I went to visit my mom and step-dad in the Tampa Bay area in mid-May, 2015. I had looked around the net for Bay area arcades before departing Arizona, and I found Replay Amusement Museum in Tarpon Springs, FL. Here's a rough transcript of what I said to my mom when she picked me and my wife up from the airport:
"Hey mom, great to see you! I missed you! ... So, how far is Tarpon Springs from your place?" Luckily, my mom already had a plan to take us to the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, so I already had a ride.
I visited Replay on May 16th, 2015 while my mom and wife wandered the quaint downtown of TS. Just like the website said, the admission fee was $13 per adult for the remainder of that day's business hours. The staff were friendly and attentive, and I could tell they were not just there to punch a clock; each staff member could carry on conversations about the games they had and some that they didn't have, and they were versed in video game and pinball lore.
The video games and the pinball machines were set on Free Play, and most of the machines were in good working order. If I remember right, TZ was dark, but that doesn't even faze me anymore. On their website, they listed The Who's Tommy the Pinball Wizard as one of the games they had on loan, but it was not on the floor. I meant to ask where it was since I've not played that pin yet, but I was having too much fun with the games they did have and I forgot to ask about PW. Also, LotR went down while I was there, which was a bummer, but it happens. I did get to play a lot of great games despite these minor glitches.
In the images accompanying this story, you'll see a few broad shots of their pins and a few shots of me playing games. In the pics, I'm playing Haunted House, JJ's Wizard of Oz (non-75th), and Hercules.
Haunted House is Haunted House - I like it and I've played it quite a bit. I think everyone taking the time to read this already has an opinion about HH.
However, Wizard of Oz was a lot of fun. I played it briefly at Zapcon here in Arizona (see previous stories), but I really got into the game at Replay. I'll admit that there were so many (really bright!) lights flashing on the playfield and animations on the monitor that I never really did figure out the ruleset or mode starts. Some games just hypnotize me to the extent that I don't even want to engage my neurological analytical processing functions - I just want to watch the shiny ball fly all over the pretty PF. I had that rush of excitement while playing Oz, and that is enough for me to like a game. And, truth be told, I'm not a dedicated fan of the theme - the IP of Wizard of Oz just doesn't trigger one of those truly nostalgic, fun memories for me. But the game succeeded in pulling me in and keeping me against the coin door for a good half hour.
Now on to Hercules... pause for laughter... Really, for me it's a neat do-it-so-you-can-say-you-did-it experience. I don't think anyone is going to be thrilled by the game play or the theme, no matter how oversized it is. But I am glad that places like Replay and the Florida Arcade Community (see pic) are willing to keep that monstrosity around. It is part of pinball history and I like to see that history nurtured in public view, which brings me to the best thing about Replay: they really were rekindling a love for arcades and pinball games.
When I first went in to Replay, there were only an handful of people in there. The staff gave me a wristband to prove my admission was paid, and I could wander in and out whenever I wanted (though I didn't!). Customers / patrons were coming in and out all day, so I don't have a good count of how many people actually went through there. I'm guessing at least 70 different people came in and out for the two and a half hours I was there ("Only 2.5 hrs?" you ask? Yeah, I know, I was trying not to be rude to my family - if I lived in or near Tarpon Springs, it would've been a different story). However, I was amazed by the demographics of the customers. They were young and old and from all walks of life. Here's a shaky video of a walkthrough I did while I was there so you can see for yourself (I'm not a videographer - you've been warned).
I was impressed by the staff and the quality and quantity of the machines at Replay. I'm hoping that arcades like these are making a comeback because I sure do miss 'em. I'll close with a little preaching: If you can, support your local co-ops and arcades - future generations might learn to put their mobile devices down for a few minutes and enjoy the physical thrill that only real pinball machines can offer.