I've been to Dismaland! Sadly the advance tickets cost £5, tipping it from haunted house ride to proper exhibition, and Jimmy Cauty didn't serve ice creams between throwing money into the fire pit.
Otherwise it was surprisingly fun, partly thanks to the atmosphere generated by a full house of equally bemused people like Summer Holiday met Threads.
Though Dismaland included a few distressed kiddy rides, which probably came free with the former outdoor pool it occupies, one notable omission from this broken seaside experience was amusements.
Which in the twisted spirit of the affair should have contained lots of excellent arcade games rather than the usual fruit machines, coin pushers, and solitary Daytona USA wedged vertically in the toilets missing half a steering wheel but still charging £1. So after Weston Super-Mare, complete your experience with a short diversion to the Timewarp Arcade in Bridgwater. Or make a special trip anyway because it's worth it.
The Timewarp Arcade feels like one of those places started by gaming enthusiasts and destined to run out of money, but with a better business plan than most.
It was quite popular with children and families, presumably locals who bankroll passing gamers like myself wanting to recapture their youth.
Instead, those actual youths running between machines made me feel old. Most were fairly well-behaved: despite being utterly terrible at Fighting Mania, no onlookers formed to mock my inept flailing, or at least made their recordings from a respectful/safe distance.
There's probably more of a competitive, score-chasing atmosphere in the evenings. Mid-afternoon was a good time to refine my mad Prop Cycle skills in relative peace, by which point I was regretting only allowing two hours for this visit. It was barely enough time to also fail the first stage of R-Type II, get a high score on Space Invaders '91, not completely fluff the Easy course in Manx TT, and channel the spirit of Kieron Gillen in Dancing Stage.
Sadly, the sit-down Star Wars cabinet monitor had recently "gone to the Dark Side", Lethal Weapon pinball was firing blanks, Silent Scope silenced, and Outrunners Outrunner. However, the venue was tidy and controls responsive, so poorly machines must get the love and repairs they deserve once spares arrive.
Entrance is £6 and all machines are on free play, so it's a bargain for anyone with even a passing interest in such things.
Personally I'd like some more from the 1980s such as Tempest or Asteroids: partly for their beautiful vector displays, partly for the era before credits could be used as continues, encouraging deep pockets over skill.
I could start my own arcade instead, but that would cost rather more than £6 and involve significant administrative hassle. Embezzling funds so they can buy some more classics seems the easier option (invoice for gin.)
Unfortunately, Digi readers are probably spread around the country such that most would spend rather more getting there than on entry fees. So here's the other attractions: pool tables and air hockey, sofas with retro and modern consoles to hand, together with reasonably priced soft drinks and snacks. There's also a games shop out front offering retro and new releases, a small selection of Games Workshop goodies, DVDs, and essential sweeties for gaming marathons.
It's probably this shop, together with repeat local customers, that keeps the arcade going financially. I was hoping to find a few more rarities inside, but Eternal Darkness for £12 was good enough and far preferable to buying from Ebay. Parking was no problem, more substantial food is available from the adjacent high street, and should you wish to further ruin your arcade vision with daylight, Bridgwater itself has some character.
I hope the Timewarp Arcade continues, especially because I waited for a convenient opportunity to visit the Arcade Barn in Devon. Don't make the same mistake. Show your support for such places before old arcade games can only be found in private collections. David Walford