Button City Review – On The Importance of Arcades

Button City Review

Arcades totally rule. At least, they did once, and Button City remembers that fact. If you spent time in arcades growing up, this game will hit the heart meat with laser-guided precision. In fact, Button City represents an ideal version of the local arcade you may have frequented as a kid. I suppose there’s also a stirring parable about friendship and loss mixed in. But truly, the glittering core of this game is that rose-tinted look at the caverns of cabinets and coins we all remember.

You play Fennel, the new kid in town. You’ve barely run your first errand for your mom before Button City, the titular arcade, sucks you in. While there’s a handful of familiar titles scattered about, everyone in town is playing Gobabots. Two teams of four compete to harvest fruit, all to build the biggest possible smoothie. You’re immediately pulled into a team fighting to win the championship. The game wastes little time getting to the action, which I appreciate. Although the narrative pace is pretty breezy, you can explore this beautiful world at your leisure. On top of the nested series of arcade games, this is also a stack of low-poly dioramas.

A Paradise of Low-Poly Pastels

While the visuals are fairly simple, they’re also deliciously vibrant. Each tiny section is drenched in eye-popping pastels. Between that and the laid-back music, you’re strongly encouraged to just pause and take things in. The actual arcade is the best example of this. I spent a long time clicking on every object, soaking up the flavor text and the clean, colorful designs. The character models are expressive and engaging, while the Gobabot designs are so good I want the gacha toys to like, actually exist. I want to visit this arcade, I want to live in this town. Even if doing so means dealing with the bizarre, delightful logistical issues.

Button City

The citizens of this town seem aware that they’re living and working on a disconnected series of pastel dioramas. It’s a fun, subtle bit of fourth wall breakage that mostly serves to add more charm to the larger game. People you’re chasing after will suddenly disappear, having selected a different layer to travel to. Things chucked off the edge just… keep falling, travelling the same weird loop the player would while scrolling through the available sections. This doesn’t affect the story at all, it’s just another little bit of polish to marvel at. Like an actual set of dioramas, you’re always finding new tiny things of note.

Always New Things To Uncover

Since this is an arcade, there must be arcade games. The list is short, but all of them are well-crafted distractions. The Initial D tribute gave me some trouble at first, but it turns out you never have to stop boosting? Just a constant pressure on the turbo button at all times. Discount Dance Dance Revolution was a tougher nut to crack. Pretty much impossible, but it’s also the game I spent the least amount of time on. If this seems like shallow waters to wade in, you can also unlock performance boosts and alternate game modes. Also, there’s a fan game dating sim based on the Gobabots character roster.

Button City

Button City is a super short game. Less than ten hours, even. But you could easily double that runtime just by diving into the other arcade titles. These games are another diorama proxy, a tactile puzzle box that rewards careful, consecutive exploration. Also, there are sidequests! These I found less engaging, as they involve a ton of running around a limited space, but that door is always open. And the temptation to walk through is powerful. I found myself loathe to hit that finish line too fast. I wanted to meander, to stop along the way. Button City is so cute, so endearing, you’d be forgiven for taking your time with it.

Like a good diorama, Button City has a lot of fine detail. Sure the story is breezy and the characters are charming, but what about the games? What about the simple, engaging level design? I wish the sidequests were less about long walks, yes. I want a run button so very badly, it’s true. And the games could actually be harder. But I still want to visit this weird little town. I want to keep coming back to this arcade, I want to get sick of the only good games, I want to save up for the only good prizes. Whether you remember places like this or not, Button City is a delightful escape to the lost world of arcades. Heck, if you’ve got one in your town, this might convince you to start going again.

***A PS5 code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Charming Graphics
  • Wicked fun mini games
  • Lots to explore and uncover

The Bad

  • Needs a run button
  • Sidequests are kind of boring
  • Games often too hard / too easy