In the days immediately prior to the start of the Texas Pinball Festival 2018 we visited a number of pinball locations in the greater Dallas area, starting with Nickelrama.
It’s a little confusing because Nickelrama actually has two locations. This is the original one and it’s located in Garland, Texas. The newer second location is also in Garland, so we can’t even refer to this branch as “the Garland one”. Instead, we’ll call this Nickelrama #1.
The Nickelrama arcade concept is a mix of pay-to-enter and pay-to-play. Entry to the arcade costs $3.50 per person, regardless of age. You can get a slightly better group rate or a pre-paid party rate of $59.95 for up to 25 guests along with a row of tables and chairs to use.
However you get in, the games are then paid for using nickels (5¢ coins). That’s not to say they games are all priced at 5¢ or even priced the same though, because different games use a different numbers of nickels. The pinballs, for example, cost four nickels per game (20¢), which is pretty cheap if you can play enough games to recover the initial entry fee.
You aren’t expected to bring dozens and dozens of nickels with you though, since cups of 100 nickels are available from the entry desk at face value of $5 each. You can’t ‘cash-in’ any you might have left over when you leave, but of course they are just regular coins and so usable in most locations.
Inside the décor is clean but minimalist. The walls are plain, as is the floor. The lighting is slightly dim but neither dingy nor obtrusive. The overall look is of a regular retail unit packed full of arcade games.
So, what about the games on offer?
Nickelrama has an impressive selection of new machines – both big sit-down arcade games and redemption-style ones – to appeal to all ages.
Redemption games seemed to be very popular, with dozens of kids wandering around holding armfuls of tickets trying to earn enough for their desired prize.
Thankfully, Nickelrama has a decent pinball selection too.
In fact, Nickelrama #1 has a dozen of the latest titles from Stern Pinball and Jersey Jack Pinball.
The first row contains:
- Guardians of the Galaxy Pro
- The Hobbit standard
- The Wizard of Oz ECLE
- Ghostbusters Pro
- Game of Thrones Pro
- Dialed In! standard
Backing onto these are another six recent titles – all pro (or equivalent) models.
The second row contains:
- Star Wars pro
- Batman 66 premium
- Spider-Man vault edition
- The Walking Dead pro
- Mustang pro
- Star Trek pro
The condition of the machines seemed very good with the only problems we encountered being either stuck balls or jammed coin mechanisms. Either way, it didn’t take long for a technician to come over and rectify the fault.
A cup with $5-worth of nickels gets you 25 games of pinball, along with any replays you might win along the way. So we spent some of our coins playing other games, including the Typhoon motion simulator and some of the coin pushers. We still had a good number of nickels left over, so we kept them for our next location – Nickelrama #2, which we will feature in our next review.
Nickelrama #1 is located on Beltline Road in Garland, which is about fifteen miles northeast of Dallas. Food and soft drinks can be brought in from outside, but no alcohol. If you intend to do this though you also need to plan in advance, as you can’t leave, purchase food and then re-enter without paying for entry again.
Nickelrama #1 is open 1pm-9pm Monday-Thursday, 1pm-11pm on Friday, 9am-11pm on Saturday and 11am-0pm on Sunday, but these times are often extended during school breaks so it is best to check their website to be sure.
We’d certainly recommend visiting Nickelrama for some great pinball at an attractive price. At 20¢ per game after the initial entry fee, it’s a pretty cheap way to enjoy all the latest machines from Stern and JJP.