When we last left the Little Green Men and their Big Green Dad, they were searching for a new “arcade home” in northern Utah, and they encountered… disappointment.
This weekend, however, was a different story. The kids’ mother was off work, she wanted to spend some time with them, and having last taken them to a mostly-out-of-order “arcade” that reeked of a dive bar in decline, I thought maybe I’d better scout out the next place by myself to make sure it was appropriate. This particular voyage of discovery took me about an hour north of our temporary home base in Lehi to the small town of Roy, Utah… home of Flynn’s Retrocade.
Now, this is a bit more like it. Rather than claiming to be Utah’s retro arcade experience but having dozens of dust-covered machines in disrepair, Flynn’s claims Pac-Man, Mario and Q*Bert as it mascots and displays them proudly. And on the inside? This place oozes classic gaming love…even from the floors.
One thing you can definitely say for Flynn’s is that they have their “look” worked out. Ceiling-mounted monitors display high scores and other helpful information…
…though the attendant is usually behind the concession stand at the rear of the arcade, so I found myself wondering if anyone had ever snuck in an unauthorized game or two. Flynn’s charges $5 for an hour of free play (excepting pinball tables, which actually collect coins and charge you 50 cents per game), or $10 for an “all day pass”.
Something that surprised me about Flynn’s was how small it actually is. The above photo (and all of these can be clicked on and blown up, by the way) shows you the full width of the arcade’s space in its strip mall home. It really is that wide – just wide enough for a row of upright cabinets down both walls and a selection of cocktail table machines in the middle. Side art is non-existent, with the exception of the Star Wars cockpit jutting out of one wall.
On the upside: all the machines were extraordinary physical specimens. In a few cases, there were machines whose original CRT monitors had been replaced with flatscreens… though that’s not something for which I dock points anymore, since the last manufacturer of large CRT screens for arcade machines has allowed that particular replacement part to go out of production. I have a feeling that in another ten or twenty years, flatscreen replacements will be par for the course.
Some of the games were also running altered or non-original hardware. The Galaga cabinet, for example, was a multi-game featuring Galaxian, Galaga, Galaga 2000, Gaplus, Gorf, Space Invaders, Space Invaders Deluxe, and Super Zaxxon, selectable from an onscreen menu. Ms. Pac-Man was obviously running a speed-up board that, while it offered some tactical advantage against the monsters in terms of sheer speed, charged the player for that advantage with interest by making Ms. Pac move so fast that she’s hard to control. Ironically, from what I could tell, a custom Donkey Kong II cabinet was running the original Donkey Kong.
There were some nice uncommon titles on display – The Empire Strikes Back, Major Havoc, Food Fight, and Marble Madness – though Food Fight was one of two non-functional machines on the floor (the other was Dragon’s Lair). Flynn’s is also awash with the kind of pre-requisite machines that almost any retro arcade has to have (Ms. Pac-Man, Robotron, Dig Dug, Frogger, Tempest, Asteroids, Centipede, Tron), though the original Pac-Man was very conspicuous by its absence. Japanese knock-off cocktails of Space Invaders and Galaxian were interesting novelties to find and play, even if one to remind oneself how awkward the placement of controls on Japanese-made cocktail cabinets are. The selection of cocktails was rounded out with a vintage Atari Warlords table.
It was somewhat clever – if maybe a little dated – to see them try to tie Dig Dug to its appearance in Stranger Things’ second season. It’s a savvy bit of promotion, though it’s nearly a year out of date at this point, and one might as well put a Seinfeld sign on top of Frogger.
When the floor-tile pixel art changes from Pac-Man to Donkey Kong, you’re headed into Flynn’s back room, containing five pinball tables (Black Knight 2000, Indiana Jones, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Spider-Man, and Tron Legacy). I’m really not much of a pinball player, but I can admire the aesthetics of the machines – Tron Legacy is a really pretty table.
It’s a nice place with a great feel, but somehow I was expecting the place to be bigger. I feel bad about complaining in the wake of the visit to Atomic Arcade, which had at least as many games (turned off and buried under a layer of dust), but – no disrespect to Lynn’s Nails – Flynn’s urgently needs to storm the castle and annex more space in the strip mall. There’s something about the tiny size of the place (which, for a sleepy burg like Roy, probably isn’t a consideration for the locals) that’s discouraging. You can, in one hour, play everything in Flynn’s at least once (even constantly-occupied favorites like Star Wars and Tron had some downtime), and then what? There’s nowhere for Flynn’s to expand into. Unless there’s suddenly an empty neighboring space available, you’ve seen all there is to see, and played all there is to play. When you’re an hour away from the place like I am presently, what’s the motivation to go back?
That being said, the games on offer are nothing to sneeze at, and as usual, I left my mark before my hour was up. I set out to review Flynn’s on its own merits without referring back to my much-missed arcade home base in Arkansas, and when I avoid that comparison, I have to admit that Flynn’s is a pretty swanky joint on its own merits. But if I do compare the two, here’s where I wind up going “ehhh” about Flynn’s: I’m driving twice as far and paying twice as much to play a fraction of the number of games in a much smaller (but, admittedly, really nicely decorated) place.
There’s nothing wrong with Flynn’s that expanding into one of the neighboring strip mall storefronts wouldn’t fix, though. Sorry, Lynn’s Nails. 😆
Flynn’s Retrocade [website | Facebook]
3626 W 5600 S Door A, Roy, UT
Open noon to 10pm, Monday through Saturday; closed Sundays
Admission: $5 for one hour, $10 for all-day pass, $70 for 10 all-day passes; Groupon offers are available.