My kids and I love arcade games, video games, pinball and even computer games. Each of us has our favorites, of course, and my youngest even indulges in carnival-style games that generate tickets for the winner, tickets that can then be redeemed for various toys, candy and other prizes. Me? I’m a classic pinball guy and still enjoy a few games of using the flippers to get that heavy metal ball bouncing into just the right bumpers and sensors to unlock the huge bonuses.
When Seattle-based GameWorks invited us to check out their new North Denver (Northfield) GameWorks facility, it was ridiculously easy to have everyone else sign up for the adventure, and when timing was such that my 19yo daughter A-‘s boyfriend was in town, the invitation was extended to him too. Laser tag, eSports, arcade games and carnival games, all unlimited, and whatever food and drinks we’d like too? It was an hour or two that would be long remembered. And actually ended up being 5 1/2 hours!
Unlike our local arcade, GameWorks has no mini-golf, no go-carts, nothing outdoors, so it’s perfect for year-round fun with the kids. It’s also clean and nicely laid out, as you can see in this photo:
In fact, GameWorks has over 160 different games and 210 player stations, including the popular Black Hole, Crossy Roads, Dark Escape 4D, Gold Fishing, Jurassic Park and Kung Fu Panda, along with Tekken 5, Street Fighter 4, Capcom Heroes and Initial D 4. In fact, we were huge fans of Jurassic Park and played quite a few games, zapping all the pesky dinosaurs.
And then there were pinball machines. Only four of ’em, but we agreed that Metallica was a winner, as A- demonstrates, with her boyfriend cheering her on (well, no, checking his smartphone. But we’ll give him credit anyway!):
The pin behind it is Game of Thrones, if you’re curious.
Boyfriend and my younger, K-, had fun racing competitively on more than one unit. Here they are competing on Sno-Cross:
The competitive dance games are always popular at arcades, somewhat to my surprise, as I could never have imagined doing something like that when I was a kid. Or at least, not being very good at it.
But here are A- and Boyfriend, with K- watching, giving a shot at Dance, Dance Revolution SuperNova:
They might not admit it, but all three children (21, 19 and 12) really enjoyed some of the “midway” games, as you can see here with the huge Crossy Roads and Barrel of Monkeys:
I’ve played a little bit of Crossy Roads on my iPhone, so having this massive screen made it a very different experience. More fun, but a bit harder to process it all quickly, as they learned. Just around the corner was a big Bejeweled game too, which was also fun because, well, I’m used to a tiny version of it on my 5″ screen.
Lots of arcade games, but our favorite was Laser Tag, something that only Boyfriend had played before. You suit up with a vest that has sensors on the front, back and shoulders, and a gun (with laser pointer!) that lets you shoot your competitors in the big, foggy arena. Here we are “suiting up”:
GameWorks tells me that its laser tag system, G-Force, is the largest arena in Denver and the third largest laser tag facility in the entire state of Colorado, 5500 square feet of chaos and activities. In fact, there are more than 25 different games available (we just played “every man for themselves” competition) and each game lasts 15 minutes. It was quite a lot of fun, but it’s definitely stressful to avoid having people shoot you from above or below (it’s a two story arena). I did pretty well, coming in third. Not last. So I figured that wasn’t too bad!
We also checked out the “eSports Zone”, a computer and console game play area, sharing a comfy couch and playing almost an hour of Super Mario Bros on the Wii U, to laughs and great entertainment. Then I let the three kids play Mario Kart 8, a game they liked but I find too chaotic with four driver windows all displayed on the same television. The most popular games are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Minecraft (no surprise there), Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8, Rainbow Six: Siege, and League of Legends. A nice, comfortable space, definitely where you can bring your children to get their console gaming fix while you’re enjoying a different game or just sitting in the lounge area, tapping into the free wifi.
Back to the arcade, however, because we found a game that was hilarious fun and complete mad chaos: Pac-Man Smash Air Hockey:
It’s two or four players (one goal on each end) air hockey, but every so often all the mini pucks drop onto the playing surface too and you’re suddenly playing with ten mini-pucks on the surface, which is completely insane. And really, really fun. A very popular game with groups, definitely worth trying!
Somewhere along the way, we realized we needed food and GameWorks was generous enough to reserve a table for us in the main restaurant/lounge area:
You can see there are plenty of screens in the background too. The facility has three 128″ projector TVs, four 60″ TVs and 17 55″ TVs spread throughout the facility (though mostly crowded into the lounge area). The restaurant has a full menu and a full bar, though I didn’t avail myself of even a single beer. Not sure that would help my game, but then again, perhaps I’ll have to head back and try again, it could definitely improve my laser tag game!
I ordered a buffalo chicken wrap with fries, and it was quite tasty:
Overall, however, we were rather disappointed with the food we tried, and A-, a vegan, had zero options on the menu other than “bowl of lettuce”, something that GameWorks might want to consider to help satisfy a more modern palette. But then again, people aren’t heading to GameWorks for food as much as they are to have a great time with all the games, eSports and laser tag options.
Finally, almost six hours after we arrived (!!) K- headed over to the redemption center and translated her almost 500 tickets into whatever prizes and toys she could tally up. And you can see in the background, they have quite an impressive selection!
Which leads to the final question: How much? We were given four unlimited game passes, laser tag passes, an hour of eSports, four $5 midway game cards (only the paid cards allowed you to accumulate tickets) and complimentary dinner and beverages. The usual price for arcade games is $20 for 100 game credits (games take 1-4 credits per), $27 for 190 credits and $52 for 400 credits, all of which you can save and use visit after visit. Laser tag is $8/play/person, so our four player game was a $32 value, and eSports are a quite reasonable $5/hr. GameWorks told me that they have Groupon promotions that offer you the chance to pick up an unlimited one day arcade card plus one laser tag game for $20, which is an outstanding deal worth looking for, no question!
And food? It was typical sports bar food priced about how you’d expect, $10 for nachos, $12 for a Cobb salad, $9 for my buffalo chicken wrap, $10 for a cheese pizza and a few bucks for a soda or iced tea. Nothing to write home about, but better than being ravenous while killing dinosaurs, helping a bird cross a busy road or rolling skee-ball balls up a ramp for the 100 point circle.
But it’s not about the food. It’s about the games. And we had a really great time at GameWorks and will definitely be back!
Disclosure: GameWorks supplied us with vouchers for arcade games, laser tag, egames and food. Which was darn nice of ’em!