Tucked to the side of the famous Fox Theater in Downtown Riverside sits a new attraction sure to excite and entertain. The Riverside Game Lab is a newly established place for arcade games, both old and new. The Lab opened in late September and touts an eclectic selection of games including everything from classic arcade cabinets to cutting-edge virtual reality.
The first thing one notices about the Game Lab is the atmosphere. The building interior is stylish, lights dimmed and cartoons and movies projected on the walls. There is even wall-sized art of Pac-Man and his titular ghost enemies in one corner. The arcade itself is packed with machines. Many are classic coin-ops: Pac-Man, Asteroids, Galaga, Metal Slug and Street Fighter to name a few. The classic cabinets are interspersed with newer titles, making the experience of walking through the Lab like going through a grab bag of video game history.
The games all seem to be in good condition. Even the older ones like the Asteroids machine in the back row of the arcade handle surprisingly well for their age. Be careful though — every so often a machine can be finicky and eat one of your tokens on accident.
When I visited the Game Lab, I made a beeline for the pinball machines. A sizeable amount of the Lab is devoted to pinball games. Machines featuring iconic franchises like Star Wars, Iron Man and Batman dominate two entire walls of the arcade. Several of the machines at the Lab carried the faces of Doctor Who, Tron and Indiana Jones. There are some newer machines with fancy digital displays, but there’s also an assortment of vintage pinball machines. These machines may be older but they are no less exciting; they arguably have more character than their flashier, modern counterparts. Much like the arcade games, these machines manage to be tons of fun no matter how old they are.
But the main staple of the Lab is virtual reality. The Lab has a wall of virtual reality stations where patrons can play a number of VR games or go through a number of VR experiences. Among the titles offered in the Lab’s repertoire are Beat Saber, Job Simulator and Loco Dojo. The staff are particularly enthusiastic about the VR attractions and readily engage with customers about the different selection of games they offer. The employee that spoke with me was excited to share that there were new VR games being added all the time. For parties that want some privacy while they play, the Game Lab also offers private rooms that can be reserved, complete with space for up to eight players.
But if pinball, coin-ops or VR still aren’t your thing, the Game Lab still has you covered. There are also an assortment of more modern racing games, shooters, carnival games, rhythm games and even an air hockey table to round it all out. For adults, the back room of the Lab serves as a bar, and there are tables at the front for patrons to sit and mingle. The Lab is open for adults only after 10 p.m., but despite this, the Lab is still a place for people of all ages. It’s not uncommon to see families and young couples enjoying themselves throughout the arcade. There is something for everybody.
The Riverside Game Lab offers a new, stylish take on the classic arcade. Alongside its myriad of titles and types of games, it offers a cool and inviting atmosphere that can appeal to just about anyone. The Riverside Game Lab is open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Fridays through Saturdays.