Pinball, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Pong, Simon and Shoot the Moon are just a few of the vintage arcade, video or table top games available to play.
Dinah Routhier celebrates at a pinball machine at Portland Arcade in South Portland. Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Dinah Routhier tries her luck at air hockey at Portland Arcade in South Portland. Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Dinah Routhier concentrates during a game of Mario Brothers. Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
A giant Pac Man greets visitors at Portland Arcade in South Portland. Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
A roomful of vintage table top video games at Portland Arcade in South Portland. Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Who says a place can’t be historic and fun for kids?
Certainly not fans of Portland Arcade in South Portland, where people of all ages play vintage 1970s pinball machines or 1980s video arcade games, lounge on mid-century furniture, and listen to records by Blondie or The Cars.
The place is a combination arcade, museum and mid-20th century rec room. It certainly holds a lot of appeal for those of us who grew up with rec rooms, before home theaters and man caves took over the family basement. But would such a place hold any allure for youngsters used to being able to play any game they want simply by pilfering their parents’ iPhone?
To find out we asked 9-year-old Dinah Routhier, daughter of this reporter, to go to Portland Arcade and give it a try. She was accompanied by her 12-year-old sister, Sophie.
Dinah has been reviewing fun places for kids to visit for Maine Today since last summer, including the Get Air trampoline park and the Haven’s Candies factory tour. In both those cases, Dinah was well-versed in her subjects beforehand. But she had never before used the flipper on a pinball machine, never played Donkey Kong on a free-standing machine, and had certainly never seen the early and ultra-simple home video game, Pong.
The Portland Arcade was new territory to her. Here’s what she thought of it.
What was your favorite thing about Portland Arcade?
I liked Mars (an arcade video game similar to Asteroids), because you can move the spaceship thing and shoot at things at the same time. Also, I liked pinball, because….I don’t know why but I liked it.
Was it fun to play new games you’d never seen before?
What were some of the other things you liked to play while you were there?
I liked to play the (Nintendo Super) Mario game and Shoot the Moon. (The latter, made in 1959, is a game where the player has to manipulate two metal rods to get a metal ball to climb upward and land in the farthest hole. Dinah could be heard muttering “Oh c’mon” each time the steel ball fell short. But she kept at it.)
What would you tell other kids who might come here?
They let you bring food, so it might be fun to bring your lunch or a snack while you’re playing.
What were some of the fun things to see there, besides the games?
It was cool to look at some of the furniture in the waiting area, ’cause there’s, like, old-fashioned stuff, like from the 80s, and it’s cool.
What might you like to try if you went back a second time?
Well, I did mostly everything except the things that were out of order (including a pinball machine and an arcade-style video game), and I’d like to try those. (Dinah did indeed try just about everything. That’s the beauty of paying one price, you can try something for just a couple minutes and not worry about getting your money’s worth. Or in Dinah’s case, your dad’s money’s worth.)
WHERE: 22 Cottage Road, South Portland.
WHEN: Open Wednesday to Sunday most weeks, hours vary and are posted at portlandarcade.wix.com/portland-arcade
HOW MUCH: $7 for 90 minutes, $10 for all day; $85 an hour to rent the arcade for a private party.