Look, I’m a Super Mario Bros.-Mortal Kombat kind of girl. Sports games are not my thing. And then I found my exception.
At Up-Down Arcade last Saturday night, I came to love four-player NBA Jam, one of the quintessential ’90s ballgames. I mashed the right combination of buttons and believed I was Penny Hardaway. And well, I was. I beat the brakes off the Chicago Bulls, dunking from across the court and blocking shots for fun. For one night, I was an accidental NBA Jam savant. Winner.
When the bar/arcade opened last month in the old Hamburger Mary’s, gamers lined up and waited along Southwest Boulevard.
Someone driving by stopped and yelled, “What’s going on?” A bunch of us said, “It’s an arcade!” He honked with happiness. There’s nothing like finding your crowd. And for a long time, we gamer geeks haven’t had a slice of nightlife. Yes, this is the second arcade to open up in the Crossroads this year, but trust me when I say there is room for both to thrive.
The first was Tapcade, part of the Screenland Crossroads theater on McGee Street. It’s just my type of nerdy with a couple of dozen retro games, plus craft beer and movie-inspired cocktails, a restaurant and indie films. It’s where I like to watch “The Walking Dead.”
But Up-Down gets me, too. It’s an entirely different experience. It’s all about the games. TV screens play Royals games, old-school movies and the like, but people go to Up-Down for retro gaming. It’s for adults only — 21 and up, kiddos. And it doesn’t just serve up classics like Donkey Kong and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, either. You’ll find Skee-Ball (Note: You don’t get tickets; no prizes to win), pinball machines, Nintendo 64 and family faves, too.
A gigantic Connect Four stands on the patio, with chips the size of my hand. I loved it. And yes, I took a picture of my victory for Instagram. I’m less talented in the way of Jenga, but with two jumbo setups on the patio, it’s going to be a lively summer. Photo ops are winning on the patio and upper deck.
The menu is only drinks for now, but on weekends a food truck usually parks outside, like Pie Hole, Lutfi’s and Plantain District. But like I said, the crowd is there for the games. And beer.
Inside, it is a two-story gamers den with a bar serving 50 craft beers and no shortage of local brews (Boulevard, Cinder Block, KC Bier to name a few). But the gamer-inspired cocktails I’ve heard about at the original Des Moines location have yet to arrive here. I just want Princess Peach Punch, y’all. Because feminism?
But there’s a lot to love at Up-Down. Like pinball. I’ve yet to get a shot at Super Mario Bros. pinball or Space Jam pinball. The place is packed and there is always someone laughing it up and scoring big. And why wouldn’t they? Unlike some of the pinball machines I grew up with, at Up-Down, it costs only one coin to play any of the games. And you can get coins cheap: four for $1, 20 for $5. On Saturdays until 9 p.m., you get two for one. Basically, I got 40 coins for $5. Score!
The eight or so pinball machines include Family Guy, the Addams Family, Terminator 2. There was everything to love about South Park. Each time you release the silver ball, Kyle shouts “Kick the baby.” I laughed every single time. Plus, every time Terrance and Phillip fart, the player earns points. Yes, I sometimes have the sense of humor of a fifth-grader. Deal with it.
Another awesome thing about Up-Down is the group play. At first glance, it seems like every nook and cranny of the place upstairs and down is jammed with machines. But there is space and opportunity. Let’s talk about the Pac-Man table. You sit around this four-player game like it’s a dinner table. And Pac-Man is what you eat. Seriously, each player controls a different colored Pac-Man. You eat one another. I cannot believe I missed out on this greatness as a child.
Bonus: Nintendo 64 on the big screen comes with four controllers. I’m so spoiled by Wii U I literally forgot how to use the old-school controllers of my childhood. Do not take away my geek card. And while we passed on the epic six-player X-Men, we couldn’t resist four-player Ninja Turtles. Uh, cowabunga.
But by the time we made our way to the Simpsons, we were wearing down. Lisa and that jump rope gave me finger fatigue around level four. I bowed out and watched Marge beat down the Springfield baddies with her vacuum cleaner. We never did save Maggie.
Doh! Next time.
Up-Down, 101 Southwest Blvd., is open 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. weekdays, noon to 1 a.m. Saturdays and noon to midnight Sundays. Must be at least 21 or older.
Visit UpDownKC.com for daily specials.
By the way
Keion Jackson’s “Because Jesus” book signing that I wrote about last week was so popular, he’s back at Crown Center’s Hallmark to do it again on Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.