Tuesday 11 September 2018

Arfon’s Arcade Expedition

Penny Fun Arcade, Pwllheli -North Wales
'then and now' 
You will recall my 39th Birthday Bonanza- 299th Blog Post Special back in January reporting my visit to the Arcade Club in Bury who provide many of us with our much needed arcade nostalgia fix but shortly after my visit I found myself wondering what is the general state of the modern arcade? I understand it’s still going but it must have changed somewhat because we seem to be seeking out the classics and if this is indeed the case how much has it changed? Unlike most of us these days I am actually able to say that my local arcade is still open however, the Penny Fun arcade in Pwllheli North Wales was a regular haunt of mine back in the early to mid 90’s although somewhat different these days, this was the place I convened with my friends and played such games as Pac Land, Outrun, WWF and Robocop 2, why I even had my first proper kiss outside of it just next to the medieval Themed Aqua Blasta... but I digress! I was always in here either socially or passing the time waiting for buses during my college years. The Penny Fun arcade was opened back in 1970 as part of the Funland Fairground which has occupied ‘Y Maes’ in Pwllheli since the 1960’s when travelling fairground Ht Studts & Sons decided to stop travelling up and down the country and trade solely in the market town. It was reopened in 2005 with larger premises and a cafe and continues to thrive, so I thought I would pop in for a visit and see just how much has changed... a great deal!
The building is somewhat larger and filled with various redemption machines, High Resolution racing simulators and the familiar 2p machines but there to the side, the only two ‘relics’ of the past the original Midway Addams Family pin-ball machine (which I remember being new!) and an original Harry Corbett Sooty T.V Concert machine from the 1970’s both of which were a welcome sight! Please don’t misunderstand me I am incredibly impressed by the standard of today’s amusement machines, I just happen to prefer the classics... If I had to name a second arcade that I frequented during adolescent years I would say the ones at Butlin's Pwllheli the holiday camp located around 4 miles outside Pwllheli. A little trickier to get to it had originally been opened in 1947 but renamed ‘Starcoast World’ by 1990 the occasional visit aside I worked a summer season there back in 1995 (I say worked I actually spent most of my time riding the rollercoaster and visiting the arcade...) but in 1999, the camp became part of Haven Holidays and renamed Hafan y Môr (Sea Haven) and most of its attractions such as the chairlift, miniature railway, roller coaster and funfair removed focusing mostly on static caravan accommodation. It still has an ‘arcade’ as such but it’s a shadow of its former self.

SO I decided to pass that one in my mission to further explore the modern day arcade and travel a little further afield, 60 miles in fact to another infrequent haunt of mine, Rhyl North Wales, a seaside resort town and popular tourist destination and to quote Wikipia if I may, “Once an elegant Victorian resort, there was an influx from Liverpool and Manchester after the Second World War that changed the face of the town. The area had declined dramatically by 1990, but has since been improved by a series of regeneration projects that have brought in major investment. Several millions of European funding, secured by the Welsh Government, has been spent on developing Rhyl's seafront” I remember a time when all you saw along that seafront were arcades and so I thought it would be the perfect site for this little 7 mile expedition of mine! Starting out in the small town of Towyn also a seaside resort located just before Rhyl awash with caravan parks, arcades, pubs and restaurants catching trade passing in and out of Rhyl

Fun Factory - 10 Sandbank Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9LB
A great start to the expedition! Filled with various redemption machines and numerous fruit machines (never really appealed to me) and I loved the Angry Birds machine! Special Mention: A Zoltar Machine outside! A traditional gypsy fortune teller machine that inspired the Zoltar from the movie Big these machines are  produced by Harem Leisure lovely machine, and well worth your time and money.

Zoltar outside the Fun Factory!

Knightly's Amusements - Sandbank Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9LD
Part of the Knightly's Fun Park their sign proudly declares “A family business since 1961” and quite right too as they offer a traditional setting for largely new machines, racing games seem to be very popular almost as much as those before mentioned redemption and fruit machines which seemed to dominate the room, although I did like the Tom and Jerry themed 2p machine.    

The Dunes Casino Lounge - Sandbank Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9LB
Small and adjoining the pub this one I rather liked, it had all the classic seaside arcade trappings that appeal to me- small, enclosed no nonsense. Pirates Gold machine, Saga Racers the Arm Champs 2 was fun. 
Special Mention: House of the Dead, out of order missing a gun... I wonder if they would let me have it if I asked nicely?

The Dunes Casino Lounge, nice traditional layout- House of the Dead (1997)

Electric Avenue Amusement Arcade -Towyn Road, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9EP
Another batch of ticket machines and fruit machines although there was a rather nice retro one armed bandit there that we had a go at. A rather lovely looking Sonic Sports Air Hockey table and something else that interested me, which I hadn’t been aware of, possible copyright infringing themed machines such as ones featuring a cave man called  ‘Freddie’ and  one featuring a cyborg called ‘The X-Terminator’... Special Mention: An original (albeit slightly damaged) Addams Family Generator I played one of these in Rhyl back in 2003 when I visted the Palace of Pleasure (or... Rhyl's RustyLady)...

Electric Avenue Amusement Arcade:  Sonic Sports Air Hockey an Addams Family Generator (1999)

Fun Factory - 75 Towyn Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9HQ
Another Fun Factory which I would have almost dismissed for having almost identical redemption machines but for that dedicated Terminator Salvation game at the back- very impressive!

Fun Factory: A nicely dedicated Terminator Salvation (2010) corner 

The Black Cat Amusement Arcade - Towyn Rd, Towyn, Abergele LL22 9HQ
Another one of those arcades that feels ‘traditional’ with some age behind it, I did ask a member of staff and apparently they have been open since the 60’s a great looking Kentucky Derby at the back and even PacMan makes an appearance, although only on the facade of  a PacMan Ball a 2p machine. Special Mention: Classic metal Walls Ice Cream bin and House of the Dead 2.

The Black Cat Amusement Arcade ‘s Kentucky Derby 

Lyons Winkups Amusements - Towyn Rd, Towyn, Abergele  LL22 9EN
Although I was perhaps more impressed with the Raging Ape  hand-wrestling game outside and the Tower of Terror game inside a Special Mention: for their arcade style carpeting throughout, although there was blue neon in the ceiling the black light that emitted from the Lane Master Game made it come up a treat and I wish they did more with it!  
Side Note: We had our lunch at the integrated Route 66 Diner an Americana styled restaurant that doesn’t sell Coke... once you get over that factor it’s very nice, I had the Elvis themed Chicken Burger. Yum!
Lyons Winkups Amusements Arcade: Carpeting and lighting 

Lyons Winkups Holiday Park - Towyn, Abergele LL22 9EL
Part of the Carvan Park’s entertainment with a small but nice selection of shooting or racing games. The Chameleon Paradize kiddie game was cute...

Palace Fun Centre38-45 W Parade, Rhyl LL18 1HG
The Palace Fun Centre is one of the biggest family entertainment centres in the area they have skill games and cranes, instant prizes, mini bowling, indoor mini-quad’s, fun gamblers and big video challenges not forgetting Laser Zone a laser combat game (more about them in a future post) I walked around the countless fruit machines and weaved my way through children running around with tickets to find something that I liked... Aliens Extermination... Aliens Armageddon with the Batman Racing game possibly being the only driving game that appealed to me...
Palace Fun Centre: Aliens Extermination (2006), Aliens Armageddon (2010) and Batman (2017)

Mr B's Amusements - 29-33 W Parade, Rhyl LL18 1HF
One of the very few places that promotes the humble Pool table.

The Palace Casino Lounge - 21 West Parade in Rhyl
A bright red flashing fruit machine and Bingo mecha and so I didn’t hold much hope in finding what I liked in here, there was a great Rambo game there and Temple Run but there in the corner was a welcome sight   Space Invaders FRENZY! A modern take on the classic, officially licensed from Taito it has dual cockpit seating”Ultra-powerful blasters” 8 foot LED display! I took my seat inserted my £1 and frankly dear reader, rocked! Those invaders didn’t stand a chance! I loved it and the machine proceeded to vomit 500 tickets all over my leg (much to the dismay of the child waiting behind me!) in today’s currency 500 tickets is the equivalent of 4 arcade keyrings!  
Space Invaders FRENZY! 
Casino Corner - Rhyl LL18 1HE
Permanently closed, now a retro looking Pigeon perch!

Queens Bowling Centre - Rhyl LL18 1HD
A lot of crane machines and usual slots and guess what, Bowling! Bowlingo to be precise, 6 lanes and great one it is too. Side note, no photos- the only place to object to me taking photos...

The Bright Spot Arcade - Rhyl LL18 1HD
The Bright Spot arcade was the first arcade owned by Solomon Lawrence Parker (1908 – 1999) of Parker Leisure (they also owned the before mentioned Black Cat).  And they  produced around 2000 Allwin machines(a generic term for a cup and ball machine) in the 1950’s for their own arcades before other showmen and arcade operators took note and started buying them for their own premises making Parker Leisure a key figure in the world of amusements. The arcade is still going strong and marked the end of our expedition. So what did I learn? Regarding Rhyl itself only half of its arcades are still running these days, which is sad. This expedition took place on a mild August day but there were masses of people around so the demand is still there. But as for the classic style arcade the Pacman’s, Konami X-Men’s and Mad Dog McCrees have long gone and even the classic novelty machine is a rare sight... Bingo is alive and well, the fruit machine is king and the penny arcade is now a land of crane machine and redemption machines, nobody seems to play for high scores anymore- it’s all about those tickets!

My sincere thanks to everyone that made this post possible- support your local arcade!
© Arfon Jones 2018. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


  1. Oh golly, an Addams Family pinball machine? Excellent. Bubble Bobble was my arcade game of choice back in the day.

    1. One of the all time, greatest pin ball machines! (although I'm rather partial to revenge from mars) they had Bubble Bobble there as well! :)

  2. Hey
    Keep it up and always share informative stuff like this.



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