When I was a teenager in the mid-1990s, I used to visit the London Trocadero on weekends. At the time it was home to a SegaWorld amusement arcade that included all sorts of games and indoor rides so it was easy to get lost in there for a while. It started to change though when the venue was renamed to ‘Funland’ in 2000 and gradually we, along with other visitors, stopped coming.
Fast-forward to 2019 and my department at work was organising its annual summer party. It turned out the director had decided this would held at Namco Funscape this year – part of the Bandai Namco group and just like how the Trocadero used to be when we were kids. So on an afternoon at the end July, we all cleared out of the office a few hours early, crammed ourselves onto a sweaty tube train and made our way over to Westminster for an evening of fun and games.
The sense of nostalgia walking in was huge: the flashing lights and beep-boop sounds felt like returning to those weekend visits as a teenager. I was sad to see that the old ‘rocket’ escalator hadn’t made its way to the venue and we had to make do with standard escalators to take us down to the reserved area in the basement. A selection of pool and ping-pong tables had been set aside for us along with a private bar, and I think that made most of my colleagues forget their disappointment.
After a couple of drinks and some time to cool off under the air-conditioning, Phil and I went back upstairs to check out what was on offer in the arcade. It felt smaller than the old centre at the Trocadero but was still as loud and had the familiar circular dodgems track situated in the middle of all the games. Although we gave that a miss, we did jump on Pac-Man and Connect 4 – and even found a Tomb Raider machine among all those dedicated to mobile titles like Flappy Bird.
I had a thing about those old Zoltar fortune-teller machines when I was young and would always make a beeline for them during family trips to the seaside. It therefore pleased me to see one of these tucked away in the corner and we couldn’t resist finding out the fate of one of our colleagues. Obviously the cards are written to be vague enough so they apply to absolutely everybody, but after a couple of beers it’s hilarious when it seems as if someone’s life has been foretold.
It was a pleasant night out topped off by a walk along the Thames in the sun, and although It was good to feel like a kid again I’m not sure I’ll be going back to Namco Funscape soon. As can be the case with many commercial arcades like this, I’d imagine it would be quite expensive if we’d gone there independently of a paid-for work event; and the strange smell of feet everywhere was a little off-putting (I guess that’s what you get for having an indoor bowling area in the heat).
Have you been to the venue and what did you think? And are there any better amusement arcades in London that are worth visiting?
Namco Funscape London photo gallery
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.