The Video Game Critic's Console Reviews
Arcadia 2001 (1982 - 1983)

Manufacturer: Emerson Radio Corp.
Format: Cartridge
Controller Ports: 2 (hardwired)
Save capability: None
Number of games: 42
Video Output: RF
Initial Price: $200

system
Here's a prime example of a company hopping onto the video game bandwagon in the early 80's hoping to cash in on the craze. The Arcadia 2001 was capable of displaying sharp, colorful graphics, but its games were second-rate rip-offs of arcade hits like Pac-Man, Missile Command, and Space Invaders. Most were buggy and poorly programmed, with some bordering on unplayable. Despite its reasonable pricetag the system was pronounced dead on arrival, and is little more than a footnote in video game history.

Although the Arcadia's tepid game library doesn't deliver much fun, its poorly-written manuals certainly pack a lot of entertainment value. Clearly the people (person?) writing these instructions lacked a firm grasp of the English language. As if the rampant typos weren't funny enough, every aspect of the game is described in such verbose detail that it's unintentionally hilarious. For example, there's usually an entire page dedicated to the "pause" feature (which Emerson apparently reinvented as "freeze"). Check out the following excerpt which I copied directly from a manual (including capitalizations and typos):

VI. TO FREEZE THE GAME

  1. This game has a freezing ability so that you may FREEZE the game whenever necessary until you come back to it again. USE RIGHT HAND CONTROLLER FOR FREEZING OR UNFREEZING ACTION.
  2. To FREEZE the game, press any FREEZE key (See Fig. 1B) on keyboard and all action will be freezed including the sound. Decrease the volume of your TV if necessary.
  3. For UNFREEZE function, press UNFREEZE key (See Fig. 1B) on keyboard and action will be resumed immediately. If volume has been descreased while freezing, be sure to increase the volumn of TV to desired level before unfreezing the game.

It's interesting to note that Emerson threatened to sue a company named Arcadia which had created a tape-loading peripheral for the Atari 2600. That company was forced to change its name to Starpath. Considering how most Arcadia 2001 games were shameless rip-offs, I find this astounding.

Console design: C+. This is a surprisingly compact little system, resembling a miniature Intellivision. The center of the unit features a cartridge slot, power light, and five buttons: reset, select, option, start, and power. On each end of the unit are controller slots which neatly hold the controllers for easy storage. Like the original Intellivision, the controllers are hard-wired, and their short, telephone-style cords don't allow you to sit very far from the system.

Console durability: B. I don't have much data to even speculate about this, but the system is solid-state and feels very sturdy.

controller Controllers: D+. The Arcadia's controllers are very similar to those of the Intellivision, boasting a twelve-button numeric keypad which accommodates overlays. There's a directional disk on the bottom, but thankfully a small joystick protrudes from the center of it. It's a little stiff, but relatively comfortable to use - for short periods of time at least. There is also a red button on each side of the controller, and these mold to your thumbs much easier than the Intellivision buttons.

box Media: D-. Arcadia cartridges came in two sizes. The smaller ones are slightly larger than Atari 2600 games, and the larger ones are twice as long. The reason for the size difference is not clear. There's plenty of room for artwork on the front of these cartridges, but the space is wasted on poorly-drawn, water-painted illustrations. Making matters worse is the rainbow-colored font which looks tacky as hell. On the back of the cartridges is a blue label listing features of the cartridge and/or instructions.

Packaging: D. Arcadia cartridges were packaged in large silver boxes which open like books to reveal the cartridge in a blue plastic insert. A manual (and overlays) could be found tucked into a pocket behind the cover. On the front of these boxes you'll find some of the most amateurish artwork ever seen on a video game. Most look like they belong in a little kid's coloring book. It's embarrassing really. The name of the game is printed on the side of the box in a rainbow font, along with the "cart #", indicating where it falls in the series.The unnecessary overlays tend to be plain and white, with no artwork.

Games: F. With very few exceptions (Cat Trax comes to mind), most Arcadia games were of very low quality. Poorly programmed, they tend to run slow and are prone to glitches and bugs. A few titles (like Space Vultures) could even be construed as broken out of the box! Even the more respectable titles tend to move at a plodding pace. The graphics may look impressive at first blush, but rampant slow-down and choppy animation usually render the gameplay marginal at best.

cat trax Graphics: C+. Judging by the screen shots alone, you might think the Arcadia is relatively powerful in terms of graphics. The objects are relatively high in resolution, and the visuals feature crisp, vibrant colors. You'll rarely find an object rendered in more than a single color however, and when multiple sprites begin moving around the screen, the system's limitations become evident.

Audio: F. Either little effort was put forth to create audio for its games, or the system just wasn't very strong in this regard. The sound effects in most games are limited to basic buzzes and beeps. There were very few attempts made to create music on the system, and these tunes sound off-key and generally pathetic.

Collectability: F. As if the lack of decent games isn't bad enough, Arcadia systems and cartridges tend to be expensive and hard to find. That's mainly because the system was never produced in large quantities. The Arcadia 2001 is more of a curiosity for collectors than a system you'll want to play on a regular basis.

Innovations: Extremely compact console design.
Pros and Cons:
+ Fun to mock games and instruction manuals.
- Few decent games.
- Expensive and hard to find.
- Packaging looks like crap.


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