Turn UP DOWNtown


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Turn 21, they say, and the lengthy, winding passage to maturity is finally complete. Upon this ceremonial birthday, Americans are bestowed their long-anticipated autonomy over alcoholic beverages. It’s a long- standing tradition: Turn 21, become an adult — officially.

What better way to celebrate the latent benefits of legal adulthood than turning back the clock, spitting in the face of sophistication and dropping $11 on a couple of cold Miller Lites and three rounds of “Ms. Pac-Man.”

Thanks to Up-Down MKE, the new arcade bar (or “barcade”) anchoring the western end of Brady Street, those faced with the trappings of early-onset adulthood can find solace in a safe haven of over 60 classic arcade games.

Better yet, most patrons find tapping into their inner child is much more fun when paired with the benefits of adult beverages. “Donkey Kong” and “Galaga” make for a neat throwback. However, “Donkey Kong” and “Galaga with $5 rail mixers make for a great night.

“It’s kind of like Dave & Buster’s,”Patrick Myers, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences says. “Except you still feel like you’re at an actual bar, only it has video games, too.”

The two-story complex melds the two different atmospheres — bar and arcade — together. A massive U-shaped bar operates as the gravitational center of the first floor, situated in the middle of the large space with full-cabinet arcade games encircling it.

Nearly a dozen pinball machines line a far wall, with a skeeball alley is near the entrance. A throwback Nintendo 64 console with four plugged-in controllers invites patrons to test their skills at the iconic “Mario Kart 64,” which in turn is projected on a large wall for maximum spectator potential. Contemporary arcade classic “Killer Queen,” an intense five-on-five pixelated match of steal the bacon.

On the first-floor patio, guests can find yet another Nintendo 64, this time loaded with the original “Super Smash Bros.” as well as mega versions of “Jenga” and “Connect Four.”

Trek upstairs and visitors will bounce into, among other things, more pinball machines, another full-service bar, a murderers row of light-gun shoot ’em ups (think “House of the Dead”), a corner banked with four synced-up “Hydro Thunder” racing machines, four-player versions of “NBA JAM” and “NFL Blitz” and a rare six-player version of the smash-and-bash classic “X-Men arcade game.

The second-floor patio features high-top tables, more “Jenga” and “Connect Four” and a pair of flatscreens linked to “Super Nintendo Classics,” preloaded with classic home console “Street Fighter” and “Super Mario Bros.” titles.

Each game requires one token to play (with the exception of the Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo Classic and outdoor table-top games, which are all free), and each token costs one quarter, though a Thursday night deal cuts the cost down all the way to 10 cents a piece.

“There’s a cool mix of new games and old games,” Colin Eschweiler, senior in the College of Business Administration says. “And so many are two-player or even four-player, so it’s really fun. It’s just a fun change of pace from the usual bar scene.”

The decor, meanwhile, is neon and nostalgic. A massive pop art collage of late-’80s and early-’90s icons, such as Chris Farley, Spike Lee and a boombox-wielding John Cusach in “Say Anything” cover the walls.

TVs, meanwhile, show everything from classic professional wrestling to popular ’80s movies. On a recent Thursday trip, my eyes flicked between an Eagles-Falcons Thursday night NFL game, an old episode of “American Gladiators,” The Undertaker pummeling Ric Flair at Wrestle Mania, Wallace Shawn and Cary Elwes’ dizzying game of wits in “The Princess Bride” and Bruce Willis crawling through an air vent in “Die Hard.” This was all at the same time.

The beer menu is expansive and rotating, with most crafts only costing $5 to $6. A small kitchen on the first floor serves thick cuts of pizza by the slice, available for $3 to $5, depending on the toppings.

So while most Americans anticipate their 21st birthday as their token to adulthood, Up-Down MKE brings back a necessary nostalgia to our childhood that seemingly never gets old.