For a long time now, I’ve been of the mind that it’s time for the arcade industry to charge head-on into the Internet Age. If our sector is to have any hope of competing with home consoles, we need to adopt many of their online quality-of-life features—or else face extinction.
Third-party companies have picked up the slack where the major manufacturers have fumbled. One prominent example is Aurcade, a website dedicated to helping arcade enthusiast tracks games, locations, and scores.
While Aurcade is a fine enough service on paper, the fact that I’ve never been able to set up an account with them—try as I might—has sort of put me off. Luckily for me, there’s a new tracking service in town: Arcade Sidekick.
I bought Arcade Sidekick for my Digiland DL8006 tablet and spent a good chunk of time playing around with its features. After experiencing essentially everything I can experience at present time, I’m ready to share my thoughts with you all, the most hardcore arcade enthusiasts I know.
Developer: Richard Rumsey
Publisher: Richard Rumsey
Release date: April 7, 2019
Arcade Sidekick is a delightful utility for tracking which arcade games you’ve played, rating those games out of 10, documenting your high scores, competing with rivals, and joining clubs.
The main draw, of course, is the game and high score tracking. I’m happy to say that this is also one of the best features by far. Entering a score is as simple as searching for the title in the great, big list of games, marking that you’ve played it, typing in your record, and submitting it to the leaderboard.
You can edit this score at any time, making it an extremely useful tool for keeping track of your progress in a certain arcade game. As someone who’s spent a great portion of his arcade gaming days tracking scores with photos and notes on my phone, have a centralized hub is a dream come true.
Adding to the competitive spirit of the app are the choices to set personal challenges and/or share your score with friends. Arcade Sidekick, as you’ll see going forward, puts a great deal of emphasis on the social aspect of high score chasing.
If you feel so inclined, you can leave a user quality rating, ranging from one to 10 stars. What’s really cool about this feature, in my eyes, is that the arcade community finally has its own proper aggregate review system, a la Metacritic.
I also absolutely adore that you can add friends/enemies and join clubs, features that keep the experience from feeling insular. I’ve already friended user ARCADEHERO and joined the ARCADE GALACTIC and US GAMERS clubs. I hope to meet even more of you through this app.
The app sends you notifications when your friends have posted high scores to further encourage deeper social engagement. The second day I logged in, I saw that ARCADEHERO had posted their first scores for Strikers 1945, Bio Attack, and Aka and Blue Type-R. I don’t know about you, but this kind of stuff keeps me coming back to an app.
Much of the personalized information is stored, aptly enough, in your profile, which further serves to bring the experience to life. Here, you can view the number of games you’ve played, games you’ve rated, scores you’ve uploaded, and scores you’ve shared, as well as the number of games you’ve played broken down into each category.
Some other neat features are the “Top 50” games list (calculated on a weighted average system) and the “Recent Activity” section (displaying new users and high scores). Little things like these really seal the deal for me.
Functionally speaking, Arcade Sidekick is a beautiful experience, blowing competing services like Aurcade way out of the water. We’ve needed an app like this for a long, long time.
Arcade Sidekick is a packed app. In an industry so adamantly against including completion bonuses in its games, the plethora of features and incentives on display here are an arcade completionist’s heaven.
The current selection of video game totals at 972 titles, encompassing the beat-em-up, fighting, light gun, hack-and-slahs, maxe, puzzle, platformer, rhythm, racing, shooter, run ‘n’ gun, sport, and miscellaneous genres. The selection of pinball machines totals at 685.
This library, as vast as it is, skews pretty heavily toward older arcade games. But fear not: Arcade Sidekick is a bona fide live service. You can reach out to the developer through Twitter, email, or traditional mail any time to have your favorite games added to the roster. If that’s not good content, I don’t know what it is.
It’s very possible that this app may become the largest catalog of arcade games to date later in its lifespan. That’s the magic of this living, breathing, score-tracking ecosystem: It doesn’t ever have to end.
I must say that I positively adore the leveling system. You gain experience from performing various in-app actions to climb your way through 26 levels. Each classification (from what I’ve seen so far) is named after a classic arcade game, with a quirky tagline to boot. At level one, I was Peter Pack Rat: “Regarded by some (incorrectly?) as one of the worst games ever produced. Sold less than 200 units.”
The settings menu is also quite robust, featuring a release history, frequently asked questions, a help section, an about blurb, acknowledgements, theme selection, and the option to export your scores. I honestly can’t think of much more that could be covered in the already superb settings.
There are 10 themes grouped into ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s categories. There are eight themes representing the ‘80s, including Frogger, Qix, Joust, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Arkanoid, and Battlezone. As of this writing, there’s one ‘70s theme, Space Invaders, and no ‘90s themes. The tenth theme is the default. Additional themes will be added as time goes on.
Going forward, I personally would me most interested in seeing more ‘90s themes represented, as well as some from the 2000s and 2010s. (What can I say? I’m a Gen Z baby.) However, I’m relatively satisfied with the number of themes available at present. All the big hitters are present.
Overall, I’m really satisfied with the amount of content offered thus far. Every feature I could possibly need is here—and even more that I haven’t even considered will probably come in future updates.
Arcade Sidekick more or less nails its presentation. Menu items are not only concise and intuitive to navigate but also pretty easy on the eyes.
I really like the large size of the icons on the home screen. As a nice touch, each of the icons has its own cute piece of pixel art to accompany the text. I know that representing a selection with a graphic isn’t the most novel thing in the world—so maybe I’m silly for treating it as such—but it works so beautifully here. It’s got this sort of “classic operating system” vibe to it.
Looking through the games lists is a breeze. Because the lists are alphabetized, it’s not difficult to find what you need by scrolling, but you can also search for the name for more immediate results. You can even break the lists down into the “Played”, “Hot”, and “All” categories for further dilution.
The game entries themselves are pretty nicely presented, as well. Decorative elements include the marquee art, (sometimes) bezel art, and footage/images. Hard details include the release date, developer, number of players, leaderboard, and average user score.
Due to ever-evolving nature of the app, many entries do not yet contain art. I’m hoping the entries are completed soon, but I understand why they haven’t been. Filling out a database like this is a massive undertaking.
The themes are generally quite nice, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll play around with them a lot. Each theme consists of unique a color scheme, primary and secondary fonts, and background art to capture the essence of the game of its based upon.
My favorite themes by far were Default, Battlezone, Donkey Kong, Joust, and Qix. I was hesitant to choose themes with less conventional fonts, like Pac-Man or Arkanoid, simple because they didn’t gel with me the same way. That’s not to say they were bade, per se, but they could be a bit cleaner.
The only slight issue some might have is with the small text on introductory instruction boxes. Even though I had no problem reading anything, I feel like some users might have trouble parsing through paragraphs at that size.
There were a couple of tiny errors in some text (“Youll get points for playing settings scores”), but minor things like that didn’t come close to marring the experience. It was super easy to look past inconsequential issues because they didn’t affect how much I loved the app.
There’s not a lot of sound to be heard here, and that’s not automatically a bad thing. Game entries that contain direct footage feature sound from the game, which is fun. Sometimes, I’d plug in headphones and listen.
Part of me wishes there were chirps and chimes—dare I say music—within the app. Additional sound is by no means a necessity, but I feel it would do wonders for the overall “feel”. Even a simple “bloop” when you tap a menu item would help bring Arcade Sidekick to life.
All in all, I can’t complain one bit. Though the app is silent, I suspect most people prefer it that way. I could be the goofy one among us.
Listen, I know Aurcade is the bee’s knees for competitive arcade gamers, but I think Arcade Sidekick is on a meteoric rise to success. Self-submitting scores on this app could be the future of the way we compete with each other.
While Arcade Sidekick may not as supremely regulated as something like Aurcade or Twin Galaxies, I firmly believe that it’s an excellent means of facilitating an active arcade community. Being a part of this movement—albeit a year late—feels like being a part of something greater.
Provided this app eventually garners thousands of users, we could have something really special on our hands. Heck, we already do. A game tracker, score documenter, and review aggregator—all of this and more in the palms of our hands.
If it isn’t clear by now, I wholeheartedly recommend downloading Arcade Sidekick for your Android or iOS device. I’d especially like it if you joined the Wilcox Arcade club and competed with yours truly for coin-op dominance.