Southern California has a new ‘retro’ pinball and video game spot that focuses on the way arcades existed in a now-bygone era, without the domination of prize and/or ticket redemption games that are now the norm.
And that’s exactly how owner Bob Elson envisioned his place from the very beginning, with special emphasis on a family-friendly environment that preserves that same fun and magic that people fondly remember.
The appropriately-named Retrovolt Arcade is located in Calimesa, California, about 75 miles east of downtown Los Angeles (less than a 90-minute drive depending on the time of day). The arcade first opened in April 2017 in the neighboring town of Mentone but was forced into a 3-month-long relocation to its present site because of zoning issues at the original location.
As of this writing, the arcade is open for business four days a week (Thursday thru Sunday); doors open at 4pm Thu & Fri, 12 noon Sat & Sun, and close nightly at 11pm (9pm Sunday).
Retrovolt at present has approximately twenty-three pinballs and forty video games, all set on free play. Admission into the arcade is $10 (€8.47/£7.57) per hour per person, for unlimited play. Currently this is the only rate offered (no half-hours, child rates, etc.), but Bob says this may change in the future as the business gets more established.
Upon pre-paying your time at the front door, you are given a large white sticker (like the kind used for address labels) that has your “end” time written on it with a Sharpie, and you apply this sticker to the front of your shirt. Customers’ time is overseen using a large LED digital clock that hangs high over the front counter, and the Retrovolt employees walk the floor at regular intervals, letting people know their time is up as is necessary. Additional time can be purchased anytime at the front counter (up until one hour before closing, obviously).
The pinball lineup focuses on late-’70s to mid-’90s solid state pins, with some variation either way. The newest games presently on site are Star Trek and Ghostbusters (both Pro models).
The pins have all had considerable cleanup and restoration work done on them, resulting in very good overall playability. (One small example that caught my eye was the presence of a brand-new ‘Dunk the Dummy’ drop target on the 1985 Williams Comet pinball.) Several of the older pins have had their bulbs changed out to LEDs and are, for the most part, kept true-to-form in terms of lamp color and appearance. (Attack from Mars looks especially nice in this regard.)
The current Retrovolt pinball lineup:
The video games are likewise from the ‘golden era’ of arcades, and all the biggies are here (Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. and Zaxxon, just to name a few). A small handful are modern-day recreations and/or outfitted with LCD screens, but many are vintage originals. There was even one multi-game cabinet that had 600+ games to select from (I believe it was called Pandora’s Box 4.)
No food or alcohol is available on site, but sodas and bottled water can be purchased from a cooler kept behind the front counter. There is also a New York-style pizzeria next door to Retrovolt that specializes in pizza, pasta and subs for dine-in or take out.
Retrovolt Arcade offers a well-thought-out and well-done look back at arcade gaming the way it used to be, and this, along with the friendly and knowledgeable staff, is already earning tremendous player appeal based on reviews on the site’s Facebook page and elsewhere online.
For those in the Inland Empire (or anywhere else, for that matter) that were part of those days – as well as those that simply can’t wait a full year for the next Arcade Expo show in nearby Banning – Retrovolt Arcade is definitely worth a look.