Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arcade Blast in Garrison, Texas

A rather belated yet still quite cheerful happy new year to all!  As I’ve mentioned on here before, I am a bit of an arcade freak, so for my first post of 2011 I'd like to give a shout out to a tiny town arcade that I discovered at the very end of 2010 - Arcade Blast in Garrison, Texas.

The day before New Year’s Eve Mrs. MP and I and the Onions were heading to the small East Texas towns of Jefferson and Marshall to wander through some antique shops, check out Christmas lights, and basically just kick back and enjoy the small-town charm. As we were driving on highway 59 about 18 miles northeast of Nacogdoches, we passed through the tiny town of Garrison and I noticed a sign out of the corner of my eye “Arcade Blast Old Fashioned Soda Fountain”. Hmmm… I thought to myself, that looks intriguing, but it’s getting kinda late and we don’t really have time to – WAIT THERE’S A GIANT MONKEY OUT FRONT WEARING A T-SHIRT! Brakes locked, tires screeched, and an acrid cloud of smoke billowed out from beneath the car (please scratch scratch n’ sniff #2 here) as we skid to a halt in the parking lot to check it out.

The arcade was inside an old building that I can only assume is/was a Farmer's Supply Store based on the sign. It was a bit like a small town general store inside with some miscellaneous odds and ends for sale - except things appeared a bit disorganized and there was a lot of open space so perhaps they had only recently opened and were still getting things in place. Or maybe that's just how they roll. Either way is fine by me but the place might benefit from a little work inside. Not work on the actual building itself though - I like when new places move into older buildings and leave that old feel in place. New buildings are boring.

We were the only ones in the place and the guy that was working there was very friendly. They had a cool old-fashioned bar to sit at and eat ice cream, pizza, and various other food items - none of which I had time to try and so cannot really comment on. I also noticed an assortment of other interesting items such as a theater-style popcorn machine, an air hockey table, a big screen TV, and a jukebox - which I presume worked but have no idea (see aforementioned lack of time). But of course the tie-in here is the arcade cabs - of which they had the following 10:

Ms. Pac-Man (1981)
After Burner (1987)
Vindicators (1988)
Neo-Geo MVS 4 slot (1989) - Bomberman Panic Bomber (1994), 3-Count Bout (1993), and 2 others I can't recall
Revolution X (1994) - Out of order
Die Hard (1996)
Egg Venture (1997) - No sound
San Francisco Rush the Rock - Alcatraz Edition (1997)
Pac-Man / Ms. Pac-Man / Galaga 25th Anniversary (2005)
Global Arcade Classics (2010) - Multicade with 80 games

Not a bad little selection for a little joint in a bump on the road - according to the 2000 US Census the town of Garrison is just under 2 square miles and has a population of 844. They still have a lot of unused space too so hopefully they will add more old arcade games to their inventory. We played a few quick games of Vindicators which is a nice little co-op tank game that I played once before in 1984 (arcade in Missouri), Bomberman Panic Bomber which is a split-screen Tetris-ish puzzle game (except with bombs) that I had never played before but was kinda fun except supposedly Onion's controller was a little messed up (that was his story anyway), and Egg Venture which is a light-gun shooter where you basically see who can shoot the most "bad eggs" while shooting the fewest "good eggs" - apparently all the bad eggs had experienced ocular misfortunes because they were all sporting eyepatches, which was quite fortunate otherwise you wouldn't be able to tell the damn things apart. I'm normally not much on light gun games but I rather enjoyed this one - very simplistic but fun with the 2-player simultaneous competition a-la Big Buck Hunter. Unfortunately the game didn't have any sound so they need to fix that.

All in all I thought it was a nice little joint. Not a target destination, but definitely a nice rest stop on a Highway 59 road trip. So if you happen to be driving on 59 just north of Nacogdoches be sure to stop by, have a root beer float and play a few games to help these guys stay in business. Just don't blink when you pass through Garrison or you might just miss it.

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PungentOnion said... summary of who won or lost the various head-to-head competitions.....not saying I won them all, but certianly bucked the trend of loosing them all!!

It was a pretty neat little stop, but I can't shake the pessimistic thoughts that the place will not survive 6 months. Note to self - Watch Criag's List for cheap arcade games from Garrison, TX.

MadPlanet said...

Well actually, very oddly, it was a little unclear to me who won ANY of them! I lasted much longer on the Bomberman game but your controller was messed up and I didn't really notice the scores, we were co-op on the Vindicators and so again I didn't pay attention to scores, and I'm pretty sure you won the Egg Venture but I also suspect that my gun was messed up since I was uncharacteristically missing everything! So I pretty much considered the whole thing a wash - victor-wise.

I would tend to say the same - don't see how it could make enough money to keep the doors open in that extremely remote location. But who knows, I've seen a lot of little shops in little towns that stay open more or less as a hobby for the owner. Maybe he was into arcades back in the day and it is mostly just his private collection that he also runs a business on the side. I wouldn't imagine the overhead for an old building in Garrison would be all that much. Unfortunately, the very thing that I find intriguing about these kinds of places - their remote rural locations and somewhat irregular offerings - is the exact thing that makes it difficult for them to survive and so fairly rare to encounter.

Fallguy40 said...

Of course they are going to succeed. After all they've got a giant monkey in a T-shirt waving at passersby.

It's pure marketing genius along the lines of car dealerships with inflatable Godzillas on their roofs.

MadPlanet said...

Who doesn't love monkeys? And with a t-shirt on it the appeal increases astronomically! Hey - I'm only being slightly sarcastic - the monkey was a bit of a hook and I took a pic of the ladies in front of it. and don't get me started on how much I dig Godzilla.

Fallguy40 said...

All kidding aside, I hope they do well as it's little places like this that provide the charm that make road trips interesting.

MadPlanet said...

I completely agree