Last week, was my niece's seventh birthday and we did what many families do - went to Chuck E Cheese.
My niece enjoyed herself, which was the whole point, but I must admit that I am always just a little disappointed when I have gone in the past few years (for the record, I go about once a year). Some of it has to do with the fact that in that year, only one game (maybe two at the most) had changed from my previous visit. I've worked at an arcade and I know how important rotation is to a business. CEC might not be affected in quite the same way since they deal with younger children and depend on birthday parties instead of walk-in game playing traffic. However, a little rotation would be nice for the older people accompaning the children. I don't want CEC becoming a place full of shooting games, they don't need Big Buck Hunter or Silent Scope...I actually like that they have keep a family friendly environment. Maybe some classics like Pacman or Tetris and a couple pinball machines (they do have one, I'll give them that) would be nice.
I thought the animatronic show was really short and half of it was video. When I was a kid the robots did sets and played more 5-6 songs a row before taking a break. Comedy skits were thrown in between songs...the show was THE reason to go there as a kid. One of my favorite memories as a kid is watching the robots play 867-5309/Jenny by Tommy TuTone and their Oldies Medley. I remember sitting there being enthralled even with all the video games calling my name. Now the band plays one song, then 15-20 minutes of video (pretty boring video - even for kids). The animatronic show hardly seemed more than a minor sideshow...definitely not an attraction to go see. The upkeep of the animatronic creatures was mediocre at best. Helen Henny looked like she had a coke-stroke with little movement on one side and Pasqually could barely lift his drumsticks. Munch, the leader of the band had serious issues. His eyes rolled to the back of his head most the time like he was stoned out of his fuzzy purple head (I guess he is a rock star!). But the worst part was that his jaw was nearly ripped off...and the glottal horror that purveyed when he tried to sing made it for the best that kids were not interested in the show. That could be serious nightmare material...the pictures don't even do it justice. The sad thing is that the jaw problem could have been fixed with about 10 minutes, a screw and maybe some wire.
A lot of my disappoint has to do with the switch from ShowBiz Pizza Place to Chuck E Cheese. Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that CEC is keeping these kind of place open...I think it does still have some entertainment to offer kids and families. My problem is that it seems so bland compared to Billy Bob and the Rock-Afire Explosion that populated ShowBiz. All the characters seem completely generic with no personality. I don't know how true it is, but one time I was told that Chuck E Cheese (partially) decided to replace the Rock-Afire explosion band because it could be seen as racist. I don't get that at all. I mean Fats Geronimo was a gorilla and gorillas are black, so I guess some people (idiots) might think that is racist in some way. I grew up with it and I thought it was a funny play on the Fats' Domino's name...I didn't think the gorilla was supposed to be Fats Domino.
I guess Chuck E Cheese is good because it is the best we can get...but I long for the Rock-Afire Explosion and ShowBiz Pizza. I think I may go order the Rock-Afire DVD to sooth my soul.