Monday, April 29, 2013

Space Invaders Drink Markers

A quickie post today - a shot, if you will, as opposed to a beer.

From time to time my loving wife comes home with some little surprise treat that she bought for me out of the blue. Sometimes it is something simple like a bag of skittles. Other times it is more complex like my Spider-Man cuckoo clock. Occasionally, the treats don't quite hit the mark, such as when she came home with a new copy of Black Ops 2 complete with Season Pass, even though my brief love affair with the Call of Duty franchise came to an end quite some time ago (but I'll get around to playing it one of these days). Other times she hits it out of the park, like when she brought me a big box completely full of old science fiction digest books and magazines that she bought at a thrift shop for $5.

Whatever it is, I usually have two requirements before my mind feels free to enjoy it.  First, it should not be very large (space concerns) and second, it should not be very expensive (money concerns). She checked both of these boxes with her latest dollar-store find - Space Invaders drink markers!

Have you ever been to a party and you put your drink down on a table to chat it up with some hot young lady and then when you go to pick it back up there are 4 other drinks sitting there and you aren't sure which one is yours? Oh man, if I only had a nickel for every time!  OK - I don't often find myself in that exact situation, but I'm middle-aged, married and not particularly comfortable with crowds so I'm not really a good example. Anyway, I've heard it's definitely a thing. So how to avoid that potentially awkward social situation? Why, silicone Space Invaders of course! Just peel off one of these 6 different invaders and slap it on your glass, bottle, can, whatever, and you will be able to spot your drink a mile away.

Plus you will be announcing for the entire room of onlookers that you are proud to be a supporter of retro coin-operated games whose popularity in Japan resulted in a yen shortage. Believe me, the ladies appreciate that sort of thing.

All that for only $1!  Hell I've already used them a couple of times myself just for fun even though the only other bottles and cans on the table were my own empties. So go to your local dollar-store, slap 100 yen down on the counter and get your very own set!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let Them Eat Foosball

I was perusing Craigslist yesterday and I noticed a guy in Pasadena was selling an "antique foosball table" for $50. Now, I never really had any interest in foosball back in the day and frankly don't have much interest in it now either, but Pasadena is right around the corner from me so I clicked over to check it out.

Well, it was an actual coin-op table which I always like, but beyond that it didn't appeal to me, especially given my space demands and lukewarm interest to begin with, so I passed.

But out of curiosity I googled "antique foosball table" to see what else was out there and a really pretty one pops up.

Even if you didn't see the fine furniture pic, the description is so chock-full of pricey words you just know it's gonna cost a boatload - "Maitland Smith 3130-160 Napoleon Brown and Antique Aubergine Finished Foosball Table, Monkey & Lion Players". Oh man, they got monkeys AND lions, they talk about the finish, and they say "Aubergine" which is so far beyond the purview of my fanciness I don't even know what the heck it means!  Add cryptic numbers to that and that Napoleonic reference alone doubles the retail price right there. All for the low low price of $8,736!  But wait, there is an online store that has it on sale now for only $4,435.50 - you save $4,300.60!  PM me for the link if you wish to buy.

So I dig a little deeper to see if there are pricier foosball tables out there and sure enough - there are. Foosball for the rich and famous.  GRO Design developed a deluxe model for the discriminating table football enthusiast which they elegantly titled "11 - the Beautiful Game".  It doesn't look like any foosball table I've ever seen. It's sleek. It's futuristic. It's the foosball of Logan's Run. Trailer?  Trailer.

Note the dramatic lighting and camera angles - they really play this table up like it is a true piece of art. Well that is by design I would think because it is priced like a Rembrandt! Pricing STARTS from 48,500 euros. Did they mean pesos? No man - euros. That's over $63,000 U.S. dollars for this bad boy. And that is just for the classic black and white version - if you want something special done well that's extra. Honestly I prefer the wood myself, but if you are insanely rich and richly insane - you can buy your ultimate foosball table at

P.S. I learned that foosball has a LOT of different names around the world.  My personal favorite - "fla-flu" from a region in Brazil. Close second - "baby foot" in Quebec.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

8-Bit Pale Ale Video Game

My friend Twiggamortis knows I'm into old video games so a while back he handed me a beer can with some 8-bit artwork on it - a copyright-friendly Pac-Man and a "Hop Rocket". It was called "8-Bit Pale Ale" from the Tallgrass Brewing Company in Manhattan, Kansas.

It was certainly a unique theme for a beer - craft beers have all sorts of crazy themes on their cans and bottles, but I'd never seen a video game beer before. I guess the Tallgrass folks must have played a good amount of NES back in the day. The can piqued my curiosity but alas was disturbingly empty, and the beer was not sold in Texas.

Well, I'm always on the lookout for local brews on my road trips and during my recent trip to Arkansas I found a 4-pack of this pale ale so I picked it up.  I thought the beer was good, but when I googled it and found this video the brewery made of the retro "8-Bit Pale Ale Video Game" I liked it even better. I thought it was cool little video and I think you'll like too.

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Arkadia Retrocade in Fayetteville, Arkansas

I just got home from an unexpected trip to the northern Arkansas area (the reason for which is an upcoming post of its own), and while I was up there I intended to make the extra 2.5 hour drive into Springfield, Missouri to revisit a great classic arcade called 1984, but some quick online research revealed another new classic (is that an oxymoron?) arcade in Fayetteville that had just opened its doors in October 2012 called Arkadia Retrocade.  It was a lot closer than Springfield AND I had never been there so I crossed 1984 off the itinerary and switched it to Arkadia Retrocade instead - and I wasn't disappointed. Here, have a seat on this comfy bean bag chair and let me tell you about it.

The entrance fee is only $5 and once in all the games are set on free-play.  The games that don't have a free play setting have been retrofitted with a small red button in the front by the coin slots that you push to insert a virtual quarter. The owner Shea Mathis actually took my $5 himself so we chatted a bit before I started hitting the games. Shea is a very friendly Fayetteville local and was happy to talk about his still-young arcade. I didn't take any video inside but here is a short piece that the local news station ran a while back.

The arcade is very clean and there are interesting 80's decorative touches throughout - all sorts of magazine covers and posters on the wall at the entrance, Space Invaders and Berzerk robots painted on the walls, the exposed duct work is painted green so it looks like a Mario warp pipe, and actual arcade sides placed into the walls - not just side art decals, but the actual wood sides of cabs that Shea came across that were irreparable and would probably have otherwise been headed to the dump.

Right off the bat one of the first games I see is the cockpit Sega Turbo. I really enjoy this old racing game that pre-dates Atari's more well-known Pole Position. Turbo was the first 3rd person racing game and has a great bassy surround sound in the mostly-enclosed cabinet. I actually like this game so much when I got a chance to buy one about a year ago I did. And not all that long after I bought it, it went down - and for various reasons I still have yet to get it up and running again. So any time I come across a cockpit Sega Turbo in a classic arcade I get an earfull from my wife about how I need to hurry up and fix it. Fortunately for me it is very rare to find them in the wild these days, but even so this is the second time this has happened to me in the last year - I've GOT to get my Turbo running again to avoid this indignity!

Arkadia has around 60 arcade games (I lost count on the exact number) including a lot of the staples that everyone remembers like Space Invaders, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Stargate, Galaga and Centipede, but they also have a number of lesser-known gems that you are less likely to find even in a classic retro arcade setting like Silk Worm, Toobin, Jungle King, Pengo, Gondomania, Donkey Kong 3, Karate Champ and Sunset Riders. Unfortunately several of the games were down or experiencing technical difficulties including Gorf which was one of my favorites back in the day, but they have a technician who maintains/repairs them so it likely won't be long before those are back up and running. I've learned firsthand that keeping 30-year old machines in running condition at all times can be a challenge. In the meantime there were plenty that played just fine to keep me busy.

A little later Mrs. MP made the scene and by that time Shea's friend Larry had taken over the admission fee duties so I got a chance to meet him as well. Like Shea, Larry was obviously passionate about what they were doing at the arcade and was eager to talk about it with like-minded individuals so the three of us chatted a while. Super-nice guy.

I was pleased to see that they had Silk Worm which is a lesser known game that I quite enjoy but very rarely come across.  Silk Worm is a 1988 horizontal shoot 'em up by Tecmo that plays best when you have a partner to play with - one of you drives a jeep and one of you flies an attack helicopter and you, you know, shoot everything in sight. The jeep can also jump so there is a little Moon Patrol vibe too. If you like shooters and you've never played it you should check it out. I was playing a little Silk Worm solo as the jeep when Larry walks up and joins in as the helicopter. A prime example of the kind of gaming camaraderie that can spontaneously occur in an old-school arcade environment. You just don't get that same sort of positive experience with strangers on Xbox Live.

In the central area there was a raised deck with several sit-down cocktail games on it along with a couple of tables where you could relax and play old board games if you like.

They also have a really nice setup where you can relax on a couch and play some Atari 2600 on an old TV. I played a little Vanguard and Mrs. MP played a little Freeway. The best games to play on the old Atari though are the 2-player head to head games if you have a worthy opponent handy - Combat, Slot Racers, Video Olympics - those kinds of games are still great fun even today. There is a similar setup in the back for the Nintendo 64.

And if all the arcade games and the two console stations weren't enough, they also have air hockey, foosball, board games, old electronic games, old magazines and books scattered about, 80's cartoons playing on the TV, just lots of retro goodness to relax and enjoy if you like that sort of thing, which, as I have repeatedly stated on here, I do. There is also a small snack bar in the back that sells things sodas, water, chips, cookies and candy. Oh - I read that they had recently added coffee to the list as well so if you start dozing off you can pump in some caffeine.

Before I knew it 10:30 PM had come and gone and the lights started turning off which was our signal to leave. Shea and Larry actually encouraged us to play a few more games but they were trying to get to some sort of gaming tournament they had going on in the back with the locals so we went ahead and started heading for the door. But before we left Larry put something down on the cabinet and said "Now don't chew the gum, it might kill you" - I look down to see what he had given me and it was an unopened pack of Donkey Kong cards from 1982!   I'd seen these cards on the internet but never actually had any myself. Thanks Larry! If you're curious what the contents of a 31-year old pack of Donkey Kong cards looks like - see below. There were 3 cards with DK-related stickers, 3 cards with a scratch-off game where you try to make your way to the top of the girders like in the game, and a shattered piece of presumably inedible gum. I remember that card pack gum from my other cards (Star Wars, Six Million Dollar Man, Battlestar Galactica etc.) and it was pretty bad even when it was new, so chewing it over 30 years later may have indeed, as Larry warned, led to my death.  I elected not to chew it.

So if you find yourself in the Northwest Arkansas area, or if you're like me and just enjoy driving all over the country, definitely stop in at Arkadia Retrocade and check it out. A good selection of games, extremely friendly proprietors, cheap admission fee - what's not to like?

Arkadia Retrocade
1478 N. College Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72703
Phone: (479) 445-7844

Tuesday-Friday: 2:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Saturday: 12:00 PM - 12:00 AM
Sunday: 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Oh, and on a non-gaming note, if you are looking for a nice meal in the area I heartily recommend Joe's Italian Grill just down the road in Springdale. I had the Chicken Parm Cremera and Mrs. MP had the Seafood Combo and they were both delicious. The meal took a little long to get to the table (although honestly I didn't mind as I was sipping my wine and relaxing) and the owner came out and told us he was giving us free desserts for the long wait so we took a cannoli and a tiramisu to go and ate them back at the hotel - they were both great!

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