A Coin-Op Arcade on My Desk

No office desk is complete without a desk toy to help you through the slow times of the day. For anyone raised in the heyday of video game arcades, the folks at My Arcade are there for you. They offer a line of nostalgic classic videogames in realistic arcade cabinets that are small enough to fit on one’s desk. Some of the biggest names in early arcade history are available in a handheld portable Pocket Player, as a 7” tall arcade-shaped Micro Player, or the top-of-the-line 10” tall Data East Mini Player. Sure, they’re fun to play, but I get a smile simply seeing it there on my desk.

My Arcade sells a variety of retro gaming products and accessories, but the ones that impress me the most are the three lines of licensed collectibles. A line of Pocket Players are handheld, Nintendo DS sized consoles, sporting three different classic games. The Micro Player line are cute little arcade cabinets each featuring one particular game. Finally, the Data East Mini Player is a much larger (desktop-ish sized) console that contains 34 different Data East brand arcade games. Each one has its pluses and minuses, so we’ll take a look at them one at a time.



My Arcade Pocket Player

This is a line of handheld players, each featuring three classic games – typically one flagship one and two supporting ones. For example, PAC MAN comes with PAC MAN, PAC-MANIA (a sort of 3d-ish version of PAC-MAN), and PAC-PANIC (a variety of Tetris.) The Galaga Pocket Player has Galaga, Galaxian, and Xevious. Other headliner examples include Dig Dug, Bubble Bobble, and Ms. Pac-Man. The screen looks good and is reasonably sized at 2.8”. However, most of these classics are in “portrait” format so the sides of the screen aren’t necessarily well used. It feels good in my hands, but would make for a pretty full pocket (it fits, but takes up the whole pocket.) The game requires four! AAA batteries to run, and while it can be powered off a micro-USB input, mixing a handheld with a power cable seems to be a strange pairing.



My Arcade Micro Player
I consider the Micro Players to be Data East’s flagship line. These cute little arcade machines are just the right size to fit on one’s desk, getting two or three would turn the corner of your desk into your own little arcade! While each machine boasts a single game, there are a wide variety from which to choose. I have BurgerTime, but I’m eyeing Dig Dug and Galaxian. Several new models are coming out in April, including Elevator Action, Ms. PacMan, and Bubble Bobble. Pressing on the “coin slot” in the front powers up the game and then it’s a matter of pressing a button to “put in coins” and you’re on your way. The interface is similar to an old NES controller: including a d-pad, two main buttons, and two small button for starting up the game. The d-pad has a threaded hole in which to insert a little joystick. It is pretty small in my hands, but usable. If I’m going to geek out about playing an arcade game in my youth, I want to be using a joystick. The Micro Players run off four AA batteries, but also have a mini-USB port. Unlike the Pocket Players, I could see a desk toy like this comfortably running off of a USB port on my desk. There are a few minus sides to the setup. While the game maintains high scores, they are lost whenever the machine is turned off. My biggest concern would be the game’s volume button. Located at the back of the cabinet it is easy to use, but defaults to “full volume” whenever the game is turned off. For something I imagine as a desk toy, having it boot up and blaring startup music while others around me are working just doesn’t seem like a good design decision. Thankfully, one can dial down the volume each time as the machine boots up, but if I forget its pretty clear to everyone around me that I’m going to play BurgerTime. Finally, the small size looks great on my desk and even the controls are reasonable to use, but if I actually want to play it on top of my desk I need to lean over to get the best view of it. It is simply a function of the size of the cabinet. Simply setting it on something another 6 to 8 inches taller makes using the machine much more relaxing. It’s a small thing and a simple adjustment, I certainly wouldn’t want the game to have some sort of obnoxious stand to raise it closer to eye level. It would destroy the whole point of the cool-factor of having a little arcade machine on your desk.



My Arcade Data East Mini Player
The Mini Player is the capstone of the My Arcade lineup. It is larger, at 10” tall it still fits on a desk but approaches the level of “THE” desk toy on your desk rather than “A” desk toy. However, the larger size means it doesn’t suffer from the lean-over problem I have with the Micro Players line. It also turns on when the “coin slot” is pressed, has a similar D-pad turned joystick, and four action buttons. High scores are still not saved, but thankfully the volume remains set even when the game is powered off. It has a micro-USB slot for power but, unfortunately, there is not battery power option. (One hack I’ve seen online is to simply velcro a USB battery pack to the back of the machine.) The main selling point of this larger machine would be its 34 different games from the Data East brand of arcade machines. While there are no PAC-MANs or GALAGAs on the list, there are a few that stand out, including Karate Champ (no 2-player vs mode unfortunately), BurgerTime, Caveman Ninja, and a few sports-themed titles. Note that these are all old-school titles so they can be a challenge to play. They were meant to eat up one’s quarters and they do a good job of it. Thankfully, unlike in the old arcades, now I can press the “quarter button” and simply continue with my game.

I could wish for more AAA titles in the mix, but here are my thoughts on a few of the included games in a short rundown…

Games I Liked

  • Dark Seal has some of the best graphics on the machine. Choose one of 4 types of heroes, then fight through levels as you collect items and upgrades.
  • Darwin 4078 is a vertically scrolling bullet hell – a game where more often than not you’re bobbing and weaving through piles of incoming missiles. There are some very crazy weapon power-ups to be found.
  • Karate Champ is simplistic, but I remember the game fondly. The original had two joysticks for control and while I miss that feature, the controls work. I really miss the ability to play against a human opponent, but there’s enough game here to remind me of the “good old days” and that is one of the main points of getting the machine.
  • Shoot Out is a sort of police-training sort of shootout game. Bob and weave to hide behind defensive obstacles while shooting at mobsters that hop out at you.
  • Super Burger Time was a new game to me. As a fan of the original, I found the addition of weapons and items to the game an interesting feature. Of course, the regular Burger Time is also included, but looks horrible since its portrait dimensions are spread into a landscape format (see images below.)
  • BreakThru is a game based on a side scrolling car with guns that can pick up upgrades.
  • Midnight Resistance is another side-scrolling game similar to the popular Contra franchise. Run around dodging bullets and collecting weapon powerups, complete with the occasional boss fight.
  • Joe & Mac Returns is fun platformer where you run about, stunning dinosaurs. Once they’re stunned you can carry them in a sack, and then throw them to attack other dinosaurs. The original Caveman Ninja is also included. It is more of a side-scroller but has the same entertaining vibe.
  • Heavy Barrel is a top-down shooter where you shoot guns and grenades. Improved gun parts can be picked up as you explore levels. Originally played with two joysticks, the set of four buttons are used instead and are a bit clumsy, but usable.
  • Rootin Tootin was a very interesting version of Pac-Man. You play a tuba that cruises the maze picking up notes instead of pellets. However, picking up a note ALSO fires that note forward, killing any “ghosts” it hits. This makes for some interesting strategy, since ghosts are almost always coming at you from behind and you can only shoot forward when running over a note.

Other Games:
There were other games like Pro Bowling or Bad Dudes that I found decent. (The former one of the only sports games worth playing.) Unfortunately the most obscure, early titles did not hold any memories for me, so there was no nostalgia present to make them interesting. Others were reasonable games that just didn’t catch my interest.


Note the “stretched screen” on the Data East console


Final Thoughts:
My favorite of the three is clearly the Micro Players. Sure, they only contain a single title, but their size and artwork make them the perfect size for a desk. At a cost of $35, I might even put more than one on my desk to make it look like I’m running a tiny arcade from the eighties. I’m not so much a fan of the Pocket Players. Sure, they’re portable ways to celebrate some classic games, but the $35 seems like it would be better saved and used toward a more modern portable gaming system. The Data East Mini Player has a wide selection of titles and boasts a larger size and screen. This makes for a better play experience, but also means it takes up more desk real estate. I see it as a better fit for the corner of a communal game room. At an MSRP of $100, though, it is a little steep. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a pretty good value if you like the game list, but if I were to spend $100, I would be sorely tempted to just get two or three of the Micro Players and set them up in a tiny arcade diorama on my desk.

2 Responses to “A Coin-Op Arcade on My Desk”

  1. I wonder if they’d support a tiny “player 2” controller on existing machines, like this:


  2. Great post, have you ever considered building a games room for you kids? For example: https://www.bakerstimber.co.uk/garden-rooms-your-way/outdoor-games-rooms/.

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