Escape Jeux: The Paris Airport Arcade

[Originally written on Friday, June 12st at 1:23pm Paris time]

Getting to the airport was a scramble. Between sleeping in, our Uber taking its sweet time getting to our place, and somebody in our party who shall remain nameless having food in their carry-on, it was a chaotic end to what’s been a grueling trip. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a wonderful time in London and Paris. However, our schedule was so jam-packed with activities that we’ve barely had any time to sleep. Any ambitions I may have had to play games or create content fell by the wayside as soon as I fell asleep while playing Reigns: Game of Thrones on the plane during our first flight. Not necessarily the fault of the game itself, but I do have my issues with it. More on that another day.

But our trip has now come to a screeching halt. With our flight delayed indefinitely as I write this, I’ve got some time to breathe. Before I try best to fall asleep in this chair though, let me share something cool from the boarding area of the airport!

Located between gates 5 and 6 are a set of 10 arcade machines. These are mini cabinets that have been mounted to a wall, each with one game. One side has chairs for the adults to sit down and play comfortably, while the other side is chair-free; a perfect standing height for young kids. You can keep the change in your pocket, as the games are free-to-play.

The game selection is of the retro arcade variety. Staples such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Frogger are accounted for, along with a few niche choices.

The newest game here is Mega Man: The Power Battle. It’s essentially a boss rush mode, taking on a greatest hits of bosses from the Mega Man universe without any platforming levels. Wasn’t in the mood to play it this time, but it’s a neat and weird choice.

I put the most time into the Tengen Tetris. Rooted in the arcade, its NES port is best known for being at the centre of a legal battle between Nintendo and Atari, as Atari tried to publish and distribute the game without Nintendo’s consent. As such, NES copies of this arcade game are a rarity.

Growing up with a Famicom, I actually had a pirated version of this game. Playing it took my mind back to the days of sitting cross-legged, enjoying this game on an old black-and-white TV that was placed on the floor. What caught me by surprise was that its single-player experience isn’t standard Tetris. Instead, you take on numerous challenges where the board is already filled with junk blocks, or junk is added as you play. Of course, the game gets faster until you lose. I take some of the more unforgiving elements of old Tetris for granted, such as the lack of ground spins and the bag system, but it was a warm trip down memory lane.

One of two games I’d never seen before was this particular version of Dig Dug. I played the version where the level is a 2D cross-section of the ground, where you dig tunnels and pop enemies like balloons. Combat is the same, but this time you’re playing on a flat world from a top-down perspective. Instead of digging, you get a jackhammer to terraform the level, sinking entire chunks of land and any enemies on the wrong side of the cut. Be careful though, as you can easily sink yourself as well! Will have to do more research on what the history behind this game is.

The other was an arcade version of Bomberman. As you would expect, you navigate through 2D boards, blowing up every enemy before moving to the next stage. However, in the first three levels I played, I saw a unique AI companion mechanic I hadn’t seen in any other game in the franchise. They’re trapped in a box, but blowing the box up will free them. They will walk around the stage and drop bombs, but these bombs can also kill you. Would have loved to try more of it, but it was on the side without chairs and the hunch was killing me.

In an era when everyone has games on their phones, Paris didn’t need to set up a retro arcade in their boarding area. That said, I appreciated it, as did the many I observed who gave the games a shot while waiting for their flights. If you’re ever in Paris, check out the Escape Jeux!

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