Few games have managed to capture that nostalgic '90s feeling of walking into an arcade with a pocket full of coins – and none of them have done it as well as Nosebleed Interactive’s recent surprise hit, Arcade Paradise. On our sister websites of Nintendo Life, Push Square, and Pure Xbox, it received 8/10 scores across the board. Push Square called it ‘utterly essential' for anyone nostalgic for '90s gaming, and Nintendo Life echoed this, stating that those with a penchant for playing arcade games could see themselves spending dozens upon dozens of hours fighting for higher scores in the back of a launderette.
Originally [Arcade Paradise] was going to take place in the back of a VHS rental store
But where did this idea for a launderette and arcade hybrid come from, and how did the team at Newcastle-based Nosebleed Interactive come up with over 35 creative arcade titles? To understand how this unique management sim came to be, we got in touch with Game Director Andreas Firnigl. We’ve yet to meet a man more passionate about arcade games; we spent the first 10 minutes of our interview discussing the resurgence of retro arcades in the United Kingdom and memories of beating businessmen at Street Fighter Alpha 3 in Japan.
“Originally [Arcade Paradise] was going to take place in the back of a VHS rental store,” Firnigl told us when got back on track and asked after his game’s unique setting. “One of the reasons we didn’t go with that is because of the amount of artwork to make it feel cool. It would’ve been a really fun task coming up with thousands of fake movies, but also it would’ve taken a massive amount of time.”
Firnigl further explained that back in the '90s, working at a VHS rental store was a dream job for many late teens and young adults. For Arcade Paradise, narratively they wanted a contrast between a boring job and the arcade games in the back; thus, the idea of a launderette was born. Yet the gameplay of the launderette sections pulled from a not-so-boring and not-so-retro source, yet still an unquestionable classic – Stardew Valley.
Our saving system, when you end the day and then it saves, is directly ripped from Stardew Valley
“Our saving system, when you end the day and then it saves, is directly ripped from Stardew Valley. The game saves and then it’s the next day, and you think ‘well, I could just look at what crops had just come in,’ … and then you do a couple of hours of work, so I might as well keep on playing now.’ We aped [that system] a little bit – well a lot, to be honest – with Arcade Paradise.”
Firnigl initially implemented a more complex system. If you left the launderette before 2 pm, rather than getting told off by the father of the protagonist – voiced by Geralt of Riviera himself, Doug Cockle – new arcade machines wouldn’t get delivered and profit would be impacted significantly. It annoyed players too much, Firnigl continued, so they pulled back on that aspect. “One of the things we’d go back and change is to make it feel a little more free to the player. It’s implied you should leave on time.”
The parallels to Stardew Valley don’t end there. Both games start off in soul-sucking, dead-end jobs that the player soon casts aside for a more wholesome – and fun – line of work. “It’s something that a lot of people can identify with, working these dead-end jobs,” Firnigl explained. The rest of the game, then, plays out like a work-based fantasy. In the case of Stardew Valley, sticking it to corporatism through the player returning to natural roots (though Firnigl was proud to tell us he had a save file with 200 hours in support of JojaMart), while Arcade Paradise sticks it to the player’s industrious father.
Everyone asked why we’re not doing a homage to Windjammers, but no – it’s too perfect
The universal praise for Arcade Paradise doesn’t stem from the launderette management sections, however. It was of utmost importance for the small development team to nail a true arcade feel, and Firnigl is proud of how the curvature of the glass cabinet reflects the light of the room and the CRT-style screen manages to capture an authentic vibe. But it’s the arcade games themselves, from the Pac-Man game skinned like Grand Theft Auto to an Out Run-esque game reminiscent of F-Zero or WipEout. Nosebleed Interactive packed these games full of features and callbacks to some of the greatest arcade games of yesteryear; truly, we can think of no better love letter to '90s retro gaming.
“Windjammers is an absolute work of genius,” Firnigl said when asked what arcade game he believed to be the best ever made. “When we had an office, it was the game we used to play to see who would make the coffee. Everyone asked why we’re not doing a homage to Windjammers, but no – it’s too perfect. Anything that we try and do will detract rather than add or make you smile. We can’t do it justice.”
Windjammers wasn’t the only arcade classic that the team found difficult to replicate. Whether or not Nosebleed Interactive felt they could add to a genre or type of game dictated which types of virtual cabinets they designed. People often ask Firnigl why they didn’t develop a Street Fighter-style fighting game, for example, but he told us such a game would be incredibly hard to do right. It would’ve added a year to Arcade Paradise’s development, and it might not have played well. In the end, Nosebleed Interactive wanted to add something new to most of their arcade games, not detract from their inspirations – except for Firnigl’s personal favourite game in Arcade Paradise.
It’s a bit like, if [Puzzle Bobble developer Taito] doesn’t like this, we’re screwed… [Our version] is a sort of love letter to it
“Puzzle Bobble 2,” he said when queried on what game he was most excited to put a version of into Arcade Paradise. “We always tried to add something to the game, but this one – this is the one we’re closest to the source. It’s a bit like, if [Puzzle Bobble developer Taito] doesn’t like this, we’re screwed… [Our version] is a sort of love letter to it.”
As for what games he’s most proud of designing, it's the Tetris-inspired maths game called Blockchain. Firnigl claims that while Blockchain appears quite difficult when first picked up, the simple block-dropper stylised with Matrix digital rain soon becomes impossible to put down. He assures players will get absolutely hooked once it clicks, and we’d have to agree. We’d be first in line to buy a standalone Blockchain game and would play it as much as we have Tetris.
“Blockchain seems dead complicated at first, but it’s not. We need to tutorial it better, which we’ve already gone back and revisited in the upcoming patch. We’ve not really stopped [since launch],” Firnigl elaborated. “... so it’s all hands on deck getting the next patch together, coming soonish. We haven’t really stopped to take in [Arcade Paradise’s success] yet.”
We’ve got a lot of ideas of things we’d like to do and we were pitching a racing game
What’s next for Nosebleed Interactive? Will there be an Arcade Paradise 2? An Arcade VHS Paradise? “Let’s fix these bugs before we move on to the next thing,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve got a lot of ideas of things we’d like to do and we were pitching a racing game... but maybe Arcade Paradise is going to be the runaway success that brands us as a studio forever. All of our previous games have stuck to a feeling, an active arcade gameplay married to something that keeps you coming back… But yeah – potentially – there’s a billion things that we wanted to do that we didn’t do.”
Luckily for us arcade fans, maintaining our high scores in a multitude of great games in the back of the King Wash launderette will keep us busy, until the team at Nosebleed Interactive has a chance to catch its breath.