Chuck E. Cheese’s: Then & Now
Chuck E. Cheese’s has been around for quite some time. My first memory of the place was me getting sick on their pizza during my birthday party. It could very have well been the five life-size puppets that they had on this fake stage that activated every so often to perform a show. I don’t remember much, but I know now that it was probably the bastard spawn of something Stephen King and M. Night Shyamalan had created.
On that high note, I’d like to recount our recent visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s as we were there to celebrate my son’s eleventh birthday. For the record, this was the Chuck E. Cheese off of McKnight Rd, north of Pittsburgh.
Before going there, I was surprised to learn that you could play free online games on their website and earn printable vouchers for tickets. That’s definitely something that wasn’t around back in the day. The limit is one voucher per kid and the most you could score is about forty tickets, but hey, free is good. The prizes are still crappy, but more on that later.
Coupons…I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that either. $39.99 got us a hundred plus tokens, a large pizza, one salad bar, and some drinks. That isn’t a bad deal, all things considered. My son got free four tokens by the lady that greeted us because it was his birthday, which was nice of her to do. We didn’t reserve a party or anything so I was surprised by the free hand out.
Speaking of the greeter, I was glad to see that they upped security a bit. Back in the day, we got these dull gray / purple stamps on our hand that featured a large, deformed mouse head and served no useful purpose. Everyone had the same ugly stamp on their hand…what was to stop an adult from leaving with someone else’s kid? Well, things have changed.
There was a rope covering both the entrance and the exit with a greeter and a booth in between them, meaning no one got in or out unless they physically got past the greeter. Thumbs up. Next, they stamped all of us with the same invisible number so that on the way out, they’d “read” our hands to make sure that everyone leaving had the same number. Again…thumbs up. They did not take note of how many where in each party, so I suppose if a parent really wanted to, they could leave without their mother-in-law and no one would be the wiser. At any rate, I was impressed by their increased security measures.
Then there was the food. What an improvement! I didn’t get sick this time, so that’s usually a good sign. They had a salad bar (something they didn’t do back in my day) and a somewhat fully functional menu.
Now onto the part that disappointed me…the games. If I had to guess, I’d estimate there were maybe thirty to forty games in the place, counting the ten or so kiddie games there. Most of those games were clear attempts to take your money and get almost no tickets in return. The ticket prices for most of those prizes are inflated to begin with…I could go to Family Dollar and save myself twenty bucks to get some of the things my son wanted out of the prize cabinet.
I know that the games are meant for kids…but they used to have a pretty good selection from what I remember. There used to be honest to gosh arcade cabinets for games like POW and Street Fighter II. I got a ton of mileage out of the Star Wars Trilogy Arcade Game that used to be there.
Most of the games there were generic rip-offs that any semi-serious gamer would scoff at. I suppose I should eventually check out Dave and Buster’s, having never been there. Of course, I have to remember, this place is for kids. I guess at that age, quality isn’t as important as the overall experience. I still think they’d do well to expand and include more games to bring in a larger crowd.
The ticket chomper thingy ate all of our tickets and counted them automatically, saving us the trouble of counting them manually like you had to do back in the old days. Oh, the convenience of modern-day technology! A receipt was printed and we were on our way to trade our three thousand tickets in for a five cent party bag stuffer you could order in bulk from Oriental Trading.
I did spy the party room where the birthday parties were held but didn’t think the parents present would appreciate a stranger taking random pictures of their kids, so I opted not to. The stage was more high-tech than it used to be, but it could still serve as a torture device for prisoners in any future war we may have.
Would I go again? For my son’s benefit, yes…but probably only for special occasions. All in all, it was a positive experience and I give the place eight large deformed mouse heads or six M. Night Shyamalans…feel free to convert that into any measurable form you wish.