Goodge St Casino, London: A Visit
Tuesday, 18 July 2006 00:00
There I was one day, reading some discussions at shmups.com, when I noticed a discussion about arcades. It’s a topic close to my heart because I go to Blackpool every year for a couple of days specifically to visit the arcades. The only things that interrupt my mini arcade fest are McDonalds and beer. The simple fact is though that Blackpool’s arcades are a shadow of their former selves.
Gone are all the games that you actually wanted to play, the ’80s has long gone. Now it is full of games that simply want your money, and they don’t even say “Give me your money!!!” in a particularly cool way that makes you want to put your money in like The Black Night 2000 pinball did. No, these days its just put in a quid play for 60 seconds, put in another quid. Beat ’em ups, Racers and Dance Games are all that remain in this tired old town.
Yet still, every year, Wallsy and I make the trip in the hope that something has changed for the better. The simple fact is that the last game we really really enjoyed playing was the two player, full sized, sit down, tilting version of Powerdrift. Except for Point Blank, obviously… And the Time Crisises, but you get what I mean…
I’ve tried the reasonably local arcades in the seaside towns of Redcar and Scarborough, but the arcade games in these towns generally have broken joysticks or knackered screens and charge you a quid for the privilege of the coin slot not activating the game.
Just about the best place to play a reasonably modern arcade game is the local multiplex picture house, the games are all a quid a go but at least the games actually work.
Apart from the odd Space Invaders cabinet a common factor amongst every arcade I have been to in the last 5 to 10 years is a severe lack of shoot ’em ups. There was a time where they were the prominent genre, but no more.
So I was very interested when one of the posts in the arcade thread at shmups.com mentioned an arcade in Goodge St, London that had some shoot ’em ups in it. I visit London every now and again for work purposes. Unfortunately I rarely stay there and come straight home after whatever business I was in London for has finished. I decided though to write “Goodge St” in a document on the desktop of my work computer, just in case I ever stayed in London.
It just so happened that this week I was going to a meeting in London and then was traveling back to Birmingham for a meeting the next day. This meant I could stay in London for an hour or two before it got too late to be catching trains to Birmingham. As I was sat in the meeting in London I noticed the document on my desktop, thought AHA! today could be the day, and asked a colleague who knows London how far away Goodge St was. “You know the road just outside this building?” he said, “just follow it and it turns into Goodge St, it will take about ten minutes to walk”.
The meeting finished and I was on my way to Goodge St. I was a bit worried that I was heading for a rather dodgy part of town as I passed the “adult” shop , and I was more than a little surprised when I got to the end of Goodge St and hadn’t seen anything remotely like an arcade. I noticed though that around the corner to my left was Goodge ST Tube Station and just in front of it was an establishment which had “CASINO” on its sign. As I walked up to it I noticed that there were some video games. This must be it I thought.
In I went and my first impression was that it was quite big, but then I realised that the right hand side of the “casino” was actually one big mirror. Looking around I didn’t really notice any games of any worth. There was a Virtua Cop 3 amongst some other games, some pinball tables and some One Armed Bandits at the back, but nothing shmuppy. At the front of the “casino” I had entered was what looked like the black hole of doom with some steps leading downwards. A neon sign above the stairs had and arrow pointing down the stairs with the word “video games” on it (at least I think that’s what it said). So down I went.
I was a bit nervous because what you have to remember is that I am 33, fat, in a suit with a bag on wheels that looks severely petite (I have to wheel it about because I have a bad back, I try not to carry it as much as possible) with a computer in it, sweating my bollocks off because it’s about a million degrees outside and I’ve just walked for more than three steps to my car. I am definitely not the type of person you would expect to find in an arcade full of young males. Which is, as I discovered when I got to the bottom of the stairs, exactly what the patrons of the arcade were. “Turn around” my Brain said, “go home and play your consoles, that’s where you belong”.. “No!” said my eyes.
I noticed what looked like a shoot ’em up. I couldn’t quite believe it. It was about half way through the arcade on the left… It couldn’t be what my eyes though they saw, could it? I noticed that there were a load of sit down cabinets playing various beat ’em ups like Capcom Vs SNK, but my feet beat a hefty path to the shmup, hands dragging this stupid bag behind me.
The game was DoDonPachi Bee Storm, the only DDPachi I hadn’t ever seen. All of a sudden the game started, it was a bit of shock to see that my hand had already put the money in and pressed start…. 4 Credits for a Quid? That can’t be right? It is Right!! Wahoo. The Price is Right.. Come on Down!!!
I must tell you before I go any further that I have read that Bee Storm is crap, but I loved it.
Once I got over the initial shock I got into the game and finished my credits, starting the game afresh each credit. I looked around and noticed a Raiden Fighters machine next to it. OMG! Money in and 4 more credits! The Price is Right, Come on down!!
BUT… The screen was fecked, somehow the left had side of the screen was too far to the left and wrapped back around towards the middle of the screen in a layer over the main play area. No matter, the game was ace.
When I finished I noticed a Raiden Fighters across the room!! OMG!! BUT… The colours were too bright so the bullets were the same colour as the background, basically everything was almost white. No matter, I put in a quid, 4 credits! The price is right, Come on down!
When I finished I noticed a 1940 something, I can’t remember which one, BUT.. the screen was fecked because it had stretched and squashed sides and corners. By now I was getting pretty pissed off with playing on fecked screens, I was getting extremely pissed of with putting my bag down and it getting completely in the way of my legs so I couldn’t stand comfortably. I couldn’t move it to the side in case someone nicked it. I was also getting pissed of with having to stand up at the machines because the screens were too vertical which meant you were too close and couldn’t concentrate on the bottom of them. You needed to be sat down really.
So I decided not to play the 1940 whatever it was game. There was also a ProGear that looked perfect, but I just couldn’t be bothered by now, I made a B-line (excuse the pun!) back to Bee Storm. That was when I noticed that the red electron gun was knackered on the screen. I played another 4 credits though.
On my way out I noticed that the vast majority of the beat ’em ups had perfect screens. It pissed me off rather a lot that I had found an arcade with some superb shmups at the right price all with working joysticks and buttons, but the screens were all knackered. It was too much to hope for after all… shmups that worked properly. Come on Goodge St Casino, sort them out! You know it’s the right thing to do.
So I guess the question is will I ever go back. Well, of course I will, knackered shmups are better than no shmups, only next time it will be without my fecking bag and without a suit on.