Greetings gamers! I just became the proud owner of Arcade1Up’s not-quite-released Pac-Man/Pac-Man Plus home arcade machine and figured I’d share some quick, bloggy thoughts. Apparently, this machine is being hoarded by Wal-Marts across the nation for their upcoming Black Friday sale. I lucked out and got mine early, hence this public service announcement regarding the unit’s quality.
Now, for those who don’t know, Arcade1UP is an offshoot of another company—Tastemakers, LLC—dedicated to providing gamers with affordable home arcade options. The brand has already released several of these home machines ranging from Centipede to Street Fighter 2, with each cabinet usually having 3-4 games pre-installed. Sadly, the Pac-Man machine I’m reviewing today only has vanilla Pac-Man and its quirky “Plus” update, but that also means the machine is tailored for just this specific title in mind, lending to a more authentic experience.
But I digress. I’m including several pics below illustrating the construction process. As seen, everything comes in a sizeable box and some assembly is required. Honestly, the process isn’t too bad—even for a dummy like me—but it’s not a simple “snap these together and plug me in” situation, either. Indeed, anxious Pac-Fanatics will be forced to put their screwdriving skills to good use before finally basking in the glow of that pristine LCD screen.
Don't "screw" this up. Ha!
Front and back panels
Eww...what is it?
From the inside, backside.
The "A" button label is just a sticker that peels off.
Ah, that most appealing, peeling feeling!
Not too shabby for a dummy!
The screen suffices.
Wait, what? LCD screen? Naturally, to keep costs down, there is no monstrous CRT monitor present. While purists may scoff, this does mean a unit that weighs only 63 pounds—a godsend for those living in second-story apartments. It also means a machine costing only $300.00 versus upwards of a more typical $1000.00+ price point. My bigger concern is with the control panel; mine came marred with several small, black marks, plus the joystick “stem” rotates indefinitely when I twist it (I discovered this when screwing on the cherry-red balltop). Fortunately, the black marks aren’t too noticeable, and the twisty stalk doesn’t affect gameplay, but it’s still worth noting.
All complete with a seat.
Please select your Pac-Man variant.
So first, some good news: ain’t it beautiful? If nothing else, Arcade1UP captured the look of the original machine perfectly, yet even added its own flourish with that candy red pinstriping. Seriously, the machine is almost worth owning for this heavenly vision alone. Alas, the marquee doesn’t light up as the original did, but no one but the most ardent critic will likely mind.
As seen above, the LCD provides a vivacious window into Pac-Man’s almost Tron-esque, blue on black world. The viewing angle could stand a mite improvement, but overall, I have no real complaints. The problem actually lies in its acrylic overlay—sadly, it came heavily scratched. I intend to contact Arcade1UP for a replacement.
The joystick is also a puzzle. The good news is that it’s a micro-switch four-way, meaning that controlling Pac-Man should be as effortless and accurate as it was in its arcade counterpart. That said, there is a bit of extra “give”—a looseness or wobbliness—that robs this version of true arcade authenticity. Again, most won’t notice or care, but it’s worth mentioning.
Lastly, I’m not sure how I feel about the sound. Strangely, there are only three settings—no audio, moderate audio, and heavy audio. Most will default to the middle option, as it’s plenty loud already. My complaint, however, comes with the slight “pops” and “ticks” I occasionally notice while playing. It’s not a deal breaker. It might even be an issue isolated to my unit. Either way, I will have to contact Arcade1UP and see if it’s willing to provide a solution. This blip aside, however, the sounds are otherwise reproduced in accurate, impressive fashion.
So let’s end this on a positive note—the games! And I’m happy to report that both Pac-Man and Pac-Man Plus play great, replicating that age-old arcade experience in terms of their emulation. Perhaps some Pac-Man guru out there might notice some discrepancy or flaw, but I’m pleased with the end result. Keep in mind, though, that these cabinets, whether Pac-Man or Rampage or Asteroids, don’t offer any means to adjust the dip-switches (settings) as some might expect. In other words, there is no way to change a game’s difficulty, life count, or anything else. I’m not sure why Arcade1UP chose to go this route, but in Pac’s case, I doubt anyone will care. With a more complex title such as, say, Street Fighter 2, the inability to lower the challenge is a more significant drawback.
Anyway, I hope this helps anyone who might be considering plunking down their own (1,200) quarters for one of these machines. They’re modestly impressive already, but I suspect that, for those who wait, they will find next year’s models largely free of the issues we early adopters are facing. But, if you must buy now, I do recommend the Pac-Man unit. Aesthetically, it’s certainly the most attractive of the Arcade1UP line so far, and I think that fact alone has won me over.
Oh yeah, for those who prefer to play their arcade machines standing, a $40.00 "riser" is also available. It adds about a foot to the overall height. Happy gaming!
Note: For those curious, I’ve also published a Podcast talking about this very subject. You can find the link here.