I'd like to start by thanking the owners for creating APM. We had a college visit nearby this weekend, at Brevard College. After a drive through Pisgah National Forest, I said to my wife, "Hey look, we're coming into Asheville!". I warmed her up with a visit to the Grove Park Inn and gallery, and after that it was easy to talk the family into a trip to the APM. My 17-year-old son and I went there, while my wife went shopping.
Let's start with the good. At 3:30, my son and I were visitors #97 and #98. That tells me that the APM is doing a booming business. I'd say they took in at least $1000 today. They seem to have a great location, with shopping for disinterested family members nearby, and plenty of parking (we parked in a deck a few blocks away). The vibe is very much "80's arcade", with low lighting, and ceilings painted flat black. Behind the bar was an explosion of 80's/90's kitsch, which my son loved. He said "This is my childhood, Dad!" and took a bunch of pictures with his phone. Some of the older games were converted to frosted white LEDs, and they looked and played great. Roller Games was the only pin turned off; everything else was playable except an EM gun game in the back.
The video section is nice. Tempest and Asteroids looked and played great. I'm just happy to see a few nice vectors, so to be honest I missed everything else. The kids apparently love the Neo Geo, and some of the newer games. Beyond the video section, there's a back-back-room, which appears to double as a staging area and break room. Even here, there were playable games (mostly gun games). The bathroom is also back here, and the kitsch continues with action figures up near the ceiling.
There are some negatives. With a few exceptions (IM, and pins with frosted LEDs), most games were poorly lit. The DMDs were missing entire strings of GI lighting: No GI in the top third of Jurassic Park, left string out on Who Dunnit, and no GI at all on TAF. RCT was dark and had no backbox lighting. Several games used colored LEDs for lighting (also the most directional kind, which made it even worse).
I didn't notice any serious problems with games being level, but man were they slow! It soon became clear that this was to compensate for weak flippers, in many cases. The games all *played*, but half of them had some signature defect. The pop bumpers were out on one game, and there were a few machine-gunning slings. Hercules was fun, but several GI bulbs were out. Gorgar was really dark, and one switch was stuck, scoring points repeatedly. There's no way you could run a tournament here.
On the path from the front door to the bar, there are 5-6 pins from the 40's and 50's. They're all beautiful examples, but "display only" - you couldn't play them. I won't begrudge them for the Space Station coffee table in this area, which actually looked pretty nice.
I want to end on a few high notes: the employees at APM are great people. I mentioned that Mars Trek had run out of credits, and the tech leaped into action, even apologizing. Mars Trek is a really fun pin, by the way. There were also some rare pins (Allied Leisure "Getaway"), and 3 fully working system 80s - quite a feat in itself. A nice-ish working Panthera was for sale for $900, and it was only the prospect of divorce that kept me from buying it and taking it home.
In summary, I think the APM have a good thing going, but they're missing out on repeat business. When I go back to Asheville, I'll probably check out the microbreweries, or go for a hike nearby. Life is too short to play dark, slow pins.