Welcome, space cadets, to our official Space Invaders Quarter Arcade review. We’ve been testing out the incredible machine created by Numskull Designs which is now available to buy both online and in retail stores, just in time for Christmas!
It was kindly sent to us before it’s public release so that we could get our grubby little hands all over it for the purposes of review, so a big thanks goes out to Numskull for arranging that with us.
I’ve seen loads of these Quarter Arcades on during my retro gaming travels, sometimes longingly peering at them on display in local game stores and sometimes even having the opportunity to have small play sessions on them at game expos throughout the UK.
They’re definitely eye catching and you can get a massive variety of them, with machines based on Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Bubble Bobble and more. There’s even some releasing soon based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games which look so, so good!
But today it’s all about Space Invaders baby! And now that I’ve got one of these in my own home, I want to know how it works, if it stands up after some lengthy play sessions and most importantly if it’s worth the price!
Get ready for some nostalgic battling – let the Space Invaders Quarter Arcade review begin!
N.B – Retail prices mentioned throughout this article and the accompanying video are correct and taken directly from retailers displayed on the official Numskull website during Nov 2023.
Table of Contents
Prepare For Attack – Taking A Closer Look At the Space Invaders Quarter Arcade!
First and foremost, the Space Invaders Quarter Arcade is a seriously impressive display piece. The build quality is absolutely astonishing; it feels like it’s made out of the same materials that a full sized cabinet would be but scaled down so that it’s actually realistic to put on a shelf.
Good luck doing that with a full sized machine!
The side of the cabinet perfectly replicates the iconic art found on the original machine and the attention to detail doesn’t stop there.
Attention To Detail
The front of the machine features a fake coin door where you would have inserted coins to receive more credits and even goes as far as to feature a fake safe where the owner of the cabinet would have opened it up to get all of that well earned cash out of the machine after a busy day at the arcade parlour.
Obviously, you won’t be using coins here though; instead, there’s a button to press on the door which replicates adding more credits to the game.
There’s even this weird yellow circle which I thought was a random sticker at first, but no this was on the original cabinet too.
Rumour has it that this was placed by the Space Invaders themselves and contains secret alien technology used to harvest the brain matter of whoever plays on the machine, but that’s obviously just hearsay.
The control panel of the cabinet features the exact same inputs as you would have found on the original machine. On the left you’ve got a joystick for movement, a shoot button in the centre and a 1/2 player button on the very right.
I really appreciate the clickiness of the joystick here, it’s incredibly satisfying to just move the stick around and while the buttons aren’t quite as satisfying to press, they still feel great and are very sturdy.
Appealing Aliens On A Super Screen
Where the magic really starts to happen though is when you turn the machine on and look at the artwork on and around the screen. There’s back lighting inside the cabinet which really makes the bezel artwork surrounding the screen pop and makes what’s already an impressive looking machine even more appealing.
The actual screen of this arcade cabinet is something special. They could have just put in a standard LCD display and called it a day, but instead they went the extra mile and attempted to replicate the way the game was displayed on an original machine.
The gameplay is actually displayed on a screen pointing up towards the top of the cabinet but is reflected onto a mirrored surface which is what you’re actually looking at when you play.
The reason the original cabinet did this is so that the game’s sprites could appear against a coloured backdrop which when used in conjunction with coloured cellophane over specific sections of the screen, resulted in Space Invaders appearing as though it was a full coloured game and as a result it was much more graphically impressive than a lot of other games coming out at the time.
This visual trick is called the ‘Pepper’s Ghost Effect’ and is also used in several old films, theme park attractions and even concerts.
The True Authentic Space Invaders Experience
This is probably the biggest reason you’d want to get this Quarter Arcade machine and one of the most exciting parts of this Space Invaders Quarter Arcade review. Without access to an original Space Invaders cabinet, there’s absolutely no way that you’ll get the true experience of playing the game in the way it was intended to be displayed. A standard LCD display just doesn’t quite capture that same magic.
On the back of the device, you’ve got the on/off switch, a volume wheel and a USB-C port which is used to power the device.
Something I wasn’t aware of before testing this out for myself though is that the cabinet doesn’t require a constant power supply and actually has a rechargeable battery inside which lasts for around three hours of active use.
This is handy because it means that you don’t need to constantly have wires everywhere when you’re using it and gives you much more versatility with where you want to display it. It doesn’t need to be near a wall socket or USB port!
The speaker inside the cabinet is pretty great too, I mean it doesn’t need to be amazing or anything considering that Space Invaders only really consists of primitive beeps and boops, so it’s not exactly a soundtrack where you need speakers with a lot of dynamic range.
I suppose the last thing we need to talk about is what it’s actually like to play on this thing!
Quarter The Size, Same Incredible Gameplay
Even though the cabinet and therefore the controls are pretty small, it’s actually extremely comfortable to play in this form factor. Because you’re not really doing anything too advanced with the inputs here, everything feels perfect.
I would imagine that playing a more complex game could possibly result in becoming a little bit annoying due to having to be much more precise with movement, but for a basic 2D game like this, I have absolutely no complaints in this area.
Something else which I really appreciate is that if you turn the cabinet off using the switch on the back, it doesn’t just instantly forget your high score.
This makes using the machine in a social setting even more fun because you can compete to see who can beat the high score without it randomly disappearing.
It does eventually reset if you let it run out of charge and leave it inactive for a while which is slightly disappointing, but at the same time it is good that there’s a way of resetting the score, after all it would be annoying if there was a score on there that was forever unbeatable!
It’s safe to say that I’m very impressed with this! However there’s one major thing which is probably going to put a lot of people off and I bet you saw this one coming…
A Price That’s Out Of This World
The Space Invaders Quarter Arcade is currently retailing for £250 in the UK and $340 in the US, which I know is pretty expensive.
You do have to consider that the quality of the product is incredibly high though and the fact that this is probably one of the single most authentic ways of playing Space Invaders outside of owning an original cabinet also gives it a lot of value.
This price tag positions the machine as something of a collector’s item which is kind of a shame because I’d love for more people to be able to get their hands on this.
Of course the game is being emulated too which might put some people off, but the quality of the emulation here is absolutely perfect and you’d never be able to tell the difference between the actual game running natively and the emulated version.
Is It Worth $340?
So what it basically comes down to is how much of a fan of Space Invaders you are and whether you’re willing to spend quite a bit of money on a very premium device which not only looks incredible as a display piece but also is genuinely great to actually use.
Maybe it would be very slightly more worth it if they had included multiple Space Invaders games in the machine rather than just one, but at the end of the day the whole point of this is that it’s supposed to be a replica of the original cabinet and including more games would have slightly detracted from that.
Plus on a technical level it wouldn’t have been possible to have multiple games and still have the ‘Pepper’s Ghost Effect’ due to the artwork being physically printed onto the inside of the device and I think that element of this device is where the main value lies.
So that’s our Space Invaders Quarter Arcade review! An excellent device for fans of Space Invaders or retro gaming in general.
I mean, you don’t get much more iconic than Space Invaders, one of the best arcade games ever, do you?
But let me know what you think! Are you impressed with the quality on offer here? Will you be picking one of these up for yourself or as a Christmas present for someone?
What arcade classics would you like to see Quarter Arcades tackle next? Drop your thoughts in the comments!
For now though as per usual don’t forget to give the video a like if you enjoyed it, subscribe for more retro shenanigans coming soon, check out ‘A Handheld History’ on Amazon (link in the description) and I’ve been Rob from Retro Dodo and I’ll see you in the next one!
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Rob has a particular fondness for the strange, obscure and quirky side of gaming and loves sharing his knowledge with others. He has been creating content on his own YouTube channel for several years and aims to take his passion to the next level with Retro Dodo.