Tiny Arcade Hands-On Review

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The retro gaming scene continues to grow and more and more physical toys are appearing on the market every season. We have recently gotten hold of these Tiny Arcade toys. They are pocket-sized fully-playable reproductions of 1980’s arcade machines that allow you to play a classic game in the palm of your hand.

These units are not to be confused with the kickstarter kits, instead offering instant ready-to-run accessibility for a bargain-basement price. We take a look at the four units currently available, Pac-manMs Pac-manGalaxian and Space Invaders.

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Tiny Arcade : At a glance

  • Pocket-sized functional mini arcade machine
  • Authentic sound effects
  • Directional joystick and two input buttons
  • Fully licensed by Bandai/Namco/Taito
  • Runs on 3xAAA (included)

The Tiny Arcade Range

Each of the units comes in its own plastic display case. These are easy to open and re-seal which makes them great for people interested in collecting. If you are feeling adventurous you can even access the controls through a hole in the packaging without even unwrapping them.

tiny-arcade-review-retail-packing-featureNote that whilst these are classified as toys, they are aimed at kids 8 years or older and due to the risk of choking, should be kept away from children under 3 years old.

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Turning on the Tiny Arcade

The units come shipped in demo mode. Pressing any of the controls will trigger the game startup, demonstrating a small clip of gameplay. To activate the full game, you need to turn the cabinet off and back on again via the switch on the back of the unit.

tiny-arcade-review-power-switchOnce the power has been cycled simply hit the middle button on the front control panel to start the game.

Replacing the batteries

The cabinets come ready-to-run, with three AAA batteries already installed. Considering the low power requirements we expect these to last a long time.

tiny-arcade-review-battery-installationThe battery powers the display and also an LED that lights up the banner on the top-front of the cabinet, just like the real thing!

How small are the Tiny Arcade cabinets?

The cabinets all measure 90mm tall43mm wide and 46mm deep at their extremities. Below is a comparison against the new slim 330mm drinks cans to give you an idea of just how small that is.

tiny-arcade-review-scale-size-coke-canThese will easily slip into your pocket although we are unsure you’d want to sit on the bus/train playing the games since there doesn’t appear to be a way to mute the base mounted speaker.

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Seemingly to increase the portability, each comes with a key chain and ring attached. We felt these are more suited as desk ornaments or mini-book ends rather than mobile gaming units and would have prefered the option to release the chain from the cabinet.

Tiny Arcade Space Invaders

tiny-arcade-review-space-invaders-machineOnce again it’s up to you to protect the planet as the Space Invaders are back and in the palm of your hand! True to the original you use the joystick to move the craft left and right and fire with the far right button.

tiny-arcade-review-space-invaders-screenWhilst the menu doesn’t scale too well on the low-resolution screen, the game itself is clear and fun to play. Given three lives you must strafe behind the bases, shooting the approaching invaders with your laser beam.

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Tiny Arcade Pac-Man

tiny-arcade-review-pac-man-machineThis is the unit that attracted us to the series in the first place and has been ported the best.

tiny-arcade-review-pacman-screenAs per the original you control Pac-Man through the maze with the mini controllers, eating all the pac-dots along the way. The ghosts, Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde are in attendance to haunt you around the map. It features the wrap route and the bonus fruit that turn the tables.

tiny-arcade-pacman-cabinet-all-artwork-anglesThe bright cabinet artwork is eye-catching and this is one game that people always seem to collect off of our desk in the office to play.

Tiny Arcade Ms. Pac-Man

tiny-arcade-review-ms-pac-man-machineThis variation of the original features the solid walled mazes that alter between levels. Whilst it doesn’t have the cachet of the base Pac-man game, Ms. Pac Man offers a lot more longevity.

tiny-arcade-review-ms-packman-screenAgain the display struggles with the aliasing on the scoreboard, but in game (where it counts) it is clear enough to play.

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The baby blue cabinet is less recognisable but features the iconic pink bow of the original setup.

Tiny Arcade Galaxian

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Despite the advanced age of some of our colleagues, this was the least familiar of all the games. Galaxian was developed by Namco in the early 80’s and has you fighting off a swarm of alien armies as they strafe across the galaxy ahead of you.

tiny-arcade-review-galaxian-screenIn terms of legibility, Galaxian suffers with the low res display, making it difficult to time your shot on target on-top of the common scoreboard legibility issues.

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In conclusion

Whilst they don’t offer a great deal of longevity, we really like the Tiny Arcade cabinets. Ours have become treasured (and often stolen) desk ornaments for many around the office.

Pros

  • Great (if not perfectly faithful) recreation of some classic games
  • Fantastic details on the cabinets (including backlight) make them great desk ornaments
  • An entertaining casual experience at an inexpensive price

Cons

  • Keyring and chain. These are a little too bulky to have hanging off of your house or car keys so it is largely pointless.
  • Screwed battery cover. This is likely to stop kids tearing the cells out, but it leaves you searching for a screwdriver
  • Low-res display harms the legibility of scoreboards and can strain the eyes if you really get addicted!

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Should I buy a Tiny Arcade cabinet?

If you are an avid retro gamer, or really love playing with miniature toys then yes. If not then a paid app on your phone might offer a more enjoyable gaming experience.

At little over £20, they make great presents or stocking fillers for any self-professed geek or ’80’s baby’ come Christmas time, as memories of a bygone era before games consoles.

You can find each of the Tiny Arcade cabinets on our webstore here.

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