Oh sure, the main floor at PAX had plenty of brand new games to check out as well as previews of games not yet released, but for me, I was in gamer geek heaven the minute I set foot on the third floor and journeyed back in time. Oh sure, there was a large room full of Xbox 360s, Wiis and PS3s where you could sample a number of titles in 30 minute bursts (although how much of Heavy Rain or Final Fantasy XIII you could enjoy in a half-hour, I'm not sure, but people were trying!), but just down the hall was another, smaller room where you could choose from a variety of titles for the Atari 2600 all the way up to the Dreamcast. This turned out to be one of my favorite spots in the convention hall. (And I'm not just saying that because a cute boy recognized me and told me how much he liked the site while I was there!) The very first thing I did was check the list and confirm that they had Space Channel 5 because I saw a Dreamcast sitting unloved. The guy who checked me in warned me I wouldn't be able to make it to Space Michael, but I was determined to prove him wrong. Unfortunately, Space Michael was further into the game than I'd remembered, and I was only able to make it partway through the third level before my 30 minutes were up.
On Saturday, I made it my goal to play BurgerTime on the Intellivision, but since it wasn't hooked up, I opted for the ColecoVision. Unfortunately, it was more crowded on Saturday, and it took me a couple tries before I found the classic console open. Pixel Poet and Game-Boi were with me this time, and we enjoyed some classic multiplayer action. Mind you, I was only able to beat Pixel Poet in BurgerTime. He kicked my ass in every other game we tried. See, with the ColecoVision (and the Atari 2600) they would give you a box of cartridges since you're more likely to only play for 5 minutes apiece. We also played Carnival (weird shooter), Space Panic (weird platformer), and Gorf (a classic I remember loving as a child... less so now). But the real surprise was Lady Bug. We just thought the logo on the cartridge was cute and gay, but we were pleasantly surprised to find a challenging Pac-Man clone where you can actually shift some of the walls of the maze as you avoid the other bugs while eating up... whatever the little pellets were. Flowers? Heck, the titular lady bug actually looked more like a tangerine wearing a propeller beanie! It was a ColecoVision, remember. Not exactly arcade quality graphics here, people. I'm just sorry we didn't have a chance to sample the Smurfs game. We didn't even have enough time to get through half the carts in the box before our 30 minutes were up.
But I didn't stop there! The classic console room also had a Vectrex I had to at least spend a few minutes playing with, and you won't believe what was in the room right next door! But make the jump and you'll find out!
The American Classic Arcade Museum (located inside Funspot, the largest arcade in the world) had set up a room full of original arcade cabinets and pinball machines all set for free play. You could enjoy classics like Frogger, Food Fight, and Space Invaders all by pressing a one or two player game button! I especially enjoyed having a turn in the sit-down Buck Rogers arcade machine, a game I remember fondly from my childhood on the Commodore 64. I have to admit that I don't remember it being that hard, though! Also surprisingly difficult was the original Pong machine they had. The on-screen paddles are so tiny, and the ball sometimes bounces off the top or bottom and sometimes warps through! They were projecting the video from Dragon's Lair onto the wall behind so spectators didn't have to crowd around the machine. I was informed that their Ms. Pac-Man machine is actually one of the ones that contains the actual Crazy Otto circuits, the original creation that Namco turned into the Pac-Man sequel. My favorite discovery, though, had to be Omega Race, the only vector game Midway ever created. It controls like Asteroids, although there's a box in the center you travel around, bouncing off the walls as you go. At one point, I even had the high score, although I'm sure it didn't last. Wish I'd taken a picture of it... I wish I had lottery winnings or something so I could have that Buck Rogers pinball machine in my own home. Sure, some of the other pinball machines had better layouts, but only that Buck Rogers one had the monstrously off-model artwork of Gil Gerard and Pamela Hensley! Oh, I almost forgot to mention the best part of this room the classic '80s tuneage they pumped in over the speakers. Playing Space Invaders while listening to Adam Ant really takes you back!
While I am probably dating myself by revealing that I had probably the best time at PAX camped out in these rooms reliving my childhood, I think it's great that PAX is celebrating our gaming heritage as well as looking towards the future of the industry. And on Sunday, I saw a sight that truly warmed my heart: Parents showing their kids the classic arcade machines, and a little boy trying out a game of pinball before trying a game of Leprechaun on the tiny, child-sized cabinet. I even took a ton of photos so I could show you everything they had on offer without having to write it all down! A picture's worth a thousand words, right?