Namco Funscape Review
Behold: Manchester’s eponymous Trafford Centre. Or Tragic Centre, depending on your perspective.
Mecca to all things consumer and hot-spot to all those wishing to be seen in the right clothes with the right people; there is actually a lot more to the place than over-priced designer goods. From the Lego Discovery Centre to the Odeon Cinema, Crèche & Play Gym, Laser Quest, Paradise Island Mini Golf and soon-to-be-opened Sea Life Centre, the Trafford Centre has positioned itself as a family day-out as much as anything else. And to be fair, given the lack of local alternatives, they’ve done a fair old job.
From my perspective, perhaps the most intriguing leisure facility on offer is the Namco Funscape.
Arcades and arcade machines used to be two-a-penny. Even my local newsagent had a Mortal Kombat cabinet that I’d happily pump pocket-money into. The rise of the home-console, however, all but killed the UK arcade scene with only a few good examples remaining. Usually bolted onto some dreary theme-park or coastal resort; arcades today feel like tired and limp affairs designed to squeeze a few coins from the terminally bored as opposed to offering a true attraction in their own right. Dirty, half-empty, staffed by grumpy ogres and generally under-loved; your average UK arcade has extinction ingrained into its every fibre.
Which is what makes the Namco Funscape at the Trafford Centre such a welcome beast.
There’s something ironic about the facade: it hints at arcades being a lost, dead society
Part of a small chain (with the vast majority being located in the South), the Trafford Funscape is one of the only decent arcades remaining in the North of England. The rest are all stable-mates. Equipped with a whole range of modern cabinets covering every genre imaginable, the Funscape also features a pool hall, bar, bowling alley and – wait for it – dodgem arena! Seriously: you couldn’t tick any more boxes if you tried.
And my god, it’s loud. Machines and attractions pump out noise from every angle with only the general public making even more of a racket. Bright, brash and gaudy; walking into the Funscape makes you feel like a child all over again, unsure as to where to look next or what to do first. There’s so much on offer. And just when you think that you’ve gauged the scope of the place, another corner appears full of yet more attractions to vie for your attention. There’s simply no sense of deflation whatsoever, which is sadly unusual for your average UK arcade.
Dodgems. It has, DODGEMS!
It’s often said that the future of gaming is social – a prediction that a good many gamers, myself included, baulk at. Why? Because ‘social’ in the modern, corporate sense of gaming is actually code-word for season-passes, micro-transactions, Facebook integration and hordes of aggressive teenagers screaming down the headset at you. Sack. That.
That said, I do think that the future of gaming is social. But social in an historical sense; in a split-screen sense; in a face-to-face sense; in, well, a social sense. You only need to look at the smiles on people’s faces in a good, purpose-built arcade to see that there’s absolutely still a market for this kind of experience.
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