Long Island is going back in time as an arcade dedicated to pinball has come to Bay Shore. High Score Pinball Arcade opened last month at the Westfield South Shore Mall featuring over 40 pinball machines from the last 50 years.
"I want to see people reconnect with this game they may have forgotten," says owner Melissa Cerquin, 29, of Levittown. "Adults light up when they get to play these machines after so many years. It brings them back to a nostalgic time."
Cerquin and her boyfriend got hooked on pinball when they attended a friend’s retro birthday party four years ago.
"I had never played pinball before, only virtually through my computer. I found it mesmerizing," she says. "Playing an actual pinball machine in person is quite different. It’s more physical using your sense of timing and strength or lightly nudging the machine."
The couple got into the game and Cerquin's boyfriend began buying used pinball machines and keeping his collection in storage. After experiencing a leak in the storage area where the machines were, Cerquin offered a solution.
"Opening the arcade allows the machines to be enjoyed by the local community," she says. "Plus, they get looked after, taken care of and insured in case anything were to happen to them."
At High Score, the variety of the machines spread across the 3,700-square-foot arcade floor is vast. Pinball titles range from Home Run from 1971 to a "Last Action Hero" themed machine from 1993 to the newly released Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game from 2020.
"Each machine is like a work of art," says Cerquin, who also has six arcade cabinets as well. "They all have their own rules, objectives, missions and characters."
Robert Holeman, 44, of Riverhead is a pinball fanatic. In the first week High Score opened, he had already been there four times.
"There’s nothing like this on Long Island," he claims. "Otherwise, I have to go to Brooklyn and the selection there is nowhere as good as here."
Holeman likes the payment concept at High Score where he pays by the amount of time he plays [$10 per half-hour, $15 per-hour].
He says, "You don’t have to worry about bringing in quarters, experiencing quarters jams or the machine eating your money."
GAMER GIRL POWER
Cerquin is very proud of being a sole female owner, first generation Peruvian-American under the age of 30.
"It’s a special feeling," she says. "Historically women weren’t invited to the party, but it’s nice to see that gender is not a thing anymore."
She set up a three-month deal with the mall as a trial run to garner community support.
"We need to show that this is a viable business model," says Cerquin. "So far it’s been a wonderful turnout."
Even the arcade’s name holds a special significance to Cerquin.
"Back in the day you weren’t playing for toys or rewards, you were playing for bragging rights," she says. "These aren’t shooting killing machines like the modern video games. The goal is hitting the target or going up the ramp."
All COVID safety precautions are being taken with machines being spread apart, hand sanitizers at each game and the arcade capacity is currently kept at 25% (49 people).
"Each machine gets wiped down so we can cut down on cross contamination," says Cerquin. "We completely refresh each space. Our goal is to keep everyone safe."
Cerquin is already making plans for the future of High Score including after-hours tournaments, private events and parties.
"I’m planning on building a retro game lounge area in the back with the original Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, GameCube, PlayStation and Sega Genesis," she says. "It’s an open book from here."
HIGH SCORE PINBALL ARCADE
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, 1701 Sunrise Highway in Bay Shore
INFO 631-358-2319, highscorepinball.com
ADMISSION $10 per half-hour, $15 per hour, $25 all day pass
PLACES TO PLAY
Looking for more arcade entertainment? Here are three other places on Long Island to go gaming:
ROUND 1 HICKSVILLE
Head to the Broadway Commons for hours of fun at this multifaceted venue featuring bowling, arcade games, karaoke and billiards.
DAVE & BUSTER’S
Play old school games like Pop-A-Shot, Pac-Man and Skee-Ball while enjoying dinner and drinks at three different Long Island locations.
AMF BABYLON LANES
Go bowling in Babylon where there’s HD video walls playing live sports, music videos and family films as well as a full blown neon arcade with classics like Jurassic Park, Mario Kart and air-hockey.
- DAVID J. CRIBLEZ