I like to think of myself as a nice guy. A chivalrous sort with a charitable soul, my witty observational humor ready to go at a moment’s notice. But some days I don’t know, man. There’s a darker side of me that I don’t like to speak about, and Claw Machine Arcade ($1.00) may finally be what it takes for me to drag this skeleton out of the closet (with a handful of credits and a claw, of course) and into the harsh light of reality.
You see, when I was younger, frequenting the local arcades and wasting numerous hard-earned allowances to try out non-existent fatalities in Mortal Kombat (no fancy internet to separate truth from the lies in them days), I had a strange gift. Not for picking winning stocks, betting on underdog horses, or counting cards at Blackjack, but for getting stupid, cheap toys out of the arcade’s ubiquitous claw machine.
That gift didn’t happen without some help, watching from afar as others failed based on my advice, using their tokens (and their hope) as my pawns to move the pieces just right, so that the next play, I’d be in position to nab the prize. Was that fair? No. Certainly not. Was it smart? You bet it was, and time after time, token after token, I’d snag whatever stuffed animal or worthless trinket I was after, watching my newly-acquired wealth spill over the sides of the wall and into my morally-bankrupt hands.
I was King of the Claw in my youth, a tiny Daniel Plainview drinking people’s milkshakes, but Claw Machine Arcade may finally be the revenge I was destined to receive in adulthood, its prizes squirming and shooting away just beyond my reach, laughing at me as the soccer balls and spaceships wiggled out of the claw’s deathgrip and tumbled back into the mix, just short of the wall that would have set them free.
Of course, this is intentional in some spots. While the default machine is a walk in the park, allowing you to scoop up multiple toys and teddies with ease, the ‘Fish’ and ‘Space’ cabinets up the ante, adding moving parts (live fish, natch) and hazards that are aces at maneuvering out of your way no matter how accurate you are. Other tricks, like miniature black holes, actually attract the surrounding prizes. With options to change the claw type, the amount of tokens, adjust the timer, etc., each machine can be tinkered with to an extent, making it more, or less of, a challenge, and instead a ‘just for fun’ thing.
Funny, anecdotal stories aside, Claw Machine Arcade is exactly what it claims to be, no better and no worse than that. There’s no real depth to it beyond the luck of the draw, nor is the content anything mind-blowing, but as a throwaway party game or a nostalgic journey through childhood guilt, it may hold something worthwhile for some of us.