Update 7/23/2018: I fixed some formatting issues that were bugging me. The content is the same.
There’s a very troubling being looming in the arcade industry. This being snaps up precious space on the Dave and Buster’s game floor by churning out very okay-ish (yet highly marketable) redemption and videmption pieces at an alarming rate. They love porting mobile games and making slow-paced licensed rail shooters. This being is none other than Adrenaline Amusements.
If you’re at least the slightest bit confused right now, let me give ya the low-down. Adrenaline Amusements is a Canadian arcade game developer that releases some of the most popular redemption and videmption games currently plaguing the industry. These games include Infinity Blade FX, the Crossy Road arcade port, Spinner Frenzy, and that weird new Tomb Raider arcade game.
In all their years of existence, Adrenaline Amusements has produced very few games of even the slightest merit. Though it may sound harsh, I think it’s time to expose the problem that lies with Adrenaline. That is, of course, what I’m here for. So please, join me. I’m about to take you on the most biased adventure of your life.
I suppose the first question to be asked in this discussion is why—why exactly do I dislike Adrenaline Amusements so much? And I think it really comes down to one thing. Adrenaline has achieved incredible success at the expense of the arcade industry itself. Their games just aren’t any good; they aren’t developed for any longevity or cultural significance. Their redemption games are the kind of industry-standard ticket-based kiddy gambling emitted in 20-second spurts that was pioneered by I.C.E. Their video and videmption games singlehandedly brought upon the evil that is mobile-to-arcade ports.
But surely I’m being too harsh, you say. And yes, in truth, Adrenaline isn’t much worse than any other prize game manufacturer. The problem with Adrenaline, however, is that they embody everything wrong with the modern arcade industry.
To truly understand how detrimental Adrenaline has been to the industry in just the past few years, we must go back in time and take a look at one of their first releases: the “Touch FX” platform. As far as arcade experiences go, the Touch FX games were shameless ports of free mobile games. There were no graphical updates or meaningful gameplay tweaks. Touch FX titles, as I just said, were nothing more than completely straight arcade ports of mobile phone games. At their core, the Touch FX games were devilish scams. Why not charge a premium for shallow mobile games that could be purchased much more cheaply on a smartphone? For real: why not? Games like Infinity Blade FX were breakout hits for Adrenaline. Touch FX games plagued FEC chains like Dave and Buster’s—heck, they still do! Kids loved it, and FEC operators loved it. Adrenaline found early on that they could push a garbage product on the arcade industry and still make a fortune.
Unfortunately, that lesson seems to have carried on into Adrenaline’s more recent output. It’s very clear that they don’t want to push quality products; mediocre has always won the day. The Crossy Road arcade games? Nothing more than ticket-based mobile ports for the kiddos. Spinner Frenzy? It capitalized on a fad way too late in the game to be relevant, and it’s not even a game. (You spin the titular spinner, wait a few seconds, and get tickets.) And don’t get me started on their dull, lifeless video arcade games. Based on gameplay footage alone, it’s clear that Tomb Raider Arcade was nothing more than a shameless, Dave and Buster’s-commissioned movie cash-in. The gameplay is slow and uninspired, and the visuals are wrought with poor animations and low polygon counts. It's more like Big Buck Hunter than Tomb Raider, yet it's nowhere near as fun as either franchise.
At this point, you may think I’m highly biased, and you're not wrong. Like I said earlier, there are many other companies (like I.C.E.) that also churn out garbage for arcade industry. But there’s a certain something that makes Adrenaline Amusements especially detrimental: notoriety.
When a shoddy developer has deep ties with Dave and Buster’s and creates heavily promoted, exclusive games for said chain, you know they’ve got real influence. It would be one thing if Adrenaline were nothing more than a blip in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, they’re a lot bigger than that. When games like Tomb Raider Arcade are seen by thousands of people on sites like Kotaku, these awful games (and the developers behind them) become the face of the arcade industry. Take a gander at what Luke Plunkett writes in the Kotaku article:
“The fact you practically can’t see any gameplay at all in the video below does not exactly fill me with confidence, but hey, if you’ve been wondering where all the movie tie-in games have gone, here’s one!”
Kotaku never reported that House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn was coming to arcades. They did, however, write about Tomb Raider Arcade. And while this may just be a reflection of the anti-arcade mantra of major gaming news outlets, the trailer certainly didn’t fill me with confidence either. Watching gameplay footage just made my bad feeling that much worse. And since Kotaku only reported the existence of a Tomb Raider arcade game—from the notorious Adrenaline Amusements—it becomes the default image most people have of the arcade industry. Large, needlessly expensive kiddy fare. This is not good.
Adrenaline is a very bad thing for the arcade industry. They’ve proven that, to be successful, you don’t need to produce high-quality video arcade games like what comes out of indie studios or Raw Thrills. No, all Adrenaline has to do is port a mobile game or slap a license on a boring rail shooter template. It’s so unfortunate, but as proven by the onslaught of mobile-to-arcade ports after Infinity Blade FX, Adrenaline’s successes guide the shape of the arcade industry as much as good developers like, say, Griffin Aerotech does. If we want quality in the arcade industry, we have to put an end to Adrenaline and the many other developers churning out shoddy redemption and videmption pieces.
But…what do we do?
While I may be pegging all of the blame on Andrenaline Amusements, ticket games are a disease that has been killing the arcade industry since long before Adrenaline hit the scene. There are a whole slew of developers out there cranking out cheap, 20-second gambling “games” with shamelessly shallow levels of player interactivity. Barron Games, I.C.E., UNIS, Andamiro…the list goes on and on. Considering their popularity, it seems these shoddy prize and ticket games will never go away.
Still, we can “fight back” so to speak. We as players can continue to support developers who actually care about the livelihood of the arcade industry. We can support companies like Raw Thrills, Bandai Namco, SEGA, Step Revolution, BumbleBear Games, Griffin Aerotech, Arcadeaholics, Glitchbit, and all those other good folks. We must make it clear that we will not stand for cruddy redemption and videmption games. Arcade gamers want real games that are made with care and passion—not large, flashy, expensive ticket games.
We all know the truth. Ticket games are too big and expensive for the insignificant "value" they provide. Unfortunately, Adrenaline Amusements just so happens to be a very big name in this unholy sector of the arcade industry. From what they’ve released so far, I don’t expect Adrenaline to ever start making high-quality video arcade games. Naturally, I’m pretty disheartened that they’re making the new Rampage arcade game to tie in with the upcoming film (and make big bucks for Dave and Buster’s). All we know so far is that it each player will utilize a single joystick and a single button. Also, it’ll be pretty much entirely ticket-focused.
So…yeah. Adrenaline probably won’t be improving the modern arcade industry’s bad reputation anytime soon.
But of course, there is always hope for us to hold on to. Though today's article was much more negative than usual, I sincerely hope that, one of these days, Adrenaline and other companies will focus a little less on kiddie gambling and a little more on making quality arcade experiences. Heck, maybe the entire industry will start to shift away from redemption garbage. All I know is that, as long as Adrenaline continues to secure popular licenses and ride on huge Dave and Buster's ad campaigns, they will likely continue on the path they've chosen. And hey, Adrenaline isn't always bad. Their two Rabbids games actually looked quite good, and maybe Rampage will end up being okay.
Even if the problem with Adrenaline Amusements is ends up being very real, we have other companies out there. In our capitalist society, we have choices. So how about we choose? Go out and