Game Havens: Joystixx, Las Vegas

And now, I come to a delimma, one which this series, still so young, has not yet faced: if a ‘Game Haven’ sucks, is it still a ‘Haven’?

Yes, Joystixx is about to get a bad review. I should issue forth this caveat, however: Joystixx is not a bad establishment, but the review is given from the point of view of a gamer, someone hunting out an establishment that meshes both social interaction and the love of gaming. One of these factors was found to be lacking.

Onward, into adventure, into the very bowels of mediocrity…

Just off of the famous Vegas strip on Tropicana, right next to the hotel for which the street is named, lay Hooters.

This is what a $190-Million bad investment looks like, kids.

It should be said that I’ve never been a tremendous fan of Hooters, either the restaurant or the hotel-casino. The restaurant, lets face it, has never been known for great food, but rather for the ample bounty of its waitresses sweater-meats. The food is fine, but really nothing I couldn’t get at any sports bar or Applebees anywhere across the country. You put this establishment in Las Vegas, and the nationally famous brand suddenly looks a bit lackluster, where every bar & grill joint has hot, plastic chicks serving up your mass produced wings, phillys, and onion-loafs with maple-jalapeno-ranch dipping sauces. Its just one of the crowd out here, and not even in the high-end of that crowd.

The casino has always felt much the same to me, with Hooters having bought out a previous Casino, reopening the location in 2006. It, to me, lacks in style, flavor or uniqueness; all of the other many hotel-casinos have something to distinguish themselves from the myriad competitors, be it a period theme, a big-name show, or even just a bit of old-Vegas history. The snooze-fest of a destination has been swimming in debt since its opening, and filed Chapter 11 last year. Long story short, they offered me no reason to go there.

…until I saw this bizarre TV commercial:

Unable to resist the triple threat of food, drinks AND gaming (perhaps a quadruple threat, if you count the red and blue penis monsters), I topped off my evening of Carrot Top and Tournament of Kings with a venture over to Joystixx. (I still argue, fellas, that the gag only works if the name is Joystixxx. Also, Joystixx is a band.)

Refusing to walk through the cold December Rain, I cut through the subterranian staff levels of the Tropicana next door and came out at Hooters. BTW, Tropicana, your security is terrible. Finally at my destination, I was greeted by… kind of a snoozefest, really.

Okay, I’ll give them a bit of a break, it WAS a Monday night. Even the massively popular Insert Coin(s) is pretty quiet on a Monday, but the place was emptier than I had figured.  Anyway, on to the particulars:

GAMES: Shit. And right away we come to it. Games are the most important factor in this review, from the standpoint of this site. They’re the reason they created the 8-bit commercial, the reason the place is called Joystixx, and only reason any of you travelers out there are even giving this place a look.

The lonely, lonely arcade cabinets.

Sad to say, there were only a handful of games available. If you compare Joystixx to Insert Coin(s), and the comparison really is inevitable, Joystixx just seems bare by comparison. The arcade games are all shoved into the back of the room, with several large racing machines on the left, and a few other various titles on the right. The only classic arcade game to be had is Pacman. All told, there are probably fewer than a dozen arcade machines. The one advantage that Joystixx does have is that it gives more space to a couple of the larger game types that Insert Coin(s) doesn’t. Their House of the Dead 4 machine looms large with the big-screen edition, and they have Guitar Hero arcade, and those driving games include the full sit-down experience. They also have an air-hockey table a ski-ball ramp, a basketball game, and some pool tables.

But, as much as I have an appreciation for the big table games, which are something I wish Insert Coin(s) had room for, the lack of video game variety makes them feel like an add-on, rather than the focus of the establishment. For a place that sells themselves as being gamer friendly, they sure don’t do a lot to cater to that crowd. The most telling observation is that when I went in, of the patrons in the bar, not one of them were playing a single arcade game. Everyone was just sitting around the bar, sipping sadly on their beers, with the exception of three frat bros who were pumping dollar after dollar into Dragon Punch. My compadre’s 50-cents going into a two-player game of Pac-man were the only coins dropped that night, our versus match the only bwoops, beeps, or buzzes to be heard from any of the arcade cabinets.

It is worth mentioning that there ARE VIP booths to be claimed where you can play consoles on their flat-screen TVs. Regardless, while the games are technically there, the love of gaming is not. There were more games in the back of the pizza place in my hometown as a kid, and it wasn’t named after a game controller.

Pool tables, and the VIP booths. It seems I was the only VIP to be had that night...

 

Food/Drinks: Your opinion of the food will come from your disposition towards Hooters. If you like them, you’re in luck. If not, well… I looked over the menu, since the grill was already closed, and found plenty of familiar treats: Wings, burgers, onion rings, etc. All of them priced reasonably enough. In the end, its bar food, nothing special but certainly not bad. And of course, the more you drink the better it gets.

The drinks too, were in the mid-range. Drink specials offered pretty good deals, if you liked the chosen beer of the night, or came in when wells were on the cheap. Given the insane prices for alcohol in Vegas, you could do much worse, but neither was I blown away by value.

The bartender was a nice young lady, and easy on the eyes. So, the service, at least, gets above average marks.

 

Environment: The bar was clean and neat, a sign of under-use following the grand opening. I can’t complain, though, at least there are no puddles of beer around to accidentally stick a Dual-Shock into.

While I appreciated the cleanliness of the joint, there was a distinct lack of flavor about it. It was a nice enough looking bar, but it did little to distinguish itself from the other bar/grill areas of the Hooters Casino. Were it not for the Austin Powers Pinball machine taunting me from the window, I wouldn’t have known Joystixx from any other area of the place. Unlike so many other arcade or game-themed establishments, Joystixx does little, if anything, to adopt a gamer feel to its surroundings. No Tron-lights, no mario-looking background… there was really no renovation done here at all, was there? Joystixx is just the previous failed bar, cleaned up, and with a few arcade games shoved in there.

So, overall, I can’t say its a bad spot, but its lacking in any real style, or care. Not a single fuck was given when designing this place to be a ‘barcade’. It just kind of… is.

 

Local celebrity Alex Bayless, son of Boxing ref Kenny Bayless, and master of KA -preshow performance, came along to get schooled by me at Pacman.

Crowd: Well, this is difficult to judge since there was no ‘crowd’ to speak of when I went. Judging by the Monday patrons, if I wanted to go have a social experience with other Gamers, this would NOT be the place to go. A bunch of sad looking men drinking beers at the bar, three frat guys punching shit and shooting hoops, and a couple of girls playing air hockey (or maybe it was pool?)… well, at least the whole place wasn’t a total sausage fest.

Still, if this crowd was any indication, the gaming community of Vegas has picked up on the notion that Joystixx was not designed for them, despite what any ads may say, and has veered clear.

 

The folks of Joystixx were nice enough, but they just weren’t giving me what I was looking for. More time and effort needs to be put into the place if they want to cater to the gaming crowd, a crowd that has been gleefully pumping money into Insert Coin(s) since its inception. It takes more than an ad and a name, guys. A good barcade has to have a certain attitude about it, and Joystixx just hasn’t captured it.

And for the record, there were red OR blue penis creatures to be found…