Review by James McGovern
Update: Check out Page 2 of this review for internal shots of the cab.
A RetroBlast First: The "Stealth" Review
After many unsuccessful attempts by RetroBlast to secure a proper review unit of the recently released upright Midway Arcade Treasures game cabinet now available at Target stores nationwide, I decided to conduct a “stealth review” using a display unit at a local store. While I was unable to perform the usual dissection of the components, the in-store inspection and subsequent play testing provided all the insight needed to write this review. Is this unit a serious contender in the home use retrogaming cabinet market or just a poor attempt at recreating the arcade experience? Let’s find out.
Sizing it Up
The device stands 62” high and is 22” wide by 23” deep. While at first glance it appears to be fairly well constructed a second look dispels this impression. The unit is built from some form of particle board or MDF, though it was difficult to determine exactly what kind from the display model. Judging from the sides and front door, the stock used is approximately ½” thin. My guess is this is the same thickness stock used throughout, though the rear panel may be thinner. All in all, the entire piece seemed fairly sturdy, but this too was difficult to ascertain for sure as it was mounted on a Target store shelf.
A close look at the cabinet’s sides and overall structure reveals a highly segmented construction. From the pictures below one can see where various portions of the game are fastened to adjoin the unit’s many parts. Also easily spotted are the many screws used to secure the components. Sadly, those fasteners can also be seen dotting the “finished” product.
Also of note, it is a bit of a stretch (or a hunch as the case may be) to call this a full-sized arcade game. At 62” high, a little over 5 feet, expect to sign up for some Chiropractic visits if you play this game for too long. On the Target store shelf, it felt ok, but on the floor it would cause this reviewer great pain. This is easily seen in the image below from the manufacturer’s website.
From Top to Bottom
The game station’s “marquee” is made of the same material as the rest of the cabinet and the artwork is simply a sticker applied to the surface. The marquee is not illuminated in any way. In fact the only light emanating from the game comes from the tiny 14” monitor. Above the monitor, they have placed a graphic of the control panel for each game available that shows what controls to use for each game. As with the rest of the unit, these instructions are overly busy and cluttered.
The 14” monitor truly disappoints and reeks of cost-cutting measures. While a display of this size would suffice for a tabletop, it looks decidedly tiny in what is billed as a “full-sized” arcade cabinet. The placement is also very odd as it is placed near the bottom of the bezel area with the control instructions taking up the other two-thirds of the available space above the monitor.
The display unit’s monitor quality was absolutely appalling. The colors were nearly non-existent and the classic characters of our favorite Midway games appeared pale and abnormally blocky as though they have been rescaled without proportion constraint. I was unable to access the monitor settings so I am unsure how much of this can be adjusted. I can only assume this is the display available and if so it is terrible.
A Wico! A Wico! My Kingdom for a Wico!
If I was disappointed at the cabinet’s display, I was downright angry about the control panel. The layout is standard enough, two 8-way ball-top joysticks with six buttons accompanying each stick. There is a one and two player start button at the center top of the panel and a reset button to one side. Just above the control panel on the bezel, there are two small buttons which adjust the volume.
The joysticks appear to have been pulled from unsold Jakk’s Pacific games, and are abysmal. The ball tops are hollow and have a seam which runs around the equator of the handles which annoyed me at first touch. These would truly grate on my after the mildest of Robotron sessions. It is possible however that the shrill creaking and squeaking of the joysticks during game play might just take your mind off the blistering feel of the sticks themselves. They look cheap, sound cheap, feel cheap, and play cheap. The makers of this toy would have been better off had they installed the carpal tunnel-inducing Atari 2600 joysticks.
Calling all Happs
The player input buttons compliment the joysticks perfectly in that they are absolute garbage. I have seen buttons like these used on a Universal Lady Bug cabinet, but only for player 1 and player 2 start functions. At least those felt well made. The buttons are flat with little or no depression whatsoever in the center of the buttons. The button tops are barely 1/8” high from the control panel surface and can hardly be felt when pressed.
There is simply no tactile response from these things whatsoever. The remaining “administrative” buttons are about ¼” in diameter and complete the horror show of a control panel produced by Big Electronic Games. As with the rest of the plastic on the control panel, the ball tops and other buttons, the plastic feels unbelievably cheap. I know very little about plastic production, manufacturing, and forming, but I know the lack of quality when I feel it. The plastic used on these components feels like trash.
The leading edge of the control panel is graced with two drywall type screws, I assume, holding the panel onto the cabinet. I cannot be sure that these are the screws supplied with the unit, but seeing them poking out of the leading edge of the panel really rounds out the shoddy appearance of this travesty.
A Usable Feature!
Below the control panel, where one might expect to find the coin door, this unit has a door the size of the lower portion of the cabinet that reveals two shelves inside. This feature is one of the most usable components included. The marketing material and website stated that the game has accessible A/V inputs in order to plug in another game console and I must assume the shelves have been included for this purpose.
The obvious question, of course, is why anyone in their right mind would want to play a modern console game on novelty controls and a display better suited for an ATM. The front door itself is made of the same ½” material and is graced with a hodge-podge of game title images reflective of the games included in this cabinet.
The artwork all the way around is also sub-par. Big Electronic Games could not have put less thought into the presentation had they tried. It appears as if they were given logos from the included games, the Midway logo, and surprisingly their own (I would not want my name on this piece) and they simply threw them at the cabinet and went with whatever developed. The presentation is busy, unoriginal, and frankly gives this reviewer a headache.
After all this, I browsed the Big Electronic Games website to investigate the support mechanisms and warranty information. The site has that, “not ready for prime time feel” and a little surfing confirms the feeling. Beware if you do decide to purchase this game, as of November 28, 2005 the instruction and extended warranty information are dead links and the FAQ is “Under Construction.”
This reviewer also attempted to contact support using the 1-800 number listed on the site, billed as a “full service & repair network & 24-hour customer support” line. The limited options available all resulted in recordings either providing partial information about the products or prompting a user to email a given address or to leave a message.
Is it Really That Bad?
Many of the transgressions listed here could be forgiven. While a bit “delicate” for a real arcade cabinet, the unit’s construction could past muster for a home use game. The lack of an illuminated marquee can be excused as a needed cost-cutting measure. The artwork too can be looked at as an opportunity for an enterprising Photoshop user to perform “field upgrades.”
What cannot be forgiven is the absolutely terrible quality of the joysticks and buttons of this offering. The layout too, for a cabinet featuring Midway (mostly originally Williams) games, is a mystery. A multi-Williams control panel layout would have gone a very long way towards improving the playability of Defender and Stargate and still provided all of the inputs needed for the remaining games. The display as well, especially considering the cost of a 19” color television monitor, is inexcusable.
Coal in Your Stocking
At a suggested retail price of $499.00 (there is also a tabletop unit for $299.00), and appearing near the holidays, this piece had the potential of being a real entry level option for aspiring retro gamers who may not have the time or skills to build their own or the available finances to purchase a more well made cabinet from any one of the many builders featured on these pages.
Instead, Big Electronic Games has simply thrown together an absolute piece of rubbish and tossed it into the market in time for the holidays in a blatant attempt to capitalize off of the recent nostalgia surrounding classic arcade games. Their attempt to break into the retrogaming market with this offering is just shameful. Frankly that shame is shared by Midway for allowing their games to be featured on this platform and by Target as well as other stores, for attempting to pass this off on their customers.