Go Try It: Play some retro arcade games at Area 23

Jon tries his hand at the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" arcade game at Area 23 last week. Showing his rust, he didn't even make it out of the first level and finished with 18 points, good enough for 84th place. KIRK McNEIL / For the Insider

Despite them steadily becoming more and more of a destination for all kinds of entertainment, we realized last week that we hadn’t been to Area 23 in quite some time. When we noticed on Facebook that they have some old-school arcade games in there now, we knew we had to go over and check things out.

The games aren’t owned by Area 23 – they’re the property of 8-Bit Retro Bar and Arcade, a business Seana McDuffie is trying to get off the ground. McDuffie has been working on opening a bar full of retro arcade games, and while she hasn’t secured her own location yet, she does have some games, and for now they’re stationed at Area 23.

When you walk into the bar, the games are tucked away in the corner to your right, behind the fence. Back there you’ll also find a slew of board games, as well as a bitcoin ATM and a change machine. It’s pretty much the fun corner.

There were four games when we stopped in last week: Shinobi, The House of the Dead, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Donkey Kong. We had played the latter two before – even if it was 20 years ago – but not the former two. In any event, we tried them all, for science purposes.

First up was The House of the Dead, a zombie-killing game from 1997. It’s a first-person shooter, the kind in which you use a pistol, that can be played with one or two players. At 50 cents, this is the most expensive game there, but the only one that uses controls other than joysticks and buttons.

We had played plenty of zombie-shooting games before, but not this one. It was harder and actually scarier than we expected – the graphics are very 1997, but there are all kinds of jump scares that got us. The main challenge of the game is getting head shots, as hitting the undead anywhere else doesn’t really do much.

After clearing a couple areas, we ultimately succumbed to a flock of evil bats in a cave and scored so low that the game didn’t even display it, probably to save us the embarrassment.

Up next was Shinobi, a ninja fighting game. This one was tough because enemies off screen would hurl projectiles at our player, forcing us to constantly keep an eye on the right side of the screen, leaving the other side vulnerable. We were down to one life by the time we figured out how to jump up to the balcony, at which point we were immediately killed and the game was over with a score of 2,600.

Next was TMNT, a game we remember from the good ol’ days. Only it was harder than we remembered. Playing solo, even with Leonardo, this game is daunting with the number of enemies – we were regularly outnumbered 2-, 3- or 4-to-1. Ultimately, we didn’t save April from the fire and finished with a score of 18, good enough for 84th place.

Last was Donkey Kong. We knew we wouldn’t come close to world champion Robbie Lakeman of Concord’s score, but we gave it a shot anyway.

We shouldn’t have.

Looking extremely rusty, we only made it up two platforms before getting the Game Over at a measly 600 points. Who knew the barrels could go down ladders?

Either way, it was fun.

So grab a pocket of change and head to Area 23 and see if you can beat any of our impressive scores.

Author: Jon Bodell

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