High Scores Arcade

Posted June 19, 2014

We finally made it to High Scores Arcade in Alameda this weekend, about a half hour drive from San Francisco. Opened in 2013, High Scores is operated by a New Jersey couple, the apparent efforts of 10 years of collecting.

Honestly, downtown Alameda kinda gave us the heebie jeebies, a bit of a time capsule of the late ’90s. That sounds fun, maybe, but didn’t quite have the same charm as Santa Cruz or Pacifica or one of the other hundreds of curious California coastal towns. The Pampered Pup looked like a fun place to get a hot dog but they were closed. Down the road Alameda Video Game Exchange was dark and eerily quiet except for a small tv in the back covering Casey Kasem’s death. I scanned rows of SNES, Genesis and Playstation games (they even had Sega CD) but didn’t find anything from my list, and what did catch my eye was overpriced. If you’re looking to give your trip to Alameda a little video game goose just remember that Ikea is a town over and their Expedit Kallax shelf is perfect for those retro consoles.

High Scores is $5 for an hour, or $10 all day, either of which give you free play on all their games. A chalkboard with current high scores hangs just inside the door. The space isn’t very large, with games lining the walls (no island) and a tiny room in the back with a few more. The first thing I noticed was an awesome little Robotron cabaret which sat untouched except for my mits massaging the side art, wishing I could strap it on my back. I put a few JJJ initials up but nothing reached over 200k (clearly I still need lots of practice).

Overall I think I played Tron, Major Havoc, Tempest, Gorf, Star Castle, Offroad, Frogger, Paperboy, Punch Out!, Tapper, Spy Hunter, Space Invaders Deluxe and Ice Cold Beer. Their vector games were in particularly good shape, some of which had just arrived. Missing for me was Defender, Outrun or Pole Position, a Neo Geo 4-slot, dedicated versions of Galaga ’88, Zookeeper, and Gyruss, with bonuses being a couple candy cabs with ’90s shmup action and at least one pinball. But obviously space was limited. Some monitors needed adjusting or capped but otherwise most games were in solid shape. An arcade like the Santa Cruz Boardwalk had a broader selection but their games were nowhere near as nice.

By time we left the place was packed. I could imagine it being hard to move about on a Friday or Saturday night, elbowing your way to some quality play time. Which brings to mind another era of community gaming which we’ve been told was over.

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