Arcade1Up review: A retro dream machine

Do these tiny arcade cabs contain just as much fun as their full-sized counterparts? We went hands-on with them to find out.

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I’ve made no effort to hide my love for retro games or the golden era of arcades when reviewing classic compilations or checking out the latest micro-console. So, when I learned about the Arcade1Up line of mini arcade cabinets my interest was immediately piqued. This brand new line of products is essentially three-quarters scale arcade cabs that have a selection of classic titles that come preloaded on their various models.

Big things in small packages

I actually used to own a couple of full-sized arcade cabinets: MK3 and Gauntlet 2 to be precise. The thing about them is they were a huge pain in the butt to deal with in several ways. Sure, it was the culmination of a life-long childhood dream to own them, but the reality of dealing with these massive, heavy pieces of retro kitsch is far from easy. They’re large and made of very solid wood and more often than not required maintenance to run properly. I also currently live on the third floor of an apartment complex with no elevators that would’ve made getting full-size cabs up here nigh on impossible.

Many of the problems I’ve had with “authentic” cabs are alleviated by Arcade1Up’s materials and design. The quality of the wood used to make the Arcade1Up cabinet is more along the lines with what you’d see from an Ikea catalog bookshelf. When you couple that with the fact that this is a smaller three-quarters cab, it makes the entire thing light enough to move around the house without help until you get the feng-shui just right.

The model I received for review was based off the original Rampage cab and included that game plus Gauntlet, Joust, and Defender. All the other models available come set up with joysticks and button combos for two players to throw down at once, however, the Rampage model comes set up for up to three players. For some reason though the third center controller only works for Rampage. It would’ve been nice to have the option to play three player Gauntlet as well as Rampage since it was originally released as a four-play cab.

Free play

As for the Arcade1Up’s emulation, it’s spot-on. All the games run as they should and look great on the included 17” LCD screen. While I’ve seen small desktop-sized arcade cabs with Rampage for sale before, they’ve all used an emulated NES version title. Being able to play the original arcade versions of all these games in a decent replica cabinet is definitely an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

There are a few things I’d note as far as design goes though. For instance, I would’ve liked it if the controller surface had been more reinforced than the rest of the cabinet, perhaps they could’ve used a clear plastic cover like many old-school cabs. As it stands now I’m a little worried I could break through the surface over time just through pressure and wear and tear. While the audio functions fine, it uses a hi-med-low switch instead of a volume knob, which seems like an odd design choice to me. You're also going to be rather cozy when playing with 3 people due to the size. I’d also note that while my review unit came prefabricated, assembly will be required if you buy one online or from a retail store. so if you had trouble putting that Swedish bookshelf together, you may want to get a friend to help you put it together.

Beyond a few design indiscretions, like only one of the included titles making use of the third joystick setup, the Arcade1Up is exactly what you would hope it would be: a functional arcade cabinet that’s compact enough to fit in a small apartment at a reasonable price. While $399.99 may seem steep to some when you consider that an entry-level vintage cab costs about that much, only has one game, and is super heavy, it’s quite a deal. If you love classic arcade gaming and have always dreamed of owning a piece of nostalgia this is a reasonable and cost-effective way to finally have that dream come to fruition in a way that’s compact and functional.


This review is based on a cabinet provided by the company. Arcade1up Cabinets are available for purchase online and at retailers now at a starting price of $399.99.

Reviews Editor

Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

Review for
Arcade1Up
9
Pros
  • Cheaper than a full-sized cab
  • Great ports of retro titles
  • Light enough for one person to carry
  • Fits in my small apartment
  • Great for old-school arcade fans
Cons
  • Could use a more solid control surface
  • The volume knob is lo-med-hi
  • A little cramped for 3 players
From The Chatty