes to all of this. We often forgot about the clothes we threw into the wash moments before as we tried to reach higher scores on some of our favourite machines.
This leads us to our primary criticism of Arcade Paradise, which originates from the push and pull of laundering duties and gaming. Ignoring the laundry means we had to wait longer to unlock more stuff, which became a problem when we wanted to try for a higher score in UFO Assault. On the other hand, when we decided to get some laundry done and earn some cash, we found ourselves standing around waiting the three real-world minutes it takes for a wash or dryer cycle to finish because, if we began a game during, we’d have to cancel midway through our run to quickly take the drying out. Before long, doing laundry became about as annoying as doing actual laundry.
Nosebleed Interactive mediates this a bit by adding daily challenges. Challenges include not doing any laundry at all, getting 25 kills with the submachine gun in Zombat 2, achieving a score of 3600 in Stack Overflow, and so on. Completing a challenge awarded us a separate currency, and with it, we could buy quality-of-life upgrades such as a bigger garbage bag to make fewer trips to the dumpster and ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Space and Time’ to slow down the in-game clock while playing games. None of them felt necessary, yet these challenges did a good job of incentivizing us to play other games and to keep the laundromat going.
There’s also a wealth of options to toggle for each game, from their difficulty, placement in the building, and cost-per-play, which in turn affects how much money they bring in. We’re certain we could’ve left these options untouched and had our arcade-laundromat hybrid flourish, yet for those with a penchant for min-maxing productivity, these settings will scratch that incessant need for perfection. And for others that like to claim high scores and keep them, applicable arcade games have global leaderboards. We expect when Arcade Paradise launches, fierce competition will occur for the top spots.
Deceptively, there’s a lot to do in Arcade Paradise. We haven’t even mentioned the local multiplayer options for several of the games, like the four-player shooting fun in Zombat 2 or two player option for the eternally classic air hockey. The Jukebox even comes with over 20 different tracks to unlock. Those with a love of arcade games may find themselves spending dozens of hours inside the King Wash laundromat without even realising it.
It’s a shame that, outside of the games themselves, Arcade Paradise looks quite muddy with some ugly character models on the Switch. In handheld mode, we found some text impossible to read, and a few small glitches, such as being unable to pick up awkwardly placed trash or the whole game sometimes crashing when setting up multiplayer, added some bumps, but these bumps were never enough to ruin the experience.
We wholly recommend Arcade Paradise if you enjoy either simulation-style games or spent the '90s with a pocketful of quarters down at the local arcade. The narrative centred on a lazy young adult proving to their father they can run a successful business will never really grip you, and – believe it or not – laundering clothes and peeling gum off the machines becomes a bit tiresome. Yet the arcade games themselves and the sheer creativity and charm Nosebleed Interactive has packed into them more than makes up for the monotony. If we stumbled upon these games in the back of our local laundromat, we’d spend actual money there. But since that seems rather unlikely, we’re sure to boot up Arcade Paradise to try for some global rankings long after we’re done with laundering clothes.