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Arcade Monkeys – Arcade Cabinet

Developer: Arcade Monkeys
Price: Price on Asking Depends on your budget and extra’s required.
Type: Full Build Arcade Cabinet – Built to Order
Screen Size: 20 Inches
Audio: Stereo Speakers 5W Amplifier
Material: Plexiglass and CNC MDF
Games: Thousands
Power: Single Mains Plug
Muckypaws Rating: Full 5 Paws (Rare)

Welcome to my first post of 2022, it’s been a while hasn’t it? I’ve been unwell again, but thankfully I’m hoping to see the light at the end of this long journey. This isn’t a paid promotion, but a review of my own experience having purchased one of these amazing machines.

I’ve been addicted to arcade gaming and computer games since seeing the very first Space Invaders at a dog show sometime during 1980, little did I know this would spark a gaming revolution and kickstart my career from microelectronics, game authoring, computing and now Cyber Security.

Apart from TV Pong, and Breakout, Space Invaders was the first game to feature a truly interactive hero with the ability to blow sh¡t up.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of RetroPie game machines and various builds, I’ve been building up to a full blown cabinet though sadly though my construction skills are about as accurate as Boris Johnson’s ability to tell the Truth (Yeah Shocking)…

I looked at some of the cabinet kits available to purchase online which looked an interesting project in it’s own right. Though recently discovering I’m rubbish at applying Vinyl prints to material without noticeable issues. it was time to enlist the help of the professionals.

I’d been following various Arcade Builders for a number of years, and they’re a mixed bunch from not replying to quote requests or builds costing thousands of pounds, and I’m on a budget. One particular Arcade Construction team recently caught my eye, and they replied to my enquiry promptly and thankfully were very friendly to deal with. Although there’s a risk buying from someone you don’t know, I didn’t hesitate with this team after discussing some initial requirements.

The team discovered are Arcade Monkeys https://www.facebook.com/clasiquearcades they offer a range of both Bar-Top and Full blown arcade cabinets. After a brief discussion with the owner, I commissioned a be-spoke build, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

Here she is, in her full arcade glory, featuring thousands of games, which basically will take more than my life time to play them!

But Why Do You Want One?

Is a good question, after all we can get our gaming fixes on many a console these days, plugging in a Raspberry Pi, mini or other hardware to your TV why would you need such a nice piece of furniture?

I agree it’s certainly more comfortable slobbing out on the sofa with wireless controller in hand firing up your favourite retro game.

I mean, look at the machine, its sleek lines, the polished chrome, the vinyl artwork, backlit marquee, the team have put so much attention to detail in its construction, not only in the aesthetics, it’s construction is well thought out, the curvature of the main body allowing you to sit comfortably with a bar stool, the foot plate, the internal wiring is very neat (And here I should have taken a photograph before I messed around with it 🤦🏼‍♂️) The cabinet was stable as well, something I’m aware other cabs can tip with this type of design.

It’s also about the experience, stood or sat at the cabinet with two player joysticks, your mates around with drink in hand having fun, the same fun we had back in the 80s/90s with the exception of not having to change notes to coins to slot your 10 pence in to play the next game. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis recapturing my misspent youth, without a Capri and a mate called Dave. We all had a mate called Dave with a Capri in Mustard Yellow back then didn’t we?

It’s a hella lot more fun than sat on the settee. The experience alone transports me back to best days of the arcade gaming. Something you don’t really get in todays digital society.

There’s also something magical about being so close to the game, the tactile responsiveness of the classic arcade joystick and oversized buttons that just adds to the enjoyment/emotion of the relatively simple (and yet frustratingly rock hard) games of yesteryear – Ghosts’n’Goblins Anyone? I don’t know about you, but there are times you just want to pick up a game and play, not have to read an instruction manual (if you can find one) or stop and pause through endless tutorials that spoil the fun.

Pick a game, insert coin and hit that One/Two Player button and you’re transported into a world of true gaming.

But… the fun doesn’t stop there with just Arcade games, oh no! This has so much more depth to it, with the inclusion of thousands of games from other gaming systems and consoles.

The Controls and Sound

The controls are a work of art, using true micro-switched 8 direction joysticks, light up buttons attached to thick plexiglass and artwork underneath cleverly positioned making it enjoyable to use and easy to clean with a microfibre cloth (don’t use chemicals).

The stereo sound is loud and I’ve not noticed any distortion yet. You may be thinking that 5W is underpowered? And sure you can purchase 40W machines, but I think the Arcade Monkeys have gotten this right. At 5W there’s enough sound to fill the room with arcade sounds so much so that I rarely have the included Volume control at the front anything more than a quarter turn. It will depend on the individual game though, and there’s more tricks to boost the audio if you should wish, but that’s beyond the scope of this review.

To put this in perspective, I have a 15W, 60W and 100W Marshall Valvestate Amplifiers, the 15W is a practice one and anything above the level 2 and the neighbours are complaining. The 60W and 100W Amps have been collecting dust for over twenty years because they certainly aren’t neighbour friendly. Hence why I felt the Arcade Monkeys chose well for the amplification of sound on this system so as not to annoy your neighbours.

The Games and Gaming Experience

One of the commonly asked questions is “How many games does it have?” and that’s a fair question, arcade builders will quote anything from a few thousand to fifty thousand plus, which always sounds impressive. For me, the issue with that is typically in large volumes of games you’ll find duplicates, knock-offs variants of the same game etc. And reviewing a list of games never really helps. What you should consider is providing the builder with a list of your favourites and see if they are available, everything else is a bonus!

You also need to remember that Arcade Cabinets are built for Arcade Games which means you have limited controls namely a Joystick and Six-Eight Fire Buttons in standard Arcade Configuration.

Some games for PS1 or N64 for example weren’t designed for the Arcade experience, but more sat in front of the TV with a different type of controller. All is not lost though. It is possible to pair a BlueTooth or USB Controller to this unit something I will cover off in a separate article about modding this machine.

That said, Mario Karts 64 runs very well 😍

Selecting and finding your favourite games is simple, with an intuitive and elegant User Interface which will bring up an on-screen keyboard to enable you to enter text using the joystick and existing buttons. Game collections are also organised by System and Game Genre’s, Like Beat em Up, Capcom, SNK, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and more.

The User Interface
Filtering By Game Name Is Very Simple

To give you an idea of systems and Genre’s (Note there will be more than I list and always talk to your Arcade Builder about your requirements as they’re in constant development).

List of systems in no particular order.

  • Arcade/MAME
  • CAPCOM
  • NEOGEO
  • Atomiswave
  • NAOMI
  • 3DO
  • LYNX
  • Game & Watch
  • Game Boy
  • Virtual Boy
  • NES/SNES/Famicon
  • N64
  • Playstation
  • Master System
  • Mega Drive
  • SG-1000
  • Sega 32X/CD
  • Sega Saturn
  • Dreamcast
  • ColecoVision
  • Daphne
  • Intellivision
  • PC Engine
  • PC-FX
  • Super Grafx
  • Vectrex

And loads loads more covering many Genres of gaming experiences, Here’s a few of my faves.

I’m sold, how do I get one?

Easy, contact Arcade Monkeys via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/clasiquearcades they’re quick, friendly and have excellent communication throughout the build of your project.

The Ordering Process

I found Arcade Monkeys to be very friendly, approachable and knowledgeable about their product, offering a range of cabinet artwork, finishes and build options. It’s worth having a look through their art collection and discussing your requirements and they’ll guide you to what’s possible within your budget.

I believe they’ll print artwork of your choosing, whether it’s in your favourite sports club colours, arcade game or I guess a family photo!

After looking through the stunning collection of artwork, originally I wanted Mr Do! livery being one of my favourite games in the arcades, but finally decided on the Mandalorian. The artwork looked too good to pass up, especially with baby Grogu on the control panel. Additionally I opted for light up buttons and chrome moulding as I felt that would really set the cabinet off.

After securing my deposit and confirming the build options, I was advised the estimated time for build, which I thought pretty good given the festive season was only weeks away.

Communication throughout was excellent, I knew when my machine was starting the build phase with photo’s of the build as it progressed. Arcade Monkeys arrange a time and date for handover offering delivery (additional cost where practical) or preferably collection. At the time of writing they don’t offer a courier service due to issues with the product arriving damaged despite the protective casing. This isn’t unique to Arcade Monkeys though, it seems to be problematic all over the country with other cabinet builders stating similar poor courier experiences.

The handover demonstrated the machine, controls, and the correct way to startup/shutdown the cabinet to avoid corrupting the data in the unit, along with the same instructions on a sheet of A4.

Specs

The finished gadget is phenomenal, the quality and attention to detail is second to none, I might say it’s practically perfect. The full arcade cabinet comes in two parts, the stand and BarTop which is secured by three bolts, making it easy to take apart should you want to transport it to a mates or venue.

Full Cabinet Dimensions (Approx)

  • 520mm Width
  • 1590mm Height
  • 440mm Depth

Bar Top Dimensions (Taken from the Full Cabinet – Approx)

  • 520mm Width
  • 590mm Height
  • 440mm Depth

This build included :-

  • Two Micro-switched Eight Direction Joystick
  • Eight Light up Buttons for each Player
  • Volume Control at the front
  • Light Up Marquee
  • Book Shelf
  • Curved Base that helps when sitting at the machine with a bar stool (Not included)
  • Two Speakers + 5W Amplifier
  • 20″ HP Monitor

My unit uses a Raspberry Pi 4 for the engine, a couple of Zero Delay USB Joystick Encoders and amplifier for stereo sound, two speakers set underneath the marquee just as they did back then.

The cabinet is CNCd from MDF using Arcade Monkeys own CAD Designs, and artwork is printed on Vinyl applied to the unit.

Emulation Station Builds

Emulation Station is the default build for many Pi implementations, and Arcade Monkeys offer the Standard RetroPie offering though I recently got my hands on their newer Batocera build. I’ve been a fan of RetroPie for years now and familiar with modding and fault finding with it, I’d heard of Batocera but never played around with it as RetroPie offered what I need, or so I thought…

Was that a mistake! Batocera uses the same Emulation Station but boots significantly faster! Yes that’s right, my RetroPie build takes around a minute or so to complete the boot and presentation phase, whereas Arcade Monkeys Batocera Build plays the intro video in seconds, and the front end loaded very shortly after. I’m converted, I’m sold this is a serious bit of kit.

I also noted they are using a BTRFS File System in their builds too. For the uninitiated this is a Copy on Write file system which provides greater protection from loss of power when writing to the TF Card to try and reduce issues when the machine isn’t shutdown correctly or you lose power. It isn’t fool proof and I can’t stress this enough. Power down your machine in the way the Arcade Monkeys explain and demo to you to avoid corrupting your card.

Power Usage and Running Temperature

Surely these things are power hungry and will drive up my Electricity Bill? Given the current climate this was definitely a concern of mine. I ran the machine for several hours using an Energy Meter plug which is pretty accurate for domestic use.

Typically the machine drew about 30Watts (Average) at peak 33Watts whilst running full sound and an intensive emulator like the N64/PlayStation.

Sure but what does mean in English? Well… put it this way, if the average price per KW/h of Electricity is 18p you can run the machine for around 30 continuous hours for 18p.

Wait… What? Are you seriously suggesting I can play all these amazing games for over 30 hours for about the price to play only two games of Space Invaders in the 80s?

Yep, that’s about right! It’s a testimony on the efforts new designs have gone to significantly reduce power consumption. I’m sure you’ll agree this represents awesome value for money in both entertainment and running costs of the machine.

The most power unsurprisingly is from the Monitor itself, the Raspberry Pi and Amp taking very minimal power.

During Testing, the Raspberry Pi, Fan and Controllers accounted for around 15% Power Usage. Average power draw about 4.5W with a peak during the boot cycle of 7.5W.

Switching WiFi/Bluetooth off didn’t appear to affect the data, however this meter is only accurate to ±0.5W

Raspberry Pi 4 with Cooling Fan, USB Encoders and Light Up Buttons Power Usage
Average power Consumption of Full Arcade Cabinet 30.5 Watts

Running Temperature

Given all the electronics are housed inside the cabinet with air vents at the rear, I did ask myself how will that affect the running temperature of the Raspberry Pi and the Monitor?

The Raspberry Pi was running at a cool 47℃ after over four hours of running intensive gaming. Given the Pi is between 0℃ and 85℃ there’s nothing worth worrying about. As for the fan? I’m unable to hear it when the unit is correctly closed.

Running 47℃ with Ambient Room Temperature of 20.5℃ After 4 Hours

Support

What about after care and support? For me, the truest test of any company is not the sales pitch, or the delivery of items, but how good after support is, should you need them.

This is where Arcade Monkeys excelled and went over and above to help out. I experienced an extremely rare and difficult to diagnose issue which turned out to be one of the USB Encoders, however replacement parts were quickly sent and I even received an updated memory card with their latest build resolving the issue. I must stress this was a one in a million chance to occur since the combination of hardware and quality of components are exceptional.

Conclusion

Very impressive build by a team that have fine tuned and excelled at creating high quality Arcade Cabinets that will suit most budgets, for either Domestic or installation in your local business centres.

Support is fantastic, the software build is well thought out and intuitive, what are you waiting for?

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