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- Authentic detailing
- Beautiful display
- Cramped controls
- Relatively quiet speakers
Retro gaming is arguably bigger now than at any other point in time with people of all ages wanting to discover the origins of this gargantuan industry. Enter Taito with Space Invaders in the late 1970s, an absolute marvel of a machine that captivated audiences then and continues to all these decades later. That’s where we find ourselves with the Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine. It’s a quarter-sized replica of the cab we all know and love attempting to re-capture some of the magic of the original.
With a genuine arcade ROM of the original 1978 classic inside, real wood panels, and a mirrored screen, the Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine has all the makings of an all-star piece of gaming memorabilia. But is there any substance to the flashiness it presents? Let’s get into it together.
Price and availability
The Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine is available in territories such as the US and the UK at $249.99 / £249.99 from major retailers such as Amazon and big box stores. Depending on where you buy from, you may be able to pick up the cabinet which includes a miniature stool adorned in the game’s profile art, too. It’s certainly on the pricier end of playable arcade machines, running a little pricier than the Arcade1Up Countercades, however, the level of detail and accuracy here is far higher than those adapted machines.
Design and Features
The design is where the Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine truly comes into its own. Simply put, the level of detail on display from the genuine wooden panels that make up the cab, to the controls, and the excellent shrunken mirrored screen are truly inspired. Numskull has accurately captured the look of the original 1978 Japanese Taito-made cab (not the American Midway one) in a way that’s seriously impressive, especially for its price and size.
This extends to the controls which are 1:1 with the original cabinet including a white joystick along a horizontal access, a white fire button, and two red buttons for either player one and two. It even extends to the instructions on the left hand side which are copied in full. The coin slot is also accurate, save for the fact that there’s no need to pour quarters into the coin slot.
With all that said, the star of the show with the Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine is the mirrored display as found in the original cab and many like it. This means you get the “Pepper’s ghost effect” with the playable objects in the game reflected at a 45-degree angle onto the detailed colored background. It’s beautifully done and truly elevates this version of the game from any ROM you could ever play on modern hardware; you won’t get this level of authenticity anywhere else outside of pumping quarters in an arcade near you.
This cabinet also feels good. When I run my fingers along the controls it has the smooth laminated vinyl you would expect to find to prevent spills when playing the genuine hardware. It’s remarkable to me how Numskull has managed to convey this so well. As someone who’s had the pleasure of playing Space Invaders several times on a real Taito-made cab, this feels every bit as good design wise, and elevates the build quality from what could have been a shoddy novelty to a bona fide collectible.
For all the praise I’ve lavished on the Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine for how it looks and feels, the most important aspect of any game is how it plays. Well, it turns out that shrinking an arcade machine down to just a fourth the size gives you far less room to manoeuvre. Far from unexpected, sure, but the arcade joystick isn’t exactly the most responsive in the world, which can make actually playing the game a little challenging once you’ve completed the first couple of screens.
The quality of the arcade ROM is absolutely pixel perfect here. From how the aliens rhythmically move and taught you, the way the saucer glides from one side of the screen to the other, to the steady sway of the mobile cannon charged with protecting Earth. It all looks the part backed up by that stunning display and genuinely feels as though someone has somehow shrunk the real deal down to a desk-friendly scale.
It sounds good, but won’t blow you away. Now I’ll admit, my hearing is far from excellent, but I had to get incredibly up close and personal with the machine with the volume dial maxed out to hear those famous bleeps and bloops. Your mileage may vary in this regard, but I didn’t find that the speakers inside of the Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine were particularly powerful. It’s far from a dealbreaker, I just would have liked a little more impact in the audio department to really sell the effect.
Where I really have to praise the overall package is the fact that the cab’s fuelled by a basic USB-C to USB-A connection. For the bulk of my testing I had it plugged into one of the ports on my PC’s top I/O, however, it’ll work just fine plugged into a power strip of USB ports or into an adapter for wall use. I was thankful I didn’t have to unplug anything to get it going, adding to the ease of setup due to its low power consumption; a good touch for sure.
Should you buy the Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade?
The Numskull Space Invaders Quarter Arcade machine is about as close as the vast majority of us will ever come to owning a Taito-made cab from nearly 50 years ago. It looks incredible, plays well, and sounds good despite its cramped design, and is sure to stand out in your game room once the initial novelty has worn off.
If you’re someone that has fond memories of the cabinet and can’t make it out to an arcade that actually has retro games in it reliably anymore then this is an excellent option. What’s more, if you’re someone younger who has somehow never actually played Space Invaders, then this could be a great time to see what all the hype is about.