Release Date: 30/01/2018
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Do you remember going to the arcade when you were younger and wasting tons of twenty pence pieces as you tried your luck at a series of skill-based (but typically fixed) games? Well, PlayStation VR owners can re-live those memories now with The Pierhead Arcade! Fortunately, you won’t need to beg your parents for an endless supply of change to play the games this time around…
The Pierhead Arcade offers a collection of the classic games you see at arcades and carnivals – you know, thinks like a punching machine, a basketball hoop, bowling, a shooting gallery, and even claw-grabbing machines (which actually work and don’t have the god damn claw release everything that it clutches). You play them all with two Move controllers, and for the most part they’re good fun. Sure, there are a couple of boring ones added to the mix, but what arcade doesn’t have games which everyone wants to avoid?
Whilst The Pierhead Arcade has a lot of games to play, some of them stuck out more than others. It’s probably no surprise to learn that the Bowling was one of the most enjoyable experiences featured. Now it’s not the most in-depth out of experiences (you can only play a game with five rounds), but there’s an undeniable satisfaction to launching those bowling balls down the lane and hitting a strike. It wasn’t too common an occurrence for me because… well… I’m bad at bowling, but I certainly had a lot of fun trying. Hopefully, the developer might flesh out the bowling mode a bit with expanded options in the future.
The Basketball game was a lot of fun too, with it again offering simple mechanics that just function well. It takes a bit of playing around with to master the trajectory you need to land those perfect shots, but once you do there’s something undeniably addictive about shooting some hoops. The basket eventually starts moving too, which adds to the challenge – don’t get me wrong, it’s not punishing, but it will make you work a little harder.
One of the games that I found myself surprisingly addicted to was ‘Binary Dash’, which sees you observing a grid of lights and quickly trying to hit the ones that flash white and avoid the ones which flash red. It’s such a simple concept, but I found myself playing it over and over again. It’s a bloody good workout and you’ll definitely get a sweat going the more you play it, but there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had racking up those high scores whilst trying to steer clear of the high-score busting red lights.
Finally, it’d be a crying shame if I didn’t mention my favourite game of them all – ‘Arctic Shuffle’. It’s basically a shuffleboard where you’ve got to send little penguin-pucks up a long table, with the player scoring more points the closer to the edge they get. If they hit the puck off the table though, they lose the points that it would’ve scored. Now this might not sound like the most exciting of games, and, if I’m going to be honest, compared to some of the others in The Pierhead Arcade it isn’t. Somehow though, I found myself absolutely hooked to it. It works perfectly with the Move controllers and the simplicity of it makes it easy to keep playing and playing (and playing). Seriously – if you purchase the game, you’ll see what I mean.
Of course, some of the games aren’t up to much at all. Take ‘Comet Drop’ for example, where you have to press a button to drop a ball and try to get it to land in holes worth different points. There was no excitement to it, and whilst a lot of my lack of enjoyment with the game came down to how bad I was, there was also nothing about it that encouraged me to try and improve.
The ’Zombie Shootout’ was the same, with it feeling a little uninspired and boring. In fairness, I’ve played so many shooters on PlayStation VR that something so simple naturally wouldn’t appeal to me as much, but I just got no real satisfaction out of shooting the zombies with a rifle – playing at the ‘Shooting Gallery’ was a lot more fun.
I also didn’t get on with ‘Rocket Ball’, which is just a skee-ball game – you know, rolling balls up an inclined lane as you look to land it in hoops for different point values. It probably didn’t help that I hate skee-ball in real life anyway, but it was so awkward to play in The Pierhead Arcade that I stayed away from it after a couple of frustrating rounds.
So it’s a bit of a mixed bag as far as the games are concerned, though in honesty I think a lot of it will come down to personal preference. My Dad tried it out and absolutely loved (and was surprising good at) ‘Rocket Ball’, but then couldn’t get on with the Basketball. It just shows that there’s something here for everyone, and whilst I can guarantee you probably won’t get on with everything, there’s no doubt that you’ll definitely find one game that’ll really hook you in.
Besides playing all the games for fun, you’ll also unlock tickets that can be used to purchase neat little gifts. Now, I didn’t expect to find myself that invested in this, but there are some surprisingly cool offerings at the gift store. You’ve got things like planes that you can throw around, remote control drones, a xylophone, and even fireworks just to name a few. I actually got fooled by the fireworks; I didn’t realise you needed a lighter to use them, which cost an extra 200 tickets. Sure, it’s a weird prize (what kind of arcade is this?), but it certainly encouraged me to spend a bit longer potching around with each game…
There’s also an online leaderboard tied to each game, so you can try and compete with other players around the world to get the best scores. It adds an extra challenge to the whole game and gives you even more incentive to have that ‘one more go’. I’ll be honest, some of the higher scores are ridiculous right now, though I did see my name slowly creep up the ‘Arctic Shuffle’ list…
The Pierhead Arcade isn’t the most attractive game you’ll see in PlayStation VR. Each of the games you take part in look ok and like they belong in an arcade, yet the actual arcade itself is lacking in personality. It’s just a big open room that feels a bit vacant. The arcades I went to when I was younger were buzzing with excitement and full of folk enjoying themselves, so seeing an uninhabited area took away from the atmosphere a little.
This might be addressed soon though with multiplayer support due to come in the game in the near future. I think if The Pierhead Arcade had multiplayer from the start, it would’ve been a whole different experience – I think every single one of the games would’ve been a bit more enjoyable with someone else to play them with. I’m genuinely excited to be able to play the game with friends and I can easily see myself ploughing in a good few hours playing bowling, shooting some hoops, or simply getting up to all sorts of hijinks with all of the unlockable toys at your disposal.
There’s no denying that The Pierhead Arcade is a bit of a mixed bag as far as the games it offers are concerned, but when you find some that you enjoy you won’t be able to help but get hooked in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s neither the most attractive or exciting title you’re going to play in PlayStation VR, but it’s just a lot of fun and very… well… jolly.
If you’ve got memories from playing in the arcades in your younger years, you’ll definitely have fun reminiscing with The Pierhead Arcade’s enjoyable re-creations. With the promise of multiplayer support coming too, I can see myself sinking even more hours into the game in the near future.
There’s no denying that it’s certainly far from perfect, but that doesn’t stop there being plenty of fun to be had at The Pierhead Arcade.