Over the course of the past two years you probably fell into one of two categories. Someone that had heard careless whispers about a mysterious place called Joysticks that had been teasing you with opening dates, and someone that had no idea what was about to hit Orlando this month.
While trolls (not the cute 90's kind) who offer nothing to the diversity and creativity of the City Beautiful piled on with complaints about the long wait and false starts on social media, owner Addie Hassel fought through the mire of dealing with the City on construction in a historical building and never relented.
The payoff could be one the coolest places downtown has seen in a long time, sure to take us thirty-somethings back to the happier carefree days of our youth.
Once you pass the doorman (21 and up, have your I.D.'s ready) you can't help but get excited as you enter the black-light stairwell with a mesmerizing mural of 80's and 90's gems.
As you enter you realize this isn't like any Barcade you've seen before. This isn't just a random room downtown with a bunch of arcade games sitting in it. Joysticks might as well be its own miniature gaming theme park.
Players, amateur and pro alike, can enjoy 14 different old school arcade games including Tron, Space Invaders, After Burner, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong just to name a few. There is also a Star Wars pinball machine, NES and Atari consoles with games and of course an air hockey table to pass the time when your favorite game is occupied.
No creepy robot voices claiming "coins detected in pockets" here, all games are free to play.
It's the perfect throwback to an era many of its patrons might be too young to appreciate. A time well before gaming was a solo activity on the couch, connecting you to the outside world only by means of wi-fi and a gaming headset. Gaming is brought back to a group activity as your friends cheer you on as you inch closer to taking the high score for a spot on the board. No one has to be your designated drink holder while your fingers tirelessly mash buttons, you're an adult now, you get a glowing cup holder. Beyond game play, a small stage sits in the corner for future live bands and trivia nights. I'm really hoping for some 80's cover bands to serenade me with some Flock of Seagulls, but time will tell who will grace the stage.
Speaking of music, Joysticks kept the vibe true to classic nostalgia with a playlist full of hits from Phil Collins, Billy Joel, Soft Cell, and of course Michael Jackson. There is currently no cover to get in, but Joysticks has made it clear online there will be a cover on the nights where they have live music.What is most impressive is the detail in the decor. It's clear that Addie and Design Consultant Jeffrey Stelter spared no labor pains in making sure players were transported back to a favorite childhood memory both in gaming and film no matter what area of the bar they visited.
The Lightsaber lounge has a beautiful wall of behind-the-scene Star Wars portraits. You also get your very own Han Solo frozen in carbonite waiting to tell you he knows you love him with the romantic glow of lightsabers surrounding you.
There is also an incredibly intricate "Never Say Die" lounge for all your Goonies fanatics. Have a drink with one-eyed Willy, find the upside down goods on the Statue of David, and watch out for "Slick Shoes". True fans will surely get a kick out of searching through the decor finding key moments from the movie. With homages to Jaws, The Haunted Mansion, Ghostbusters, and yes even Barbie, anyone will be able to find something that speaks directly to their inner child. Unless that is, they were born in 1996. Then they might not quite get the full impact of the greatness this bar holds, but that's ok, we can teach them. The cocktail list will run you anywhere from $9.50 to $14 along with domestic and imported bottled beer. You can also enjoy a Truffle Shuffle shot for $5. If you aren't a big drinker like myself you can still enjoy non-alcoholic drinks like Butterscotch Beer, but I think I just might try the Q'bert next time.
Joysticks is located in Downtown Orlando at 69 E. Pine Street near the Red Mug Diner.
It's still in the soft opening phase, so make sure to follow them on Facebook for more updates about their Grand Opening and other bar details. Until then "Red Five, standing by."