Dave & Buster’s Has Giant iPhone App Arcade Machines. Why?

I’ve never been to a Dave & Buster’s. I like the idea of a Chuck E. Cheese (or Showbiz Pizza) for grownups. It’s certainly a great idea that stands alone, save for hipster bowling alleys. But being a vegan who doesn’t drink alcohol, it’s not really my scene – much as I love video games.

Dave & Buster’s isn’t shy about advertising, and I’ve seen my fair share of commercials for their restaurant/pleasure palace. Something I’ve noticed as a trend in them, which is rather disturbing: They often advertise arcade versions of video games that are under a buck on my phone.

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Mobile Gaming – The New Arcade?

Arcades are all but dead. Because home gaming is both satisfying and advanced – and usually quite a bit deeper – I don’t find myself lamenting its demise. Plus, you can always go to Japan, where arcades are still prevalent. Even still, after reading Ready Player One, I got a little nostalgic shiver when I saw the words “Aladdin’s Castle.” As a kid in the 80s and 90s, nothing beat going into an arcade with a pocketful of quarters. The universe was yours, if only for a few minutes at a time. And you were welcome to watch other people explore their worlds of choice from a slight angle.

But when you think about it, mobile games aren’t that different from arcades. There’s usually a small buy-in which will get you a bite-sized amount of entertainment. $0.99 is the new quarter. The experience is usually like cotton-candy, in that the sweetness dissolves away harmlessly. You have fun, but when it’s done you’re happy to move on to the next arcade cabinet or app.

My phone is a 16GB iPhone 5. I keep 50 games on it at a time, give or take. That is the arcade in my pocket. Of course, some app are upwards of 1.5GB in size; we can consider them the deluxe cabinets – your F355 Challenge or 6-player X-Men. It’s a different kind of economy, but in a way can still be tied to what I have in my pocket. But instead of needing to hit up the mall or the bowling alley to get my fix, I simply need a couple free minutes in which to immerse myself.

Since I already own the hardware and don’t need to rent out a strip-mall to house them, I get to “own” these games instead of “renting” them like arcade games. These differences open up possibilities that weren’t present 25 years ago. For example, when Capcom wanted to add more fighters to Street Fighter II, it made a new cabinet (Street Fighter II: Champion Edition). Of course, you had to plop more quarters into the newer version. Conversely, when Capcom added Heihachi and Rolento to Street Fighter x Tekken for iOS, it was done through a downloadable update. If you already bought the game, you got this for free! And if you didn’t own it, the buy-in hadn’t changed to get your chance to play.

The social aspects between cell phone and arcade have obviously been muted. While there are multiplayer aspects in a lot of mobile games, it’s not the same as elbowing the guy next to you for stealing the sewer pizza while you only have a sliver of health left. One vast improvement is the passive competition of the leaderboard. GameCenter makes it possible to compare your skills with everyone else who has ever played Robot Unicorn Attack – not just those who played it at your arcade.

Let’s look at a few of the most popular iOS games right now, and how they compare to arcade games.

Nimble Quest – NimbleBit LLC
This is my current favorite game. You start with one hero, and weave your way around an environment as you defeat enemies and find more allies. Smashing into a wall or an enemy is almost certain death. I enjoy starting with different characters and using in-game coins to level up the powerups like an enemy freeze or health potions.

To me, Nimble Quest’s arcade equivalent is Pac-Man. Take away the maze, and the movement is almost identical. Both titles also rely heavily on player skill; a game can last 10 seconds or 10 minutes, depending on how good you are. In one game, you’ll have moments of vulnerability and empowerment. A line of 7 allies tailing you, lobbing fireballs and arrows at anything in their path, is every bit as exhilarating as gulping down a power pellet and watching the ghosts scurry for their (un)lives.

Ridiculous Fishing – A Tale of Redemption – Vlambeer
This is the indie darling right now, created by an all-star team of app developers. It’s quirky and cool. You try to get your lure as deep as possible before snaring your first fish. As it comes back up, you attempt to capture all the fish you avoided on the way down. Once the lure is out of the water, you shoot all your catches with your firearm of choice. It’s as fun as it sounds.

If I was going to compare Ridiculous Fishing to an arcade game, it would be the claw machine. It’s an obvious comparison because, in both games, you’re trying to hook prizes on your line. But additionally, games take very little time from start to finish. You pay your money to the claw machine, set it to plunge, and when it comes up your game is done. The same applies for Ridiculous Fishing. While there are power-ups and new fish that definitely entice you to play over and over (and over) again, the experience isn’t inherently different from game to game.

Angry Birds Space – Rovio
Just about everyone who owns a cell phone has at least one copy of Angry Birds; it’s an institution. Peel away the commercialism and the seeming randomness of how to beat levels and you have a very satisfying game – especially Angry Birds Space, which added a cool gravity mechanic to the already unique physics.

That reliance on physics is why I would compare Angry Birds to pinball. You line up your ball/bird properly, and let it fly, and soak in the result. But try as you might, it’s almost impossible to duplicate a shot. There are just too many variables going on. Plus, with the introduction of Angry Birds Star Wars, we may see other licenses crop up with their own Angry Birds games, much like licensed pinball tables were huge in their heyday.

A very underappreciated aspect of both Angry Birds and pinball is the pause factor. There are ample opportunities in both to kind of ignore the game and focus on the real world – whether it’s before hurling your next bird or launching your next ball, or even putting up your flipper to trap the silver sphere indefinitely. These games are played on your time, which is one of the reasons they’re great.

Real Racing 3 – Electronic Arts
Real Racing 3 is quite polarizing. It took a well-respected, premium mobile racing franchise and turned it free-to-play. With that shift, some concessions have been made. You’ll encounter a lot of tollbooths during play, which require you to either wait or pay in order to continue your game. In this way Real Racing 3 is very much an arcade game, because it feels like you have to toss it a few quarters every couple of minutes to keep rolling on. Some may frown on that, but others find it a small price to pay for a beautiful racing experience on their phones.

I Played 110 Games This Year (A List)

I like to track things in my life: weights lifted, events experienced, and just about everything related to my video game collection. Last year, I added a listing of every game I played that year. Of course, I made one again this year. On the off chance someone cares, I’m publishing the list, along with (exactly) 8 words on each one. Enjoy, and have a happy and safe New Year!

1. Mega Man 2 (NES) – An NES fave played for music video footage
2. Super Paper Mario (WII) – Played last in ’07, came back to beat
3. Mario Kart Wii – Another lost relic I dusted off and replayed
4. Def Jam Rapstar (360) – I was ranked #5 on “Can’t Truss It”
5. 1000 Heroz (iPhone) – I literally played this iPhone platformer every day
6. Bastion (360) – I like indie games that you can download
7. Batman: Arkham City (360) – Not quite Asylum, but darn good. Excellent story
8. Binding of Isaac (PC) – I’m a naked baby, armed only with tears.
9. Dead Space HD (iPad) – High hopes for my first iPad exclusive. Nope
10. Dungeon Raid (iPhone) – My favorite match-3 game ever. Still a go-to

11. Flight Control HD (iPad) – Another iPad exclusive I didn’t play too much
12. Jetpack Joyride (iOS) – Played on both iPhone, iPad for great fun
13. Kirby Epic Yarn (Wii) – Still haven’t beaten this adorable platform game yet
14. Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA) – Thanks, 3DS Ambassador program, for this 22 minutes!
15. Portal 2 (PS3) – If only Kate would finish co-op with me
16. Puzzle Agent (iPhone) – It’s Professor Layton meets Fargo. I beat it
17. Skyrim (360) – On 02.06.12, my epic 280 hour quest ended
18. Super Mario Land 3D (3DS) – Deserves more than the 5 hours I’ve played
19. Uncharted 3 (PS3) – You ever beat a game out of spite?
20. WELDER (iOS) – I like word games; just not this one

21. Angry Birds: Space HD (iPad) – This definitely rikindled my love of Finnish fowl
22. Aces Cribbage (iPad) – I like cribbage. Got a problem with that?
23. Bioshock (PC) – Crapped out on 360, gave PC a try
24. bit.trip Complete (Wii) – Man, was I NOT into this game collection!
25. Chu Chu Rocket (iPhone) – Ended up really liking this Dreamcast puzzle game
26. Don’t Run With A Plasma Sword (iOS) – Another “runner” style game. Okay but not memorable
27. Dungeon Village (iOS) – Kairosoft makes awesome titles, including this one here
28. Fairway Solitaire (iPad) – Of course golf and solitaire would mix, silly
29. GP Story (iPhone) – More Kairosoft. I like cars that go vroom
30. Homefront (360) – Only military console FPS I played in 2012

31. Journey (PS3) – Beautiful. Innovative. Short. Kind of like my wife.
32. Infinity Blade 2 (iOS) – I decided I don’t like Infinity Blade much
33. Mahjong Towers Touch (iPad) – Shanghai. Nabisco World. I dig these tile pushers
34. Mass Effect: Infiltrator (iPad) – Liked this way better than Dead Space iPad
35. Metroid Fusion (3DS) – Loved on GBA, played again on Ambassador Program
36. Pac-Chomp! (iOS) – A fun twist on Tetris Attack style puzzlers
37. Persona 3 FES (PS2) – First Persona I played since original on PSone
38. Rock Band Blitz (360) – Harmonix relives the majesty of my beloved Amplitude
39. Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins (3DS) – Mario Land 1 didn’t really feel like Mario
40. Swordigo (iOS) – Played a couple minutes; only remember it’s ugly

41. Jamestown (PC) – I love shmups. This one isn’t crazy difficult
42. Temple Run (iOS) – I recall LeBron James loves it. I’m ambivalent
43. NFL Flick Quarterback (iPad) – Cool concept to get behind the QB’s helmet
44. Portal (PC) – Loved it on console and tried on Steam
45. Real Racing 2 HD (iPad) – There’s a theme here, with meh iPad games
46. Rock Band Reloaded (iPhone) – Rock Band is pretty decent on iPhone, too
47. Catherine (PS3) – Sexy, mature game about climbing towers in briefs
48. Katawa Shoujo (PC) – Visual novel about dating handicapped schoolgirls. It’s true
49. Russian Dancing Men (iOS) – Rhythm game which features the infectious “Amazing Horse”
50. Contra Rebirth (Wii) – Sure, I’ll try a cheap, easier Contra game

51. Pushmo (3DS) – Probably my favorite 3DS game. Haven’t bought sequel.
52. Wooords (iOS) – Make many words with colorful fridge magnet letters
53. Rayman Origins (PS3) – Beautiful and intuitive. Only played a short while
54. Antrim Escape 3 (iOS) – One of those “escape the room” puzzle games
55. Bugdom 2 (iOS) – A very poor knockoff of Banjo Kazooie type
56. Falling Fred (iOS) – You fall. As Fred. Until you kill him
57. Mario Kart 7 (3DS) – This formula has yet to get old yo
58. Mole Cart (iOS) – Let’s rip off Mario Kart cuz we’re China!
59. Starfox 64 3D (3DS) – Sadly, I have only played a couple minutes
60. League of Evil (iOS) – Fun Meat Boy style platformer on iPhone/iPad

61. Mass Effect 3 (360) – Ended with a wimper, but what a series!
62. NBA 2K12 (360) – Love me some Visual Concepts hoops, says I
63. Dark Souls (PS3) – Games don’t get much better than this one
64. Epic Mickey (Wii) – Kinda disappointed by the filler in this one
65. Parasite Eve (PSP) – Didn’t play on PSone, but it’s darn good
66. Final Fantasy VII (PSP) – I still have yet to beat this classic
67. Mega Mall Story (iPhone) – Another fine Kairosoft effort. Build your mall, y’all
68. 10000000 (iPad) – Puzzle and RPG join with hip retro graphics
69. Batman: Arkham City Lockdown (iPad) – Infinity Blade knockoff. I’m burnt on Infinity Blade
70. Dynamite Jack (iOS) – Overhead stealth. Gotta go back to this one

71. Lollipop Chainsaw (360) – Not as endeering as it should have been
72. Pizza vs. Skeleton (iOS) – Roll over bony bastards as a large pizza
73. Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (GBA) – No game was played more on my 3DS
74. Bad Piggies HD (iPad) – Creating suicide machines didn’t do much for me
75. He-Man: The Most Powerful Man in the Universe (iOS) – Dripping nostalgia, trace elements of fun. It’s okay
76. The Room (iPad) – Solve your way through a giant safe. Maybe
77. Twist Pilot (iOS) – Console dev superstars: Don’t phone in iOS games
78. Driver: San Francisco (PS3) – Very creative driving game with some design issues
79. Puzzle Craft (iPhone) – Close to a Facebook game, I completed anyway
80. Terraria (PC) – Sorry, but video games need more than digging

81. Dishonored (360) – The muse for this entire blog. Hells yeah
82. Spelunky (PC) – Instead of buying on XBLA, free PC download
83. Punch Quest (iOS) – Really like this runner with a brawler soul
84. Street Fighter X Tekken (iPad) – Not a bad fighter for being on iPad
85. Quantum Conundrum (360) – Gal behind Portal does something Disney-esque. Still playing
86. The Walking Dead (PC) – Yes, I bought this on Steam’s Black Friday
87. Sonic Generations (360) – Mixes 2D and 3D Sonic, and mostly succeeds
88. Asura’s Wrath (PS3) – This dude is pissed! It’s like we’re twins
89. Quiet, Please! (360) – Endearing little indie adventure game on Xbox 360
90. Rayman: Jungle Run (iOS) – Pretty, playable and perfectly suited for portable pleasure

91. XCOM: Enemy Unknown (360) – Jumped off wagon with this, but so good!
92. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (iOS) – Freaking Vice City! The whole game! On iOS!
93. Extinction Squad (iOS) – Like those old Nintendo LCD games, but funny
94. Super Mole Escape (iOS) – Like Doodle Jump, but in reverse. Make sense?
95. Robot Wants Kitty (iPhone) – Metroidvania game where a robot wants the kitty
96. Waking Mars (iPad) – Intriguing, attractive game. A bit bland so far.
97. Angry Birds Star Wars HD (iPad) – 2 played out properties, but still really fun
98. Party Wave (iOS) – Surfing game by the dude behind Final Fantasy
99. Fast Fast Laser Laser (360) – Indie game blending Bomberman with guns and swords
100. NBA 2K13 (iPad) – Don’t own it on console, just iOS. Decent

101. Karoshi (iPhone) – This platformer/puzzler’s goal is to kill yourself
102. Slydris (iOS) – Tetris or Lumines, but without needing to hurry
103. Tiger Woods 2012 (iPad) – Robust golf game to take with you anywhere
104. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (iPhone) – Oh FPS and iPhone. You shouldn’t be together
105. The Curse (iOS) – Variety of puzzles and a creepy villain’s taunting
106. Penny Arcade: Rain-Slick Precipice 3 (iPad) – Impressive old-school RPG that I’m definitely hooked on
107. Beat Sneak Bandit (iPad) – Rhythm based sneaking is a pretty neat concept
108. Sonic Jump (iPhone) – Elevates the Doodle Jump genre immensely. Free now
109. Wordament (iPhone) – Boggle with a leaderboard and Xbox achievement tie-in
110. Mutant Mudds (iPhone) – The 3DS action/platformer is now smaller and cheaper

All About The Paper… Mario.

In a 24-hour period, I completed two games I started a LOOO0000oooong time ago: Super Paper Mario (Wii) and Puzzle Agent (iPhone).

The first was a game I reviewed back in 2007. I got about 11 hours in, but never completed it. Kate and I started from scratch a couple months back, and played through it. It’s funny, adorable, entertaining, insulting, redundant, innovative, ugly, and clever. I’m glad we played it. And I’m glad I had someone alongside me who would help me voice all the characters and read their dialog.

Not sure what we’ll pick as our next play-together game. Driver: San Francisco? iNFAMOUS 2? Silent Hill 2? Zelda: Skyward Sword? Luckily, I can use my as-yet-unplayed Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story as a backlog replacement for the new Paper Mario: Sticker Story.

Puzzle Agent is by Telltale Games, who is keeping the adventure genre alive with episodic titles like Back to the Future and The Walking Dead. This game is closer along the lines of Professor Layton, except the story is along the lines of if Fargo and X-Files had a baby. I rarely ever had a time when I played it extensively, and really the last year I’ve barely touched it. I just fired it up on my new iPhone 5 while synching Kate’s iPhone 5. Four puzzles later, it was over. Okay then.

In other news, I’ve decided to not include any video games on my Christmas list. I originally thought this would be a good workaround for my year of backlogs, but decided it would be akin to cheating. And I’m no cheat… at least, as far as you know.