When I look at the trailers and screenshots for Arcade Paradise, I get an odd little twinge of nostalgia at the back of my skull. And I suspect I won’t be alone.
Gamers who grew up during the early 2000s, and who sunk a great deal of time into PC titles, will doubtless have lived through what I like to call ‘The Tycoon Times’. Trademark pending, nobody steal that. Spurred by the success of such classics as Rollercoaster Tycoon in the late 90s, developers flooded the burgeoning market with a glut of games designed to make you feel like a business manager, with all the mundanity such professions entail. Quite why anybody ever thought the intricacies and day-to-day bureaucratic operations of company maintenance would make for lighthearted, all-ages entertainment is beyond me. But by God, they were keen on pushing the concept.
There was really no limit to what sort of entrepreneurial path you could try your hand at; schools, hospitals, zoos, even entire cities. Some of these, including Zoo Tycoon and Theme Hospital, have gone on to gain cult status. Even slightly more tongue-in-cheek fare like Toilet Tycoon hit the scene from time to time. I’m not exaggerating when I say this one allows you to hire ‘toilet hitmen’ to go and smash competitors’ loos with a big hammer. Complete with animation.
Personally, though? I always loved Lego’s take on the genre, 2000’s Legoland – which saw you being harangued by a poncey bloke played by the guy behind Mr. Tumble in the UK (yes, really) as you perfected a Lego amusement park. Oh, and there was also some ludicrous plot about time travel and aliens and dinosaur genetics and… yeah. It was one of those games. One of my childhood favourites, in fact. But no-one ever talks about it. Poor Lego Mr. Tumble. Anyone remember it? Give me a shout in the comments.
Anyway, back on track. Eventually people soured on The Tycoon Times, and simulation titles had largely been upstaged by such hits as The Sims at this stage anyway, so away they went. The irony of games that centered around building massive conglomerate empires becoming obsolete is palpable. Popular brands like Rollercoaster Tycoon were locked away, doomed to only ever be trotted out by Activision for a quick nostalgic cash-in on occasion, and consumer interest in the genre all but faded.
That is, until very recently. The Tycoon Times (I guess it would be The Tycoon Renaissance now?), like vinyl and avocado, have seen something of a comeback in the late 2010s. Games originally intended to simply pay homage to yesteryear, like Planet Coaster, have taken on fandoms all their own, and are now big IPs. Even mainstream developers have tossed their business suits into the ring, including SEGA with their Two Point series.
Which brings us back to Arcade Paradise, and that little nostalgic prickle it gives me. Now you know why. Everything about it seems designed from top to toe to recreate that feeling of total dominion those early games pioneered, with its various customisation options and focus on driving profits. There’s nothing like seeing those numbers tick a little higher, making your brain shoot dopamine more, and more, and more.
At E3, publisher Wired Productions unveiled a brand new trailer for the sim, which you can check out below. Fans of the genre should feel right at home already. It takes the form of a kitschy VHS training video, which makes sense as the game’s plot has you playing as Ashley, who’s been tasked by her dad to turn their downtrodden old laundromat into a thriving arcade. Wow. Big expectations there, Pop. Some dads consider it an achievement if their kids buy the milk on time.
There was also a press release for Arcade Paradise put out alongside the trailer, which you can have a gander at here too:
Arcade Paradise is a 90’s-fuelled retro arcade adventure. You play as Ashley, and you’ve just been given the keys to the family laundromat. Rather than washing rags for a living, you decide to turn the laundromat into the ultimate arcade. Choose from over 35 games to be in the arcade inspired by three decades of gaming – all of which are playable with high scores to set. Stay one step ahead of your father, manage and invest profits, and build your very own Arcade Paradise!WIRED PRODUCTIONS
The wording of “stay one step ahead” has me wondering if the game won’t implement some sort of time limit, or a mechanic whereby, if you don’t do well enough, your dad will shut the place down. Or ground you. Either way, it’s an interesting thing to think about. My awesome theme park in Rollercoaster Tycoon was never faced with the threat of closure by an irritated parent.
Still, at least it isn’t Mr. Tumble.
Arcade Paradise hits the PS4 and PS5, as well as PC, later this year.
Are you looking forward to Arcade Paradise? Did you live through The Tycoon Times? Did you have a favourite in the genre? Let us know!