Even at three-quarters scale, Arcade1Up’s miniaturized arcade cabinets can quickly fill up a room, and at several hundred bucks apiece, can just as quickly wipe out a budget. For those tight on room, Arcade1Up’s new Couchcade puts arcade-style controls in your lap and retro gameplay on your TV.
Although even the smartwatch on your wrist is capable of playing retro video games, those old enough to have played classic games like Pac-Man, Galaga, Mortal Kombat, or even NBA Jam when they were first released were able to experience them while crowding around an arcade cabinet. The popularity of retro gaming is not just about the games themselves, but the desire to recreate the experience many of us had when first playing them.
But with original arcade cabinets still costing thousands and thousands of dollars, it’s easy to understand why Arcade1Up’s miniaturized recreations have exploded in popularity over the past few years. A group of four friends can crowd around Arcade1Up’s The Simpsons cabinet and feel like teenagers again without the need for a pocket full of quarters, but collecting miniaturized arcade machines is still not a cheap hobby.
Arcade1Up also makes even smaller tabletop versions of many of its miniaturized arcade machines, but the Couchcade is the company’s most space-friendly solution yet. Imagine someone tore the controls of a full-sized Pac-Man arcade cabinet and then stapled a pillow to the underside so that while holding it in your lap your legs aren’t jabbed by loose wires and various electronic bits: that’s essentially what the Couchcade delivers.
On your lap sits a controller with an oversized joystick and action buttons that are more or less a match to what Pac-Man cabinets of the ‘80s offered players, and that’s wirelessly connected using a 2.4GHz signal to a tiny console/receiver that connects to a TV over HDMI. In addition to Pac-Man, the Couchcade features nine other built-in retro games including Pac-Mania, New Rally-X, Galaxian, Galaga, Galaga ‘88, Dig Dug, Dig Dug II, Rolling Thunder, and Mappy.
With a price tag of $180, the Couchcade is far from cheap. Your tablet, smartphone, and laptop can easily play any of these titles using many of the free software emulators currently available, so what you’re mostly paying Arcade1Up for is the giant controller, the faux wood grain finish, and the peace of mind of not being tasked with finding copies of these games yourself or navigating the legal gray area of playing them through emulation.