One of my favorite gaming memories occurred when I went with my family to the airport for us to pick up a friend. I was probably around 12, and while we waited I went over to the arcade the airport had, to discover a Simpsons arcade cabinet. There were a few friends from my church with me, and I somehow had some money I hadn’t blown on something, so on we went for about two hours, beating up henchmen as the world’s most famous family. I didn’t play the game again until the release on PS3, but of course I was too busy to really enjoy it, plus there’s just something about playing it with friends on an arcade machine. To my amazement, during E3 2021 we were invited to a panel where Arcade1Up spoke to us about upcoming units, and I lit up at the mention of The Simpsons game returning in the form I first met them. Now, I’ve got one of these bad boys in my gaming area, so let’s discuss how this release stacks up to both my gaming nostalgia and the standards of today.
So, let’s start off with assembly. This box is HUGE. I did receive the big one, including the light up marquee sign, tin sign, and custom stool, so it’s a little bigger than the one you’d pick up at Walmart without those additional items. Still, it’s heavy either way, so you want to have an extra hand available, if just to carry it inside and move it to where you plan to put everything together.
Once you’ve got everything together, you’ll need a big space to build the cabinet in. I was in a bit of a cramped area, and while it worked, it was definitely a challenge. Besides that, you will need a Phillip’s head screwdriver, and make sure it has a comfortable handle, because you’ll be using it a lot. Thankfully, that’s the only thing you’ll need; this unit is super easy to put together without any other tools.
As soon as you get everything unpacked one thing is for certain; there’s plenty to do, but I wouldn’t say this is much tougher to assemble than a gaming desk and gaming chair. I initially thought this would be an all day build, but I spent more or less an hour and a half doing it. Our editor Richard Allen put together his Terminator 2 unit really quickly, and as he tells me, it’s to the point he can slap one together within 30 minutes. The instructions are very succinct and if you follow them step by step it’ll be together in no time.
Now, as for the quality of the pieces you’re working with, everything has a premium feel. I was surprised to find how everything was packaged thoughtfully, ensuring nothing in my box broke or was scuffed. This is especially important given you have a 17″ LCD screen being shipped, and that’s the last thing that needs to be inadequately packed. As for the quality of what comes in the box to build your wonderful Arcade1Up, it’s sturdy and high-end. The wood/panels, the screws, all the pieces – they live up to my expectations. The only part that seemed a bit cheaper was the plastic mold of the false coin receiver, and even that felt more like the back of it where you attached it with screws.
Obviously the build of these things is important, but you want it all to look good too, and this is where the Simpsons arcade cabinet shines. The bright blue color of the outside panels is eye-catching, a lovely shade that feels very “Simpson-y” and inviting, along with nice yellow accents. On the outside panels are some wonderful key art of the whole family, probably grabbed from the artists on the show from around the same time period as the original game released. It definitely looks period, and that’s appreciated. Besides those panels, the control deck is immaculately decorated, with each playable Simpson present next to a joystick and buttons denoted by a color associated with them. When you top all that off with the nice looking false coin receiver on the front, and the crowning of the unit with the light up marquee sign featuring “The Simpsons” and a logo of the family, it really is a sight to behold.
Aside from those things, let’s chat about the stool and riser really quick before we get into the performance of the unit. The stool looks stunning, with the same art applied to the top. Given it’s made into the heavy duty plastic of the seat, there’s no worry you’re going to rub it off, and the material seems durable enough to last a very long time. The legs are also well built, but the construction of them was a little annoying. Putting everything together was largely easy, but when I got to the final screw on the last leg to put the circular foot rest on, it wouldn’t reach it. I had to pull pretty hard at it to get it into position to do so, and honestly I probably needed a second pair of hands for it. As for the riser, it’s an extremely simple box-like build you can put together in like 5-10 minutes. It brings the arcade up close to the height you’d use most at, and that’s nice and comfortable, especially for people taller than my short self.
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for, the games and how this thing functions and plays! Start up is as easy as clicking the on button, with an initial few menus to head through to get your Arcade1Up up to date. Once you’ve got that done, I highly recommend you go ahead and use the wireless internet connection to update your unit. The one I received was on a lower firmware version, so the Simpsons Bowling wasn’t present. I don’t know if other units will ship with newer firmware equipped, so do know you might be taking a chance if you don’t have the internet at your home. As soon as I did that, everything was ready to rock and roll.
There are two games on this one, the more remembered Simpsons Arcade game, and The Simpsons Bowling. I’ll admit, I don’t ever remember hearing of the bowling one, but it was apparently a trackball arcade game back in the early 2000’s. Here’s the thing about both, there are very limited avenues to play these. Both were arcade titles, with The Simpsons Arcade dropping on the Commodore 64, and later arriving on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The Simpsons Bowling never made it past our favorite arcade hangouts, and while The Simpsons Arcade game made it further, it’s since been delisted from the digital storefronts, only available to those who still have it downloaded. With the Arcade1Up cabinet, you not only have both of these classics available 24/7, but you can play them in the best way possible, on an arcade machine. The coolest part about all of it is that Arcade1Up dropped a four player unit for this one, so everyone can gather around and play, along with a trackball so you can experience Bowling like you’re supposed to.
Both of these games perform incredibly well on the Arcade1Up, and it’s more than just looking pretty, even if they manage to do that as well thanks to a wonderfully bright screen. The images of both Simpsons Arcade and Bowling pop, with that warm enticing glow you expect from an old arcade game. Beyond that, each of the buttons and joysticks are nice and clicky, providing good feedback and near instant response as you play. The trackball takes a second to get used to, sometimes it moves the cursor really fast and if you move it too slowly it won’t always pick up right away. It feels exactly like it did when I played the Simpsons Arcade game in that airport arcade, and that’s exactly what I want messing with this.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any upgrades present though. The ability to connect via wifi doesn’t just get you updates, helping to make sure any firmware issues your machine may have fixable, it also allows online gameplay with the Simpsons Arcade game. It’s an awesome addition to be able to pop online via a lobby system and game with other people rather than being forced to try to get friends in to play a game that is built for four players. There are two disappointments with it however; The Simpsons Bowling isn’t included, and given there’s not a LAN connection available, my internet connection was a bit shoddy, leading to a good amount of lag. Whether that was the systems in place for online matchmaking or my internet connection I couldn’t tell you for sure, but it’s still a welcome feature. That, and the online leaderboards that show up for The Simpsons Arcade.
The audio capabilities of this machine are also incredible, especially given there’s only one set of speakers on the entire unit. These are mounted underneath the marquee, out of sight, but the downward angle that hits the diagonal of the screen to direct the sound directly into your face. This leaves the sound much louder than you’d ever expect it could be given what would seem like limitations. You can also control everything via the volume slider button, and it can be as quiet as background noise and as loud as a real arcade. It sets the perfect mood however you like it, and it works beautifully. Along with all of that, the headphone jack allows you to enjoy everything without bothering a soul, although on a four person cabinet it loses its luster considering it’s largely useless if a second person is there. One thing I did notice, I attempted to hook up a gaming headset to the cabinet and got nothing out of it. Earbuds worked just fine though. I couldn’t tell you if it’s going to be that way with every headset, but it did that with mine.
Something else that makes this even better than the arcade experience is the ability to adjust different settings. With both games you can adjust the difficulty, and there are other little things (like turning on the timing meter in Bowling, adding how many lives you start with in Arcade) that are just nice to be able to change. You can even add scanlines to the Simpsons Arcade, giving it even more of that arcadey feel. One of the key things that also make this a great unit is that you can reset all of the high scores. I’m not just saying that because we can take our buddy’s score down because he did better than us (the old way was unplugging it), but it’s nice to know you can set everything up fresh if you want to.
So, we have to go over the elephant in the room – the price. The unit I was sent runs pretty steep, $699.99, and even on sale at Walmart right now the unit without the light up marquee, stool, riser, and tin sign totals $399.99 (normally $529.99). I do recognize that things get more expensive to make, the price of materials has gone up substantially as of recently, and they are going after some popular licenses that cost more, along with adding more features like wifi and the four player option. But, it’d be preferable to see something like this starting at $499.99 at least, otherwise it becomes something you’ll see only purchased by arcade enthusiasts or Simpsons collectors and nostalgics. I think this unit is worth the asking price – it’s an incredible piece – but offering some extra value to the consumer outside of a select group would be a nice gesture.
The Simpsons™ Arcade Machine
It may cater more to the enthusiast, arcade or Simpsons, but The Simpsons™ Arcade Machine is certainly something special. The cabinet itself is beautiful and easy to assemble, and the screen is vivacious. Throw in crisp gameplay via the control deck, and some of the best audio I’ve heard out of an arcade unit? Just fantastic. It’s the best and possibly only way to play The Simpsons Arcade game and Simpsons Bowling, no do’hs about it.