Near Manchester, there’s a market town named Bury that’s just a tram ride away. The town is rich with history, with ties to the Romans and even the beloved black pudding. Contributing to the town’s historical nature is Andy Palmer, independent owner of the Arcade Club in both Bury and Leeds.
The amusement arcade is a veritable treasure trove, filled with a wide array of games ranging from the latest hi-tech imports from Japan and America, to classic retro cabinets that even the most avid collector would envy.
Left: Andy Palmer. Right: Jay Bell (Organizer of the Defenders Meetup)
I met with Andy Palmer at his arcade in Bury in the midst of a Defenders community meetup that he and Jay Bell had organized. It was was held on the second floor of his three-storey building tucked away in a small private corner amongst the Initial D racing games and Mai Mai rhythm games.
Andy is closely involved with the game’s community, holding meetups for the Defenders fanbase every year and even hosting the developer at one particular meetup. The age nor popularity of the game didn’t seem to factor into his commitment, as he said that what he does is for the customer.
I cater towards the customer. I don’t cater towards the money.Andy Palmer, 2022
Andy also holds tournaments for Tekken 7 in conjunction with Manchester Arena. Suffice to say, the owner of Arcade Club is passionate about games and is an active community figure. As he is big fan of all types of games, the collection of genres in the arcade is wide, ranging from racing, to shooting, to rhythm and to even party-type games; if you can imagine it, Arcade Club has it.
For a £16 entry and unlimited play from 11am to 11pm, this is truly videogame heaven.
Each floor follows a theme that distinguishes themselves from each other, which makes it easier to find the specific types games you want to play.
Floor One: Modern Marvels
Upon entering the doorway you are met with a fiesta of lights, colours and wonder as you gaze upon the Mission Impossible Arcade game, a two player on-rails shooter that pits two pairs of players against each other to see who will finish missions quicker in an action-packed game of espionage and dual pistol dueling!
Continuing the momentum is a selection of various horror shooters like House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn and Luigi’s Horror Mansion (yes I’m aware we’re stretching the definition of ‘horror’ here), all the way to Andy’s crown jewel, the Star Wars Battle Pod game, giving trigger-happy players plenty of options!
The floor also features games like Skeeball, Hoops, a goofy Pac-Man hammer game and a line of flat screen televisions wired to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch consoles, with couches providing ample comfort. Every taste has clearly been accounted for.
What impressed me the most was the Dance Rush Stardom machine, which I have only seen in selected regions such as America, Japan and Korea. In particular, Dance Rush is a great take on the dance rhythm game genre as feet tracking and body tracking require you to do real fancy footwork in order to score points.
Floor Two: Tune Your Ride And Ride The Tunes
Perhaps to act as a more casual hang out spot that evokes the atmosphere of a lively pub, the second floor provides a more open space in comparison, with familiar cabinets of Guitar Hero and other rhythm games. Sitting in a cozy corner is a bar with a decent selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, so that you can refresh yourself after a session of catching music notes.
In accompaniment, are several fighting games like Tekken 7, Blazblue, Guilty Gear and Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax (featuring Kirito from the Sword Art Online series). Initial D, Midnight 2 and Outrun racing games are also available for those of you that have a need for speed.
A personal favourite amongst my friends is Pac-Man Battle Royale, which is basically 4 player Pac-Man where the goal is to either consume your companions or knock them into ghosts and be the last (Pac) man standing!
There are also PC setups on this floor, which saw many patrons playing Apex Legends, Call of Duty and Fortnite. Both the PCs and cabinets were all very well maintained and responsive, despite the less-than-delicate treatment from customers. Again, a lot of these cabinets are Japanese imports, so a lot of these machines will not be found elsewhere in the UK.
Floor 3: Respected Retrospectives
As I stepped onto the top floor and moved past the bustling canteen area, I felt an immediate time-warp as the subtle pings and blips of old arcade machines invited me to reminisce of a simpler time. Maybe there’s an old game that you remember from your childhood or you wish to pay homage to a classic like Pac-Man or Space Invaders. If so, this floor is your domain.
Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, X-Men, Gauntlet and Golden Axe, are some of the many offerings for those who crave a 16-bit melee. Simple to understand and chaotic in nature, there is much joy to be found in the unpredictable when playing with friends either co-operatively or competitively.
The selection of genres is comprehensive; to cover every game on offer would stretch this article to the length of a novel. What Andy has here is a playable museum. Several decades of gaming history congregate on this very floor in excellent condition, so you can truly experience these games the way it was intended.
I asked Andy how he was able to acquire so many rare and imported machines. He compared the arcade game machine hobby to the classic car hobby, as the majority of the merchandise is not available on the open market. It is instead a network of enthusiasts who refer collectors and suppliers to each other to trade and secure machines. The community is very tight knit which explains the rarity of such a collection.
You can spend the entire day at this place and still not have enough time to truly experience everything this arcade has to offer. The fact that there is something for every type of gamer is proof that Andy puts the customer first before anything.
If you enjoy videogames and you live in the UK, you owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to this temple of technology. I recommend booking ahead on their website to secure yourself entry as they have a limit on attendees due to current health and safety concerns.
Special thanks to Josh and Iulia for coming with me and for helping me take these photos!
Are you interested in visiting Arcade Club? Do you recognize any of the games I’ve mentioned? Go wild with your thoughts in the comment box! Also, don’t forget to join our Discord!