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After covering Arcade1Up for a few years, I had a chance to try out one of their arcade replicas myself. The company was kind enough to let me test a Ms. Pac-Man machine.

This is an actual arcade cabinet. And it doesn’t just include Ms. Pac-Man. It also comes with Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, and the original Dig Dug (some of them come with different extra games, like the version pictured above that includes Galaxian and Pac-Man Plus instead of Dig Dug and Super Pac-Man). It usually retails for around $400.

So, it can be expensive. But depending on your love for retro arcades, it can also be worth it.

The assembly that is required

You should know, however, that you do have to put the arcade cabinet together yourself. Now, this is both daunting and not really that big of a deal. Yes, it is a lot of pieces that you have to assemble, but the process is simple. It’s just a bit time consuming. You have to attach all of the different wooden panels together. The instructions make it clear what you’re supposed to do, however. It’s not all that different from putting together a fancy Lego set. It’s just a lot bigger and requires a screwdriver.

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Although I do wish I had a mechanical screwdriver. That was especially true when assembling the riser, a separate section that helps lift the arcade cabinet higher off the ground (which you’ll want, since without it the machine can seem a bit short). I had to work pretty hard to get the screws to go all the way. Now, granted, I am very weak. Still, I could have made the process easier on myself with a better tool than a single miniature screwdriver.

But that really is the only tool you’ll need. Aside from that, the assembly process is just all about connecting pieces with wooden tabs before securing them with the aforementioned screws. Yes, there is some electrical wiring, but this is also simple and easily explained in the instructions.

The process did take a couple of hours, but it sure did feel good to look at my completed arcade machine once it was all done. Imagine how happy you feel looking at your Lego X-Wing after you finish. Now imagine you built an arcade machine instead.

Arcade glory

Really, the aesthetics are a big part of the appeal. I mean, I do love me some Ms. Pac-Man, but I’ll be honest. I’m not going to play that game every day. However, that cabinet sure does look nice in my house, especially when you turn it on and the marque boards light up. It does bring in a bit of that old-school arcade atmosphere to your house.

And although I won’t play Ms. Pac-Man or Dig Dug every day, it is nice to have easy access to them. Despite their age, these arcade classics are still a lot of fun. And since they’re relatively simple, any house guest can approach the machine and have a little fun.

Trust me, they’ll want to. People who visit you are going to notice your Ms. Pac-Man machine, and they’re going to want to try it out. It’s nice watching their eyes light up when you turn it on, the marque begins to glow, and they jump into a quarter-less round of Ms. Pac-Man.

Now, is that worth $400? That is going to depend on a lot of factors. But I will say that if you can afford one, I don’t think you’ll regret getting one of these cabinets (for yourself or as a big gift). They look great, they work great, and they do bring a little bit of that arcade magic home.

I just need to talk myself out of springing for that upcoming Tron machine that Arcade1Up is releasing soon.

The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.

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