The much anticipated New Retro Arcade Neon, a totally revamped version of the lauded virtual reality arcade, finally lands on Steam today, built to take advantage of the HTC Vive.
While the original New Retro Arcade, debuting on the second Oculus Rift development kit (DK2) back in 2014, began as a development learning exercise for a group of developers who formed together under the name Digital Cybercherries, its successor New Retro Arcade Neon is the now matured and lovingly detailed result of a focused effort to make the ultimate virtual reality arcade, built from the ground up for the capabilities of the HTC Vive (though still welcoming to Rift and non-VR players).
“The Vive was the extra push we needed [to continue development after the original],” said Digital Cybercherries’ co-managing partner & lead programmer Dec Doyle who gave me an inside look at the new game. “We didn’t just want to do a demo. We wanted to do something bigger, a full experience that someone could spend hours in and something that we can expand as well.”
“Hypercharge [the studio’s other project] is on a brief hiatus while we put all focus on Neon. New Retro Arcade Neon just needed to be a whole new experience. We realized we’d need the full team on board… we discussed it and decided ‘yeah, this just needs to happen’.”
New Retro Arcade Neon delivers an entirely new arcade space (though you’ll still be able to visit the old room, called ‘Classic’) which is expanded in floor plan and functionality, finally bringing the frequently
demanded requested multiplayer feature. Much is new, but the title’s nostalgic charm and penchant for detail remain in full force.
“It’s graphically a next level compared to what the [original] was,” Doyle told me. “Everything was rescaled and done from the ground up. We redid all the shaders and the entire thing to push for optimization. We wanted to expand with this multiplayer element to it, and the [original] map just wasn’t big enough. So we designed an entire new arcade which we refer to as Neon itself.”
A New (Old) Arcade
New Retro Arcade Neon’s new arcade room is larger than the original and now multi-level, with several back rooms hiding even more fun beyond the main arcade floor. A wacky black-lit carpet and attention-grabbing neon signs welcome you back to the late ’80s / early ’90s (ironic you’re visiting a homage to gaming’s retro days using today’s most advanced gaming equipment). Scattered about the floor are short rows of arcade cabinets broken up with several mini-games like bowling and whack-a-mole.
While some of the cabinets include a few of Digital Cybercherries’ own original arcade games (based in no hidden way upon classics of the era), the real draw for many will be the ability to plug their own emulators and ROMs into the game’s framework to populate the cabinets with much loved favorites of days passed.
Descending down a small set of stairs brings you to a special cluster of six arcade cabinets which feature a game I guarantee you’ve never played before…
Multiplayer and Arcade Deathmatch
Now with multiplayer, New Retro Arcade Neon lets up to six players share the nostalgia at once. Unfortunately, Doyle confirms players won’t be able to see and play each other’s custom-loaded ROMs in the cabinets.
“Obviously you can’t play an emulator vs. an emulator, obviously there’s no networking between that… it’s not something we could realistically achieve based on the ways emulators work and how they work in our game,” he said.
But, seemingly not content to let a much-desired feature go unanswered, the Digital Cybercherries team actually developed several original arcade titles that do in fact support multiplayer within New Retro Arcade Neon. And that’s where those six arcade cabinets come in.
Loaded inside of them is a multiplayer FPS called Aimbot, a game of the developer’s own creation. Described as a “Doom/GoldenEye 64 shooter” by Doyle, the game will let you battle it out with one friend stationed at each cabinet. “It’s what you’d expect from a classic frag shooter from that era,” he told me.
And that’s not the only game-within-a-game that Digital Cybercherries created; another cabinet featuring two Light Guns (which, yes, you can pick up and wield as you’d expect with the Vive’s motion controllers) houses a custom-made game called Zombie Problem 2 which two players can play together.
Mini-games, Toys, and Cinema Room
While the original New Retro Arcade featured bowling, darts, and basketball arcade machines, Neon ups the ante with the addition of air hockey, whack-a-mole, punching bag arcade machine, and skee ball. “All the classics,” Doyle said. All of these games are networked and can be played together with friends.
Scattered about New Retro Arcade Neon is also toys from the era. You’ll find everything from a playable guitar to a functional Game Boy to an Etch A Sketch which can naturally be shaken to be erased. Players will also find a Polaroid camera which demonstrates Digital Cybercherries’ obsessive attention to detail.
Pick up the camera, point, and shoot. You’ll get a picture printed out of the front of the camera which you can shake to watch it slowly develop before your eyes. Once it finally does, you’ll see that the camera’s flash is actually captured reflected in the picture. And yes, you can opt to have the photos saved to your hard drive to share outside of the game.
Another totally new feature for New Retro Arcade Neon is the video room. Off the back hallway one of the rooms you’ll find has a projector and a couch where you’ll be able to stream videos from the web with your friends.
Luckily for fans of the original, New Retro Arcade Neon is open to all.
“Although most of the game has gone to support VR, we still think New Retro Arcade Neon is still entertaining for non-VR players, so we support Vive, Rift, and non-VR,” Doyle said, with the caveat that, “it is targeted specifically around motion control VR.”
New Retro Arcade Neon is a big step over the original, but Digital Cybercherries may not yet be done.
“New Retro Arcade Neon is never finished,” said Doyle. “We have ideas for additions and DLCs and things we think could be great. We’d love to add a multiplayer racing game [for instance].”
P.S. Careful readers will spot two Steam keys for New Retro Arcade Neon somewhere in this article.