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Review: Arcade1Up’s Pac-Man Head-to-Head Arcade Table is Flashback Fun for the Whole Family

Think of Arcade1Up‘s retro gaming lineup not as arcade machines, but as time machines. If you’re a Gen-Xer, prepare to be transported back to your 10-speed bike with a pocketful of quarters, on your way to the local Pizza Hut to play on the only tabletop Pac-Man game within 10 miles. If you’re younger, get ready to find out what being completely engrossed by 8-bit gaming was like.

But no matter where you fall on the timeline, Arcade1Up’s arcade machines promise pure fun. So the opportunity to bring one into a house split between Gen-Xers and PlayStation pros was way too good to pass up. We hit the “buy” button on the Pac-Man Head-to-Head Arcade Table Black Series Edition, which is a near-exact replica of the much-beloved ’80s version, except this one plays 12 classic games and does not require quarters.

Mere days later (thank you Arcade1Up for the free shipping), a somewhat heavy and flatter-than-expected box arrived. As visits from the Nostalgia Fairy go, this looks so much better than any lame sitcom reboot.

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Mike Fazioli | SPY
  • So much fun
  • Nostalgia!
  • Expensive
  • Takes up a lot of space
  • 17″ Color LCD Screen
  • Two Control Panels
  • 1 Speaker on each side
  • 2 Clear Deck Protectors
  • Clear Protective Top Surface
  • Adjustable Volume
  • Item Weight: 64.34 lbs
  • Dimensions :23.53 D x 35.98 W x 28.97 H

Building the Pac-Man Head-to-Head Arcade Table

In case the flat box didn’t tip you off, the Pac-Man Head-to-Head Arcade Table does require assembly, which sounds intimidating if you’ve ever seen an actual vintage arcade machine dismantled. Those were stuffed to the gills with wires and circuit boards, not to mention the coin apparatus and bank, or the old-school cathode-ray-tube monitor.

Today’s version is a far cry from that. The cabinet comes in four pieces with some additional predrilled braces to hold the screen in place. The two joystick/button consoles, which also contain the speaker, are mostly preassembled — you only need to screw the ball onto the joystick, and from there the wiring easily plugs into the main unit, which is a remarkably small metal box affixed to the bottom of the 17-inch flatscreen monitor.

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Mike Fazioli | SPY

If you can build an IKEA bookshelf, you can build an Arcade1Up gaming machine, and in about the same amount of time. One screwdriver, no wrenching, and definitely no soldering iron. The pieces are light, the instructions are simple. It’s best done as a two-person job if only to hold some pieces in place for connection. The last bit of assembly is topping the whole thing off with a clear plexiglass cover which alleviates any concerns about breaking the screen and also lets you play with a beverage in hand (and not the red plastic glass of Mountain Dew that the Pizza Hut made you buy in exchange for monopolizing their Pac-Man machine).

Roughly 45 stress-free minutes later, we had a fully assembled arcade machine. It’s impressively sturdy, and even better, it’s relatively lightweight — 64.34 pounds, very easily moved by two people. Naturally, it needs to be placed near an electrical outlet, and daytime play requires closed curtains because of the horizontal screen as opposed to a standup machine.

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Mike Fazioli | SPY

Setting Up Games for the Pac-Man Head-to-Head Arcade Table

As stated before, all of the branding and decor is Pac-Man, but this machine plays 12 retro arcade games, including ’80s classics Galaxian, Galaga, and Dig Dug. The other eight include two Pac-Man sequels, a Dig Dug sequel, and five relatively obscure deep cuts from the golden age of arcade gaming: Rompers, Rally-X, The Tower of Druaga, Mappy, and Rolling Thunder.

Toggling between games is simple. The home screen shows the full menu, and from there it takes you either directly to gameplay or to a setup screen that allows you to adjust in-game options like number of lives, bonus lives, and difficulty level.

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Mike Fazioli | SPY
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Mike Fazioli | SPY
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Mike Fazioli | SPY

Game On

As for the gameplay itself, it’s absolutely, positively, 100% the real Magilla. The controls, the graphics, the sounds, the high-score leaderboards, everything right down to the animations that play after you clear the second, fifth, and ninth screens of Pac-Man. All of the gameplay is licensor-approved, so there are no knockoff versions.

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Cat: unimpressed. Game player: Ready to reclaim his 1985 Galaga championship belt. Mike Fazioli | SPY

One modern bonus: volume control. Anyone who remembers the classic arcades knows those things were loud. You can turn down or mute the volume and play the Arcade1Up into the wee hours and not keep the whole house awake.

If you’re a former arcade nut, you’ll find your muscle memory for these games returns faster than you assumed. Better still, you’ll love the plaintive cries coming from the teenage gamers: “I’ve beaten every version of God of War and Eldenring and I can’t clear one freaking screen of Galaga?!” Respect your elders — we have skills you can only conceivably dream of. Of course, this sets them to grinding away on these “primitive” games until they can make it onto the high-score board.


Is the Pac-Man Head-to-Head Arcade Table a Good Buy?

As you’d expect from a time machine, the Arcade1Up Pac-Man Head-to-Head Arcade Table is not cheap. Even with the free shipping, it’s a $699.99 investment. Check out their last-chance offers and other deals though, as they are not shy about putting their wares on sale.

Worth it? We say yes.

Ours has been played on more or less constantly, and it’s an amazing conversation piece in the house. And if Pac-Man is somehow not your jam, Arcade1Up’s lineup of retro gaming machines is incredibly deep, with tabletop and standup arcade machines playing classics like Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, Mortal Kombat, Golden Tee, Tron, NBA JAM and many, many others. Arcade1Up also sells smaller countertop versions with the same spot-on-accurate gameplay, with some going for as little as $179.

Our experience? Younger players were borderline shocked at how much fun the retro games are, especially when you’re not having to feed them an endless stream of quarters, and older players were transported back to smoky mall arcades filled with kids in hair-metal t-shirts and the jangle of change machines. This time machine is also a whole-family fun powerhouse, which is not easy to come by.

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Courtesy of Arcade1Up

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