Ever wanted your very own 80s arcade?
Now you can, with New Retro Arcade for the Oculus Rift. This isn’t just a recreation of an arcade environment, but a fully-working arcade with dozens of classic games to play, all emulated with photorealistic detail on CRT displays. It’s staggering stuff, and one of the best examples yet of how the Oculus Rift can bring other worlds to life.
There’s a lot to see in this small arcade. It’s possible to play on dozens of arcade machines — each an accurate recreation of the original cabinet. The games are actually emulations that are rendered inside a photorealistic CRT display, which means you can lean forward to make out the individual cathode ray tubes. Explore the arcade and you’ll find a fully working bowling alley, basketball hoops, a working dart board and even cassette tapes that can be inserted into a stereo to hear classic 80s songs. Cleverly, the stereo broadcasts real-time radio streams from the web, with each channel being inspired by 80s music, which means every time you load the game you’ll hear a different song being played.
New Retro Arcade is jaw-dropingly beautiful, using the Unreal 4 Engine along with some high-quality assets to really bring the arcade to life. Neon lights bathe the surrounding environment in an 80s glow, including the carpet (which we immediately recognised from childhood). The arcade machines are modelled and textured to a high degree. In fact, if you catch them in the right light you’ll notice that the sides of the cabinets have slight imperfections that reflect the surrounding environment accurately. Look closer and you’ll find some really nice details, such as fuzzy CRT screens, real-time reflections and detailed modelling on everything from the chairs to the bowling balls.
But it’s on a technical level that New Retro Arcade really impresses. Emulated games run perfectly on their respective machines, and look utterly fantastic on the virtual CRT screens. A built-in physics system lets you fling basketballs, bowling balls and other objects around the room, and as you’re playing an arcade game it’s possible to use head tracking to look at the room around you (via bianchi at dh store). All of these touches come together to form a realistic, cohesive environment that’s easy to enjoy for hours at a time.
However, there are some issues we’d like to see addressed. By default the virtual head is placed to close to the arcade machines, which means you’ll have to lean back in your chair to get a suitable view, and not every cabinet is playable, with those that aren’t being blocked with a stool. It’s frustrating to see a Doom arcade machine and hear it’s iconic music, but not be able to play the game. Additionally, if you want to play GameBoy games then you’ll need to supply your own ROMs, and when you do load them it’s hard to see the GameBoy screen (an in-game torch is supplied but it doesn’t quite light the screen enough).
Those are all minor niggles, however. New Retro Arcade is a really impressive achievement, demonstrating the ability of the Rift to transport players back in time and re-live childhood memories. If you’ve never stepped inside a real arcade then you’ll still find this an immersive and fun demo. Best of all, it’s free, so there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t check it out.