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If you grew up in the 1980s, it’s likely that many of your earliest gaming memories included popping countless quarters into various large-looming cabinets at your local arcade/big-box store/laundromat—video games truly were everywhere back in the day—or sitting in front of the family TV enjoying iconic home consoles like the Atari 2600 or the Nintendo Entertainment System. There was, however, a third option.
Toy manufacturer Coleco cranked out a steady stream of miniature tabletop arcade games—not exactly as robust as their larger counterparts, mind you, but they included then-exotic features like color displays and functional joysticks. With the eventual advent of the Nintendo Game Boy, the landscape of portable gaming was forever changed, and these not-so-little at-home arcade games fell out of favor, though they are still sought after by collectors and gaming aficionados of a certain (middle) age.
Thankfully, now you can relive the glory days of these scaled-down arcade cabinets—albeit in a noticeably slimmer package—with the Classic Mini Arcade line from Basic Fun. Each mini-cab is around 6-inches tall, 4-inches wide, and 2-inches thick at its base, and includes all the buttons and controls you’d expect along with dual speakers, easily replaceable AA batteries, and throwback decals and branding.
Centipede, one of my early favorites, comes in polar white plastic with a central joystick flanked by Start/Pause and Fire buttons. While not as responsive as my beloved full-sized trackball version, it’s a great gaming diversion, and the front-mounted On/Off and Volume buttons mean I can easily relive a childhood spent killing time at the bowling alley without disturbing the rest of the family.
Frogger—a game for which my 9-year-old has demonstrated an almost preternatural knack—comes in an appropriate green case with a single joystick and Start/Pause button. Which, I suppose, is all you really need for Frogger anyway.
My son, on the other hand, seems drawn to the subtle charms of Q*Bert, the real standout of the line. Its tiny black cabinet is decorated with vibrant yellow decals that, while not a perfect reproduction, truly do take me back to the arcades on my youth. In fact, the only thing not to like about it is that there seems to be a little too much play in its classic diagonal joystick.
Whatever your poison, each of this trio of throwback classics retails for an MSRP of $17.99, and, while none will replace your smartphone, tablet, or Nintendo 3DS, they are uniquely fun, functional, and affordable conversation pieces for the aged arcade rat in your life.
Review materials provided by: Basic Fun