The appeal of Jaleco’s Arm Champs II

Back in 2019 I did a livestream from Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, Illinois, and the highlight of this was playing a session of Jaleco’s Arm Champs II. I made a Twitch clip of me playing this game on the highest difficulty you can select in-game, and this has sat on my Twitch channel since that time.

As a means of having extra ways to share my content, I’ve been slowly uploading archived content onto the GemuBaka YouTube channel, and this clip was added to the rotation a couple of weeks ago. I’ve thrown a number of things onto the channel over the past year, with most struggling to even find something like five views. However, out of nowhere, this Arm Champs clip has racked up more than 2,300 views at this point. I pretty much haven’t uploaded anything that has been viewed to this level since my days of actively being a games writer, which ended roughly 10 years ago when my sons were born.

I’ve heard a lot of talk surrounding the original 1988 Arm Champs – I can’t find a confirmation on the information, but it has been said the original entry was strong enough to the point it was hurting players and it was forced off the market. Sites such as Lost Media Wiki list it as a “lost game,” with no ROM dumps available. The machine resembled arm wrestling against another human as compared to the robotic aesthetic given to the sequel. The LMW site also linked to the following YouTube video that shows the machine in action.

Arm Champs II launched in 1992, and it wasn’t until about 2005 that I first encountered one of these machines in the Zap Zone laser tag location. I of course played the machine, but, at that time, I didn’t really think much about it.

The game was introduced to the Galloping Ghost Arcade floor years back, but an issue with the machine led to it being pulled for a period of time. However, the machine made its triumphant return as the arcade’s first new game put on the floor for 2019.

The reintroduction of the game to Galloping Ghost Arcade is notable because its announcement that Arm Champs II had returned included John Parrish, who humiliated the CPU and pressed the machine for a bonus stage force test score of 144. John Parrish is who Midway filmed and placed into Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 as the character Jax. Today, he is a professional competitive bodybuilder, making him the perfect person to put Arm Champs II through its paces.

The premise of Arm Champs II is simple – the player steps up to the pedestal-style cabinet and must keep their elbow on a pad while gripping the palm of a plastic hand stretching out of the machine. There is a gripped peg players can grab with their other hand for leverage and, as expected, players attempt to muscle the machine’s hand all the way to the side for a referee’s decision. All the while, the machine is applying varying degrees of pressure in the other direction in an attempt to do the same to the player.

Firing up the game allows players to choose between 9 different “difficulties” that are represented by a wide range of stereotyped caricatures. Once a starting point is chosen among the difficulty path, players face off against four of the characters that change out with the difficulty levels.

However, players can go straight to the top and challenge a cyborg named Specks that looks like a marriage of Robocop and Master Chief. Starting from this point, players then face off against Specks four times, but, in this instance, the armor changes color each time and the game does make Specks a little bit more difficult to outmuscle through each version.

At this point in time, I recall not really even having to try through the first two Specks rounds, but the third and fourth versions did require a little effort.

The player’s reward for tackling four of the opponents is a bonus stage against a gold Specks character. However, instead of resisting the player, the cyborg acts as a measuring device as the player applies as much leverage as they possibly can to get a strength reading. These readings are then what is used to determine if the player makes the high score table.

Arm Champs II is in fact a lot of fun, but it is also a novelty cabinet. There really isn’t much reason to go back to the game after a handful of tries, as most players should be able to quickly see everything the game has to offer. But, when you’re at a location like Galloping Ghost Arcade and you don’t have to dump quarters into the machine each time, it’s hard to resist the charm of this cabinet. It has a unique gimmick and the sprite work is very well done in Arm Champs II. It has an appealing magnetism toward casual players and it tends to be a popular machine that everyone wants to try.

… and, apparently, people can’t get enough of Arm Champs II that they are searching it out on YouTube in the year 2021.

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature, GemuBaka Random

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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