Not far from where I live, thereís a small town called Manitou Springs. Itís a small town nestled in the mountains and known for being the sanctuary of Wiccans and hippies. One well known joke around here is just mentioning the fact that Manitou doesnít have a pet storeÖget it? LOLOLOL. Anyways, aside from the coffin races in October, the metaphysical fairs every weekend, haunted tours, and the other quirky things Manitou has to offer, itís also home to one of the greatest arcadesÖ.evar! Now that the stage as been set, Iíll get on topic.
Iíve wanted to do this feature ever since the beginning of SwankWorld. Not just to show off the Worldís Greatest Arcade in Townô but because I believe that arcades still offer a better experience than the home conversions. Itís common knowledge that arcades are dying out, to soon join the ranks of the drive-in theater and Monchichiís, and it kills me since Iíve grown up in arcades as a child of the 80ís and early 90ís. Iíve always argued that arcades should be like movie theaters, all of the new fighting and shooting games get released to the arcade first, while the home consoles should get the conversion later, like a release to DVD. It makes sense, especially in the case of multiplayer games. Nothing beats the competition of a LAN game, why not have some sort of arcade cyber cafe where people play Halo against each other? All rants aside, I feel the arcade should be alive today and years to come. So Iíll step down off of my soapbox, and letís take a look at the worldís greatest arcade in town!
Call it Arcade Amusements, Inc, The Penny Arcade, Manitou Arcade, or just ďThe ArcadeĒ as itís known by those who ask me what Iím doing every Saturday afternoon, itís definitely the best Colorado has to offer; Iíd even venture as far to include Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming in there as well. I just canít fathom an arcade this great in a place not called Tokyo or Japan. Then again, my world only extends from Colorado to LA. My point is that Iíve had more fun here than anything GameWorks in Vegas or Dave & Busterís has thrown at me, and itís cheaper too, as $10 will bring you three hours of pleasure and a happy ending to boot. It took me a good five years to find this place, since itís hidden behind a snack stand and in the middle of two strip malls. Donít let the location fool you, though, as this arcade takes up five whole rooms and its fair share of outdoor areas. This isnít your normal mall arcade, however, as classics are the theme of the day here and gimmick games are scarce, aside from the mandatory DDR machine.
Thereís not much to the front entrance aside from a host of kiddie rides and photo booths. Mayhaps the only noteworthy item here is a really old photo booth that takes about five minutes to develop your pictures and delivers them to you soaking wet. Thereís also a rock that must be made of wax or something because you can climb up to the top of it and slide down without risking any damage to your ass.
Just beyond the kiddie area lays the first of many rows of arcade games. They're not really the best of the bunch, but it's a good place to start. It's always best to start in the front and work your way to the back, since the arcade puts all of the best games at the back entrance, thus saving the best for last. There are a few gems here such as Asteroids, Super Hang-On, Pole Position II, Rampage, and a big sit down Cruis'n Exotica. My personal favorite out of this row is Battle Shark. Think of it as an on rails shooter, but with a submarine! There'slso one of the arcade's two Galaga machines here too, but this one sooo isn't worth it when the greatest Galaga machine in the world resides a hundred or so feet away.
Other not-so-notable games include Batman Forever, a horrible game based off of a horrible movie that took advantage of two flash in the pan fads at the time: digitized graphics and Chris Oí Donnel.
Did I mention that this is pretty much the only place aside from Dave & Busterís where you can actually smoke and play games? You can also smoke in most of the game rooms as well. This helps to make the arcade more reminiscent of the 80's when you could smoke anywhere. Too bad I wasn't old enough then. I'm just making excuses to smoke again. Moving on...
Behind this first row of games is the first game room featuring more games like Tron, Return of the Jedi, Beast Busters, SF Rush 2049, and Knights of the Round. In addition to the games there are two pool and air hockey tables. If thereís one thing I like almost as much as old school arcade games, its air hockey, though we all tend to get pretty competitive and I end up waking up with a sore back the next morning. Itís all worth it coming off of a good undefeated streak, which I have yet to experience for myself. Knights of the Round was one of the better Capcom hack-n-slash games made. magine Final Fight in medieval times and instead of punching, you use swords and axes. It even has some RPG elements in it where you level up and your armor gets big and turns gold, not to mention your weapon evolves into a bigger, more lethal killing machine with each level. I was never really good at Tron and I haven't seen the movie since I was a wee lad, so if I sound less than excited about it, then reward yourself with a toffee because you're right. I remember liking Beast Busters when I was a kid, but playing it recently, there's just too much going on and you seem to die without warning and for seemingly no reason at all. Operation Wolf (located right around the corner) was a much better "I have a machine gun mounted on the cabinet" game anyways. Did anyone else think the Return of the Jedi arcade game sucked? One last highlight of this room has to be the supposedly ultra-rare Nintendo Super System arcade machine. It was the Play Choice 10 of the SNES era only that it didn't last as long as its predecessor. You can see a pic of that in the photo gallery (once again, linked at the bottom of the article).
In this example of photographic excellence, we see the next set of outdoor games including Space Harrier, Q*Bert, and some old game from the 60ís with scrolling cloud wallpaper and enemy airplanes made of light that you have to shoot down. Itís pretty neat when youíre watching, boring as hell when you play, kinda like State of Emergency. Hard Drivin' is on the left, which was the first 3D polygon racer. One of the older games managed to make it out here as well, it's a hunting game where you shoot down metal targets. Needless to say, it more than pales in comparison to Space Harrier and Q*Bert so it's often overlooked.
Across from this second row of games lies the Penny Arcade building exhibiting games that should be retired to the Smithsonian as opposed to being played by a bunch of kids with sticky fingers.
Yeah, it smells about as old as it looks. The whole room has a musky, dusty odor that smells like your grandma's attic. The most prominent attraction here are the pinball machines that date from the 40ís all the way to the early 90ís, including the super cool Street Fighter II pinball game. Pinball has never really gotten better for me after playing that one, especially a couple of summers ago when I hit my proverbial peak and won 2 extra credits in one game. I havenít been able to do it again since.
Aside from the pinball machines, youíll find a bunch of old games that use things like bibi guns and magnets against metal targets. There are also some classics like Gorf, Galaxian, Centipede, and Defender along the side walls. There's also a big sit down VR Racing game in the middle - remember when that was cool and cutting edge? The real novelty to the room lies in the ancient oddities you'll come across. You'll find cymbol playing monkeys for a nickel, old flip book viewers depicting porn from the 30's, foosball tables, really old racing games with plastic cars driving on rotating roads, as well as a bunch of love testers and arm wrestling simulators. It's too much to picture here, but feel free to check out more in the additional photo gallery at the end of the article.
Oh wow! The Sultanís Harem! I wonder what secrets lie within? Itís just a penny; I suppose Iíll take a lookÖ
Sweet baby Jesus and mother of god! The harem has been invaded by rubber aliens! Draw your own conclusions on this picture, itís just strange. It would make one wonder if this were some sort of dirty trick by an arcade employee of yearsí past or if was actually shipped like this. I always try to freak out the unknowing with this one. Itís fun for only a penny!
Pictured here are Bimbo and the Doctorís Office. The Doctor's Office is just one of the aforementioned porn viewers in this room. I think this one actually shows a movie as opposed to the flipbook, but it cuts off right before anything interesting happens. Those with an elbow fetish will have to sit down for a bit after seeing this one.
Bimbo is on the left. As you can see on the marquee, Bimbo is being billed as a three ring circus, which couldnít really be further from the truth, as the three rings are displayed behind him with far more exciting things going on. He should be billed as Bimbo Four Button Circus. Bimbo is a phenomenon, in a loose sense of the word since heís basically a button controlled marionette. You control him by pressing any of the three buttons on the cabinet that will control his arms and legs. It seems boring at first, but once you find the right button combination, you can get some momentum going on the otherwise bland puppet. You pay twenty-five cents for what seems like ten minutes of attempting to make Bimbo do the most unrealistic things such kicking himself in the ass and hitting himself in the head. Last year, my brother spent fifty cents in an attempt to put an end to Bimbo by contorting and tangling him into (what he thought would be) an unfixable mess. I thought for sure he wouldnít be back this year, but you just canít keep a good clown down I suppose.
Next door to the penny arcade are the derby races. Ten people can play at once as they try to race their horses to the finish line for tickets. Not just the one point tickets, mind you, but five point tickets. The winner gets five points for every person playing the game, which can really add up if youíre on a roll (obviously). You move your horse by rolling balls into holes, kinda like a mini version of skeeball. You have holes that will move you one, two and three spaces. If you donít aim correctly, your ball will roll down into the gutter and you wonít move at all. Itís entertaining for about five minutes when you realize there are games that yield more tickets for your money, like Feeding Frenzy which aside from being an addictive game, can also yield about 30-100 tickets a game!
As with any arcade or amusement park, you cash in your tickets for prizes which makes this arcade no exception. The Penny Arcade has one of the largest prize rooms, as far as size and variety I've ever seen.
Pictured on the left is the ticket counter with not only three glass cases of prizes, but shelves upon shelves of prizes behind them. Just across from the ticket counter are the rows of skeeball games with some of the bigger prizes lines up on top of them. The glass cases have the token smaller prizes like candy, plasic and rubber trinkets, chinese stress balls, and smaller toys. The shelves contain the next rung up in the prize ladder, with things you would pretty much expect to see in the toy section at the grocery store. The traditional stuffed animals are here, though they're definitely not as prominent as they are at carnivals. Instead, you can win Samurai play kits (complete with plastic sword and throwing stars), cowboy play kits (where else but Colorado, right?), mugs, cups, guns, and other real life items forged into plastic. The larger items on top of the skeeball games consist of small grills, coolers, remote control cars, pictures, and signs among other things. The prizes aren't just limited to this room either, as the room with the DDR machine has even more pictures and posters on display that you can trade in your hard earned tickets for.
Some of the better prizes are on display in the windows outside of the prize room. There are, of course, a few neon signs...or would they be sculptures? The one on the far right says "beer," what kind of man wouldn't want that? The two ferris wheels are the most expensive items, second only to the pocket bike. These things have been in the windows for as long as I can remember. With my new found Feeding Frenzy skizz-illz, the girlfriend and I have made it a goal to get one of those things at the end of the summer. Once we do, we own part of the arcade! Though the samurai swords and display rack are pretty enticing. Decisions.
Of course, the fun canít end there. The arcade saves the best for last for near the rear exit lies the proverbial money shot of the Manitou arcade. The home of the best games the arcade has to offer as well as the domain of the best Galaga machine in the world.
No matter how many angles I try to take pictures of this room, they just don't do it justice. As you can tell, itís pretty damn crowded. Every trip to the arcade ends here, because itíll always end on a good note Ė save for that time I failed to get the high score in Dig Dug after about seven attempts. This room houses three different Neo Geo MVS systems running any game you can think of (including the best versions of Samurai Shodown), Carnevil, Dig Dug, Strikers 1945, Tekken 3, Ultimate MK3, Star Trek Voyager, Die Hard Trilogy, Area 51 Site 4, 3 player Offroad, San Fransisco Rush, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Sega Bass Fishing, the highly addictive Feeding Frenzy, Ms. Pacman (with the speed-up chip), and of course the best Galaga machine in the world just to name a few. The top of the room is lined with marquees from other games such as Mr. Do, the Astron Belt laser disc game (my personal favorite when I was a kid), Frogger and many others. The best pinball machines (at least considered by the mainstream) are here, which consists of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Star Trek. I can spend two hours in this room alone with just Galaga, Feeding Frenzy, Strikers, and Dig Dug.
There it is, the best Galaga machine ever, lodged in between Attack from Mars and some candy machines. Iíve played my best games on this machine due to the fact that it just feels right. It fits like a glove, which is an oxymoron from hell I know, but I canít think of any better way to describe it. My Galaga-Fu fist is smooth to the bone, can your weaksauce stance defeat it? This one, unlike the other machine at the arcade, is equipped with the fast fire chip and has never been out of order. Then again, itís never outside either. The arcade staff better keep an eye on this one, or that machine will end up going out the window and into my loving arms one day.
And so ends our tour of the World's Greatest Arcade in Town. It's definitely the best my area of the state has to offer in terms of a classic gaming fix. It's been around forever, and hopefully it'll be around forever more or something like that. I don't know if other arcades exist like this one, I'm sure there are on boardwalks in Santa Cruz or wherever, but I can't see any of them concentrating on the love of arcade games (as opposed to saturating the place with gimmick games) like this one. Then again, my world may be smaller than anyone else's out there. Still, this arcade deserved some sort of homage.
Of course, I took too many pictures and couldn't fit them into the article. A lot of them feature the games in more detail. If you'd like to see if one of your favorites was lurking about and escaped my mind, check out the additional photo gallery complete with - get this - captions!
Click here to view the photo gallery with never before seen pics! OMG!
- Brad Hicks (aka Dr. Swank), SwankWorld Media