Dave & Buster’s Orlando: Now Open

I’ve seen ads on TV for Dave & Buster’s since moving down here, but for the last 4 years there hasn’t been one nearby. I think the nearest one was Miami. Anyhoo, it looked like a fascinating idea — a restaurant full of standard American fare, attached to a video game arcade. It made me think of GameWorks, but maybe a little less indie-hipster-gastropub. (I don’t know if all GameWorks locations were like that, but the Seattle one was definitely trying for the fancier side in their restaurant.)

Finally, last week, Orlando got its own Dave & Buster’s. So we got together with some friends and friends-of-friends, and headed on over.

At first glance, it gave me a surprising Las Vegas vibe. Except there was a lot more natural light, and no thick layer of cigarette smoke hanging over everything. But the flashing lights, the clanging sounds, the layout of the gaming machines — it was all very casino-like.

First we had lunch, which was surprisingly good. And cheap, considering. We got the “Eat and Play” deal, where you pay $16.99 for an entree and a $10 game card. So my fried shrimp was $6.99, and let me tell you, you’re not going to get fried shrimp for that price anywhere.

I’d also joined the D&B e-club beforehand, so I had a coupon for an additional $10 in gameplay. After eating, armed with our gaming cards, we hit the arcade.

They have their own weird pricing structures at D&B, ones that I don’t quite understand. It’s even more convoluted than trying to convert dollars to Xbox points. For $10 you appear to get 48 D&B credits, and the games range in price from 2.6 credits to 10.5 credits. There may have been cheaper or more expensive games, but that was the top and bottom of the range that I saw. So a little game of Skee-Ball was a mere 2.6:

With real wood balls, no less. Or you could pay 9.9 credits to play this ginormous claw machine:

So big that several children could climb up inside and get stuck!

To add to the confusion, some games give tickets, while others don’t. There’s a bunch of plain old arcade-style games, in which you can shoot stuff or drive stuff, and those are just for the playing. Like this shoot-em-up Rambo game:

But then there are also games of chance, like the Skee-Ball or even more crazy stuff like Ginormous Operation:

Where you win tickets for playing well. And of course, there’s a shop in the corner where you can trade your tickets (each one is, bafflingly enough, worth “2 coupons”) for a variety of prizes. My eye was caught by the plush Angry Birds, but they’re 600 coupons each. I’d have to play quite a bit of Skee-Ball to earn that.

The skill games ranged from actual bona-fide skills to the classic sham game where you drop a token into a pile, and a little bulldozer pushes the token pile forward, so that you get tickets for all of the tokens that drop. There were several of those games, including this oddly-themed one:

We had a good time overall. There was one shooter game that really stood out — you sit in a pirate ship and shoot machine guns at sea monsters and skeleton pirates and such. Because pirates totally had machine guns.

There was also a Price is Right game, and a Deal or No Deal game, and even a huge Fruit Ninja game. Also a Guitar Hero game, but I didn’t get a chance to play it. Quite popular, that.

Of course, we all ended up with tiny bits of gaming credit on our cards — one of them has 1.6, another 2.5 — and you can’t swipe more than one card to make up the difference. Hopefully next time I go, they’ll have a way to consolidate all of the little amounts onto one card. Because we’ll totally go again. I have all of these tickets (and a very Vegas-like cup to carry them in) and more credits to play.

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