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BydoEmpire73
03-12-10, 03:54
My wife's parents moved to NH a couple years ago, and ever since I've been itching to take a day and drive up to Funspot. Finally got a chance over Thanksgiving - here's my report. I have a lot to talk about so I'm going to break it up into sections. First, here's what you see walking into the place:

The Wall of Champions:
http://img12.imageshack.us/img12/7813/hpim0095r.jpg
http://img221.imageshack.us/img221/3191/hpim0105.jpg

I had to get a shot of Billy Mitchell's perfect Pac Man game. In my opinion, this is by far the greatest achievement in gaming:
http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/6088/hpim0096w.jpg

Now, here's a few shots of the main hall of the arcade room:
http://img696.imageshack.us/img696/3831/hpim0102.jpg
http://img227.imageshack.us/img227/41/hpim0086.jpg

Some memorabilia:
http://img641.imageshack.us/img641/9852/hpim0094.jpg

Here's me next to a Computer Space (the first one I've ever seen in person), although it wasn't working:
http://img259.imageshack.us/img259/4504/hpim01000.jpg

I'll be updating this thread with a lot more pics, and a lot of thoughts about arcade gaming and what this trip meant to me. I had an absolute blast and would go again in a heartbeat. I spent about four hours there - enough time to do everything I wanted, but I could have certainly gone back and "dug deeper."

BydoEmpire73
03-12-10, 04:05
PART 1 - THE ARCADE EXPERIENCE

What was the most fun for me was (re)discovering the real arcade atmosphere and the arcade games themselves. I've always been more of a home gamer - I'd rather put the $5 towards a cartridge than spend it on a few minutes of fun. Don't get me wrong, I like arcade games, but I always played home games more. Didn't help that I wasn't even a teenager during the arcade heyday, so getting to and from the arcade wasn't easy, and nowadays it's just a lot cheaper. Funspot made me remember the huge gulf between the coin-op and home ports, and just how freaking cool and fun arcades are.

Playing Asteroids, for example. I never noticed the amazing deep bass of the thrust sound. It hits you in the arcade. The home ports play similarly, but they don't recreate that chest-rumbling sound. Same for MAME - I've played Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe in MAME cabs recently, and neither of them had the amazing thrust sound. It's cool to be able to play those games emulated, but the experience isn't quite the same. Not to mention the gorgeous vector graphics which are hard to reproduce at home. The monitors on Funspot's Asteroids, Asteroids Deluxe, Battlezone and Quantum looked brand new. Completely sharp and clear - they looked stunning (especially Quantum, but more on that later).

I played Super Hang On in the sit-down cab, and while I loved Hang On on the SMS and Genny, it's just more fun sitting on a motorcycle leaning left and right. Of course there were games like Battlezone, Sub Hunt and Sub Roc, which just come alive in the cabinet with the periscope - you can't replicate that at home. It was so fun to play for real.

I was also blown away by some of the 3D background artwork in games, which you just can't get at home. I had a Warlords cocktail in my hometown arcade, but Funspot had a standup cab with an amazing 3D background behind the playfield that was just gorgeous. It made the castles recede into the distance underneath the game artwork - completing the top-down view. I love Warlords, and it just looked incredible. There was another game where there was full artwork on the inside three panels of the cab. It was a cityscape that wrapped around and really drew you in. Can't remember which game, but it was really cool. This pic is from a cool game I'd never heard of - "Video Pinball." It was a b/w game with a gorgeous, glowing 3D-ish pinball playfield on top of the screen. Honestly it didn't play all that great, but it looked really freaking cool.
http://img535.imageshack.us/img535/7135/hpim00900.jpg


Another cool aspect of the "arcade experience" was that one of the isles of games strongly smelled like a pizza parlor. Not sure why it was just that one isle, perhaps some of the games there came from a pizza parlor, but it was instantly recognizable and to me was synonymous with arcade gaming. A lot of the games I played growing up were in pizza places.

Sort of along those lines, you can't beat walking into an arcade and hearing Lita Ford, Van Halen and other 80s rock. It totally brought me into the experience.

To sum up, Funspot sort of reminded me why arcades and coin-op games are so cool. In the rare event I play a coin-op game now, it's in a laundromat or airport or something. Being in a real arcade like this was a different experience.

zxspectrum16k
04-12-10, 09:53
Fantasic read and nice pics, looking forward to more. The sounds and atmosphere of the arcade was awesome.
Would love to see Funspot, not sure I will be able to convince the family to try out NH/america for our summer holiday next year instead of Cornwall/UK. :)

Random fact of the day, during the 80's my local arcade was called 'Sunspot'

BydoEmpire73
04-12-10, 08:10
PART 2 - GAMES I NEVER HEARD OF

The second reason Funspot was so awesome was that not only could I replay games of my youth, or try out games I always wanted to play; but having 200+ games there were a lot of games I never even heard of. There were two arcades in my hometown, but neither one was huge, and like I said before, I was too young to drive to them so I didn't see everything. I discovered a lot of cool titles at Funspot - check these out in MAME when you get a chance.

I'll start with my favorite - Pulsar by Gremlin/Sega. This is a tank maze game, which seems to have been inspired by Tron. The goal is to grab the numbered keys from the top of the screen and use them in the corresponding locks at the bottom of the screen to escape the level. You can get them in any order, but you get bonus points if you use them in numeric order. Of course, there are enemies floating around the maze - some shoot, some don't. There's also some kind of enemy base which looks like a cloud that floats around spawning enemies, and you can take that out. The coolest thing, though, is that the maze continually changes. Every 5-10 seconds or so some walls disappear and new one reappear. There's always a path to and from the keys and gates, and it's done in a really cool way. The rhythm is there, and I never felt screwed by the walls, it just added an extra dimension of risk - can I get the key back in time before the next change, and if the maze did change, do I risk taking route A that leads me past the enemy spawner, or route B that's longer but safer? Graphically it wasn't anything to write home about. It looked nice and moved quickly, but the tank, enemies and maze are all pretty pixely. Finally, this isn't a plodding tank game - you and the enemies move really quick. The game was an absolute blast, and I put a bunch of tokens into it. SoCal, you should check this out for It Came From Mame.
http://img137.imageshack.us/img137/2236/hpim0101.jpg

Atari Force - Liberator was another cool game, which seemed like an unofficial sequel to Missile Command. You control a targetting cursor with the trackball, and shoot from four ships on in the corner of the screen. The twist is that the enemy missiles come from bases on a rotating planet, and their trajectory orbits around the planet. There are also enemy satellites that launch missiles back at you as well, and those are trickier since they're shooting from orbit, you have less time to intercept them. The gameplay was almost more frantic than Missile Command, and the arcing trajectories of the missiles and rotating planet added a lot. I didn't quite get the plot in the couple of games I played, so I'm not sure if the missiles were always aiming for your ships, or if you had to protect some targets on the planet, but it was still a fun twist to the Missile Command formula. Definitely worth a few plays.
http://img225.imageshack.us/img225/8555/hpim0097y.jpg

Sega made a pretty decent Galaga clone called Cosmic Alien which I thought was a lot of fun. The graphics were very good and the gameplay was solid. Not a groundbreaking title by any means, but if you want to try out a different bottom shooter this one is solid. Check out that marquee artwork - how could you not put a quarter in?!?!
http://img23.imageshack.us/img23/8938/hpim0088m.jpg

I was intrigued by The End. It looked like an arcade version of one of my 2600 favs, Spider Fighter, only the enemy bugs try to take bricks from the bottom of the screen and spell out 'The End' at the top. The game ends if they complete the letters or wipe out all of your bug/crab-like ships. Unfortunately, it didn't play that great. The screen was cramped, and it went from being too easy to too hard in the blink of an eye. Worth checking out, but I didn't think it was all that much fun.
http://img442.imageshack.us/img442/1783/hpim0099.jpg

I tried out a mechanical pin as well: Grand Slam[b]. There was actually quite a bit going on in the playfield, and I thought it was fun. No idea if this is common or not, but I'd never seen one before and it was definitely worth a few plays.
http://img253.imageshack.us/img253/4739/hpim0103.jpg

I don't have a pic, but I also played the gun game [b]Cheyenne. The name sounds vaguely familiar, but I don't remember seeing or playing it. It looks like one of the earliest scrolling-playfield gun games. You're trying to protect the driver of a wagon against both outlaws and Indians trying to take him out. I put a few tokens in, and never made it very far. The game was fun, but it was TOUGH. The enemy bullets were little X's which didn't move that fast, but they were tough to hit. Fun game, and worth checking out, just be prepared to die a lot.

So that's it - there were a bunch of other games I'd never heard of, but those are the ones that grabbed me. Pulsar in particular was great, I'd love to own one. Definitely check them out on MAME>

BydoEmpire73
04-12-10, 08:22
antasic read and nice pics, looking forward to more. The sounds and atmosphere of the arcade was awesome.
Would love to see Funspot, not sure I will be able to convince the family to try out NH/america for our summer holiday next year instead of Cornwall/UKThanks for the kind comments. Maybe your family would be swayed if they knew Laconia, NH is a vacation town - surrounded by lakes, beaches, boat rentals, restaurants, fishing, water skiing, etc. Seemed like there was a lot to do there (although who would do anything but go to Funspot?).

Cynicaster
04-12-10, 09:13
Cool story.

Geeze, I can't think of a single place anywhere near home I can go these days that actually constitutes a bona fide "arcade" as opposed to the usual laundromat Ms. Pac Man or cocktail Galaga at the pub. Seeing that shot of the room with all the games in it takes me back.

Does Fun Spot do decent business, or is it only a matter of a short time before it boards up the doors as well? I mean, old school arcade games aren't the most common hobby these days.

BydoEmpire73
04-12-10, 09:47
Does Fun Spot do decent business, or is it only a matter of a short time before it boards up the doors as well? I mean, old school arcade games aren't the most common hobby these days.I don't know how well they're doing, but they've been around for a long time and they have a lot of other attractions besides the arcade games (indoor mini golf, etc). I was there in the middle of the day, the day before Thanksgiving and there were a handful of people in the arcade at any given time. Pretty dead, but not empty, which doesn't seem too bad given the time and the day. I'm sure being featured in King of Kong helped to some degree.

JoeJet
05-12-10, 02:00
hey, thanks for the pics.. i gotta take a trip one of these days... a few comments:
- Asteroids, yea, remember that thrust bass... but it can easily be recreated in mame (not the vector graphics as easily though)
- Pizza and video games - Man, to this day when i walk in a Pizza joint i think i smell Donkey Kong as that is where i first played it. Pizza + Games = Heaven
- The End, yea, that is a seriously poorly tuned game... could have been fun but "The end" is inevitable, doesnt make you come back for more.
- 3d backdrop artwork... i assume you mean like Space invaders? (I have not seen an original warlords).. yea, love the effect and it was so low tech - better than the crap 3d we have today.
- did you see any of the characters from King of Kong walking around in there? I would expect to see Brian Kuh or some of the others i tought live in there.. :)

BydoEmpire73
05-12-10, 03:05
did you see any of the characters from King of Kong walking around in there? I would expect to see Brian Kuh or some of the others i tought live in there.No, although he had a lot of records on the Wall of Fame! He is from Laconia, according to the plaques. To be honest I probably wouldn't have recognized anyone but Billy Mitchell or Todd Rogers.


Asteroids, yea, remember that thrust bass... but it can easily be recreated in mame (not the vector graphics as easily though)Yeah, I suppose that's true. The MAME cabs I play tend to have the volume low, but that's not the fault of MAME.


3d backdrop artwork... i assume you mean like Space invaders? (I have not seen an original warlords).. yea, love the effect and it was so low tech - better than the crap 3d we have today.I played Deluxe Space Invaders which had that 3D background, too, with the monitor image projected onto the backglass so you're looking at a flipped image of the monitor not the monitor itself. It looked particularly good in Warlords - the top-down view of the castles worked really well.

spauldingd
05-12-10, 08:10
Asteroids, yea, remember that thrust bass... but it can easily be recreated in mame (not the vector graphics as easily though)


Great thread! I figure I am 1000+ miles away from FunSpot so this is as close as I will get to experiencing the place.

When I built my cab, sound was almost as important as the video in bringing back the experience. Asteroids, Star Castle and even Space Invaders had significant bass sounds that I remember being loud enough to feel. Of course, they were probably just crappy speakers with the sound turned up to 10 so it could be heard/felt over all the other noises in the arcade, but you could feel the vibrations in the controls. A small sub-woofer in the bottom of my cab was a no-brainer.

On the emulation of vector based games, if you haven't tried it, give the AAE emulator a try. It requires a decent video card, but those can be had for $15 these days. Its not as good as real vector hardware, but it is about as good as you can get without it. This project seems to have died on the vine but I understand the developer has made the code public so maybe it will be resurrected some day. The current version is about 2 years old now and supports around 60 games. Well worth the time to install and play with if you have the hardware to support it and much easier for those of us that don't have the expertise to build a real vector rig.

Dave in Des Moines

Burgertime
06-12-10, 04:58
I'm about a 2 hour drive from Funspot (I live in Ipswich MA) and I'd love to make the trip and have a fun time there.

BydoEmpire73
06-12-10, 12:59
PART 3 - THE RGR GAMES
Another thing that made Funspot so... fun... was playing games with a connection to Retrogaming Roundup. Games from the Top 10 debates and games from It Came From MAME. Last month's "Top 10 Atari Coin-Op" list was particularly relevent.

First of all, Quantum is indeed awesome. I'd never heard of this until UK Mike picked it for the Top 10 Atari coin-ops and I was blown away. The monitor in the cab they had looked brand-spanking new. The game is gorgeous, addicting, challenging and fun to play. Thanks for the tip UK - I'm not sure I would have played it if I hadn't heard about it from RGR, but I probably put as much into Quantum as any other game there.

They also had an Asteroids and Asteroids Deluxe side-by-side. During the Top 10 Atari coin-op debate I was siding with UK (which is rare for me): Asteroids is a little simpler and I always thought that worked for it. Asteroids Deluxe felt too frantic. Playing them side-by-side, though, I have to say I had more fun with Asteroids Deluxe. It helped that the high score on the machine was fairly low, so I had to keep putting in tokens until I got the top spot (Asteroids' high score was out of reach for me). After playing both again I'm much more torn between them. Sometimes your memory of games doesn't quite match the reality. Asteroids is great, no doubt, but Deluxe ramps up the action a little quicker.

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised to see this It Came From MAME Gem:
http://img146.imageshack.us/img146/6105/hpim0098k.jpg
It took a couple games to figure out, but I actually had a pretty good time with it, and did get to the "girl in the tub" scene once. You're right, SoCal, those red monkeys really target you! Tough game, and pretty bizarre, but it was fun to play.

Cynicaster
07-12-10, 03:47
No, although he had a lot of records on the Wall of Fame! He is from Laconia, according to the plaques. To be honest I probably wouldn't have recognized anyone but Billy Mitchell or Todd Rogers.

What, do you carry a mullet detector in your pocket? :)

BydoEmpire73
08-12-10, 12:01
do you carry a mullet detector in your pocketHah, awesome. I don't need that, though. I grew up in Wisconsin in the 70s & 80s, so I have an innate ability to detect mullets. I can also grow a mean one.

Oh, I also wanted say that I put a couple tokens into XyBots, and it's just as awesome as I remembered. I don't know what you guys (SoCal, Scott, UK) were talking about in the Atari top 10, XyBots is a fun game. The graphics and gameplay have held up well, and I think the cab looks cool.

miner2049er
08-12-10, 12:22
I think it tried to be clever and to some degree it worked but the cab is fugly.

BydoEmpire73
10-12-10, 12:01
Sounds like Funworld in Nashua, NH is a decent arcade as well: http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3717823692/funworld-nashua

If I had known about that I would have gone there, too. Next time!

BydoEmpire73
12-12-10, 10:47
PART 4 - I ALWAYS WANTED TO TRY THAT

Another great thing about the Funspot trip was playing games I'd heard about, but never got to play before.

First up, I had to put a couple tokens in the black & white Atari classic Dragster. I was surprised how much fun I had, even though I only won one race. It's really challenging single player, and I bet it's a whole lot of fun two players. I can see why the game made such a splash, and even though I never really got into Dragster on the 2600, I can see why it was popular.
http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/4614/hpim0089.jpg

I had to try Death Race and the first thing that struck me was that those screams are pretty loud! Fun little game, and I'm glad I had the chance to finally play it. Also, there was a Sega Chiller cab right next to it, but it wasn't working.
http://img811.imageshack.us/img811/9333/hpim0087.jpg

I have the Starcade DVD with a bunch of episodes on it, and in one episode's bonus round there was a screenshot of a game called Lost Tomb. The brief flash of the game on the show piqued my interest, so when I saw one at Funspot I had to try it. It's a pretty cool action/maze game with two types of levels. The first is the top-down maze with your character trying to grab treasures and get to the exit while avoiding swarms on enemy insects. You can shoot a stream of bullets (after a few shots, though, there's a reload delay before you can shoot again), or you can swing you whip. You have limited uses of the whip, but it takes out any enemies around you as well as any walls around you, so you can effectively cut your way through the maze. One kind of neat thing was that at various points you get "a word from our sponsors" and you have the opportunity to buy 25 whips for a quarter. The world's first DLC (minus the D part). The other part of the game is an isometric-style view where you simply have to choose which door to enter, while flying bats/birds try to take you out. This determines your path through the tomb. A side-view map of the tomb is shown so you can plot your course, and it looks a lot like the side-view of the maze in Treasure of Tarmin. The game was kind of addictive and fast paced, but kind of a quarter eater. The maze gets swarmed with creatures quickly and it's hard not to lose lifes. You can put a quarter in to continue, so that along with whip buying makes it a kind of precursor to a lot of what was coming in games. I thought I took a pic of it, but I can't find it...

I also got to play the Sega Laserdisc game Astron Belt. The sit down cab was neat, and the background 'movie' of flying through a canyon was really cool, to be honest I thought the gameplay sucked. Collision detection was iffy (you could kind of spam the enemies with shots without aiming most of the time). Cool to try, but I didn't think it was all that fun.

I've played home versions of Sub Hunt, but never the arcade original. First I need to mention that this was not a game designed for tall people. Hunching over to put your head in the periscope got uncomfortable pretty quick, but hey, maybe that's what it's like living in a sub! The game was still fun to play and much more challenging than I expected. The view shifts a bit when you move your head in the periscope, and the ships move really quick. Tough, but still a lot of fun.

Finally, a friend of mine designed this game for Midway ages ago. I had never seen a cabinet before, but I was always curious about it. I present to you - Turkey Shoot
http://img528.imageshack.us/img528/3124/hpim0093.jpgThe game wasn't powered on, but I had to take a picture anyways. Wish I could have played it...

BydoEmpire73
31-12-10, 05:03
PART 5 - OLD FRIENDS

Of course, no trip to an arcade like Funspot would be complete without playing a few favorites. Chief among them: FRENZY!. I haven't played this game in 25+ years. The arcade in my home town had a Frenzy machine, and I remember it being one of my favorites, but I completely forgot about a lot of the cool things about it - the reflected shots, and the maze walls you can shoot through. I don't have any home ports of it, so it was great to be able to play it again. And better yet - it was as fun as I remembered. Definitely a cab I'd buy for my home.
http://img689.imageshack.us/img689/5685/hpim0091y.jpg

On my first walk around the arcade I put a token into Zoo Keeper but nothing came up. I put another one it, still nothing. Hm, bad coin acceptor. Sucks, but no biggie. I never played Zoo Keeper back in the day, but got turned onto it via Shane on Retrogaming Radio. We have it on a MAME cab at work, and I really enjoy the game. I really wanted to play on a real cab, but what can you do? As it turns out, I was making my rounds, deciding where to put my very last token and I walked past Zoo Keeper. Two credits! So I got to play it after all. Man, I was rusty, but it's still a great game. I thought it was a good bit of gaming karma that I didn't end up losing my two tokens after all, and just when I was almost finished I got two plays.

I couldn't pass up Vanguard as I've always been a fan of it on the 2600. It's a great port, but you gotta love the arcade original. I always liked the variety, and how you can get into a great rhythm shooting the enemies.

The only cartridge game I have for c64 is Lazarian, and I always thought it was cool. Never knew it was an arcade port but sure enough, Funspot had a cab. Sadly, the monitor was all out of whack and missing colors. This made the very first stage impossible since I couldn't see the difference between the asteroids you had to shoot. Oh well, at least I know the game is out there. Check it out in MAME or a c64 emulator if you get a chance.

I walked around the arcade once or twice deciding what to use my last token on. After getting my two unexpected games of Zoo Keeper in, I finally decided it had to be something that just screams "arcade." Something you can't replicate at home, and something I haven't played in a long time. My final game was Battlezone. Great way to conclude the day. The monitor and cab were in pristine condition, and it plays as great today as it did 30 years ago.

It was a great trip. I'd definitely go back in a heartbeat, and it really got me excited about arcade games again.

Here's a gratuitous pic of a game I thought was interesting and funny for some reason. Didn't play it, but you just gotta love the black and white games:
http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/2756/hpim0104.jpg

Flare
31-12-10, 05:11
I wish I could visit Funspot at some point. Looks like a place that froze in time. Heaven.