This past weekend, I ended up in Bury of all places with some friends to spend the day at Arcade Club. I’d not heard of it before, but one of the friends used to live in the area and had discovered it a little while previous and suggested that we all go.
Arcade Club is stashed away on the top floor of Ela Mill, which is as you may guess from the name an old converted mill which also houses an escape room. We ran into one of the operators on our way in who was telling us that they’re planning to expand shortly onto another floor with a focus on LAN PC gaming. I believe the PCs have already been moved in preparation as there were none there, but that’s fine since they weren’t what I was there to play.
The great idea of Arcade Club is that all of the games are forever on free to play. You pay £10 to get in (or £5 for kids) and then you’re good to go for the whole day.
The entrance area has a couple of arcade cabinets, a sofa with a Nintendo 64 (running Goldeneye, naturally) and Xbox One setup and a small bar serving reasonably priced drinks (I had a beer that was £2, which I thought was perfectly acceptable) as well as some snacks and hot food.
When you pass through that into the main room, that’s where the fun begins. It’s a fairly large room, meaning there’s a lot of space for arcade cabinets and they certainly don’t disappoint in that regard. I’d guess at there being somewhere in the region of a hundred units in the room covering the whole spectrum of arcade gaming.
The first set of cabinets you get to contain a lot of classics primarily from the 80s. I spent some time here playing 1942, finished Golden Axe and tried out the original arcade Ninja Gaiden, which I don’t think I’d played before. After playing the first few levels of the original R-Type, I then found myself oddly obsessed with Pole Position, a game that’s older than me and that I’m not even sure I’d played before. Its been so long since I last played a game for the leaderboard but I was hooked at dragging my way up the day’s (or possibly more, I have no idea how often they reset the machines) scores. From my initial placing in the mid 40s and being unable to to qualify for the main race, I managed to get up to 11th and got as far as the first checkpoint on the race which I was pretty chuffed with.
There were a number of 4 player games available as well, including a couple of versions of Gauntlet, but one that we played all of was the infamous 90s X-Men game. Legend among fans for its dodgy dialogue and weird continuity it’s.. not really all that good, but I did find myself laughing quite a lot at Cyclops’ animation when kicking an enemy on the ground.
X-Men finished, we the turned our attention to the cabinet next to it, Smash TV. Still a lot of fun all these years later, if a little sluggish control wise by modern standards, but runs a bit too long and we decided to call it quits after the second boss. It’s semi-sequel Total Carnage was also present and plays a bit more fluidly.
By this point we’d ended up at the opposite end of the room to the entrance where most of the newer games and fighters were found. After being completely demolished at Street Fighter 2 and ridiculing the slow awfulness that is Virtua Fighter in 2017 and a few matches of Soul Calibur before seeing how far I could get through Ikaruga, a game that I’ve owned on several formats but never finished due to the extreme bullet hell.
There were also a great range of Star Wars games, with some of the original games from the 80s (I suck at the isometric Return of the Jedi) as well as a long time favourite of mine, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade. I always make the effort to play a level or two of Trilogy every time I’ve found it in an arcade since its release in the 90s and its definitely a cabinet I’d love to own.
We spent about five hours at Arcade Club in all and there were still a ton of games I didn’t get around to playing, but we had to get home for some vitally important beer drinking. A very enjoyable day though, and I’ll certainly be going again some day.