Redbrick Gaming and Travel’s Editors review the various games available to play at NQ64, Birmingham’s premiere barcade

The Simpsons Arcade Game – Louis Wright

Beat’em’ups are a classic of the arcade genre. The nature of the game: button mashing, stupidly challenging, and a strong gameplay loop lend itself to the arcade cabinet format and taking countless coins from its players. Even more so than the beat’em’up is the branded beat’em’up. With such an identifiable gameplay style, the genre can easily be adapted to not only a range of different themes but also apply the stylisation, characters and settings of popular franchises. One such franchise is the animated sitcom The Simpsons.

Homer, the father, fights with his fists, girth and weight

The plot of The Simpsons game is unnecessarily complicated. Mr. Burns and Smithers are trying to steal a diamond but the diamond falls into Maggie Simpsons mouth, replacing her dummy, and so Mr. Burns and Smithers decide to kidnap an entire baby instead of just taking the diamond out of her mouth and leaving, therefore the remainders of the Simpson clan must venture out to rescue her and for some reason they have paid off literally everyone in Springfield to stop them from retrieving the youngest of them. Told you it was unnecessarily complicated.

Players get to control their favourite Simpson who battles in a variety of ways. Homer, the father, fights with his fists, girth and weight- ironically never strangling anyone. Marge, being the wife, fights using cleaning equipment like a vacuum cleaner. Bart, the cool kid, bats people round the head with his awesome looking skateboard. Lisa, girl, uses skipping rope. And of course if you run out of lives, likely to the weird cartoon rabbits from the TVs that are brought to life, the respective Simpson you are playing as gets dragged down into hell by demonic Bart Simpsons, plural.

Pac-Man Battle Royale – Lydia Don

Amongst NQ64’s amalgamation of shooting, dancing, and driving games (to name just a few) lies Pac-Man, an obvious inclusion into any gaming venue across the world. However, this is not that iconic yellow brick of an arcade machine you typically first think of when you hear about Pac-Man. Digbeth’s answer to a gamer’s paradise boasts a modern multiplayer version of the universally loved game. This is a revolutionised version in the form of a large screen laid out in front of you which up to four players surround. Using joysticks, you control your own Pac-Man and play the game as you usually would. Anyway, need I say any more? Everybody knows how to play Pac-Man! At least, that’s what I thought to myself.

I discovered my skill to be completely non-existent

Whilst I do know the rules and objectives of the game, I discovered my skill to be completely non-existent. As an incredibly competitive person myself, winning was my only aim. So when I found my assumptions of my own skill in Pac-Man to be in tatters as I constantly bumped into my fellow players and found myself dead and out of the game long before anybody else, you can imagine my frustrations. Nonetheless, I had an absolute blast! This version of Pac-Man was so much more immersive than the original version. Obviously, technology has advanced majorly since the first version of Pac-Man was released in 1980, and I am so glad it did – this multiplayer version is much more fun!

Dance Stage EuroMix Machine – Kitty Grant

Back in October I started taking ballroom dance classes, reigniting my childhood love of dance, but before this, NQ64 has been there for my inner dance-loving six-year-old. Would I call jumping in methodically patterns while slightly inebriated ‘dancing’? Yes, yes I would. If two-stepping and random jumping in the club can be considered dance then why not dance machines?

Before I get any further with this review, I want to clarify that I am not talking about the Dance Dance Revolution machine at NQ64 since, despite being the most well-known brand of arcade dance machine, it is evil. If you choose the easy mode the DDR branded machine warms you up with a nice easy round to warm up but then, without any chance to choose your difficulty, DDR hits you with a ridiculously hard track leading to inevitable failure accompanied by boos from the audience. Instead of enjoying a fun little dance game I’m left full of shame at failing a task I didn’t want to do in the first place.

Dance Stage EuroMix machine, a kind machine that unlike the DDR offering was designed by people with love and generosity in their hearts

On the other hand, tucked away behind the bar to the left is the Dance Stage EuroMix machine, a kind machine that unlike the DDR offering was designed by people with love and generosity in their hearts. Rather than forcing a harder level upon you and eating away tokens if you want more than one round of a comfortable level, DSEM gives players the chance to choose their level each time. With a generous offering of three rounds for each two-token payment, players get the chance to build up their skills at their own pace. DSEM also gives players the grace to allow them to finish a track before getting booed off if they choose a harder round.

There is so much more to say about the DSEM machine, including its hit-filled soundtrack and stellar graphics, but much like how my father’s hatred of Tottenham is stronger than his love of Arsenal, so too does my hatred of DDR supersede my love of DSEM. So if you’ve ever tried the DDR machine at NQ64 and hated it, why not turn left at the bar and be welcomed by a dance machine that cares.

Super Mario 64 – Louis Wright

A draw of NQ64 are the retro consoles (I don’t like calling the GameCube, a console that was released in the year I was born, retro) that are available to play for free. While the main draw of these consoles is to play multiplayer games like the various Mario Karts they have available, the game that we got the most enjoyment from was ironically the chronically single player Super Mario 64 (1996).

Watching Lydia (travel editor) struggle to complete a level and then myself completely fail in full confidence of my own skill as gaming editor was a dramatic irony that made the social all the more enjoyable. Something about taking turns to play a single player game, in some strange form of a warped competition that the developers never intended, is an intriguing concept that is almost more enjoyable than the competition of a traditional multiplayer game.

We were making baby noises and pretending he was having a tantrum

One of my favourite parts was making Mario crouch on the ground and crawl around like a child. We were making baby noises and pretending he was having a tantrum because he was not able to save Peach. It was very fun.

Also the title screen for Super Mario 64 gave a lot of enjoyment. For those not inclined with the classic games classic intro, the player is given a cursor that allows them to pinch and pull at Mario’s face, distorting him into various shapes and sizes. You can make Mario look like a wretched little creature and he will continue to smile with glee all the same. What a champion!

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