Arcades will have varying degrees of importance to each of us. Some will have fond memories of visiting them as children with friends or family, whilst others’ experience of them may extend only to what they’ve seen in film and TV, think Stranger Things or Wreck-It Ralph, just a couple of titles amongst many. However, director Mads Hedegaard’s new documentary Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest tells the story of a group of adult friends for whom arcades offer much more than just nostalgic childhood memories or on-screen pop culture landmarks. This group is an example of the men who live and breathe for arcade games, still playing them today.

The film opens with a glimpse inside the walls of the aptly named Bip Bip Bar in Copenhagen. Their various arcade machines light up one by one like the neon signs of the Las Vegas strip. It’s here where we meet Kim ‘Cannon Arm’ Kobke, a local arcade gaming legend who can literally play the machines with his hands behind his back. He spends the majority of his time playing the 80s arcade game Gyruss, and the focus of this documentary is his attempt to play it for 100 hours straight on one coin, a feat that has never been accomplished before.

Hedegaard introduces Kim and a collection of his gaming friends in quick succession, these friends will all play their part assisting in the planning and execution of Kim’s record attempt which the film goes on to document. It also gives audiences a brief introduction into the history of video games and arcades. This isn’t a particularly deep dive into their origin; however it provides ample context necessary to enjoy the film and give a greater understanding to the subjects discussed within it – a useful starting point for viewers with little knowledge of gaming or arcades.

In addition to charting Kim’s record attempt the film also looks at how arcade spaces like the Bip Bip Bar provide community for those individuals who maybe feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else. It’s heartwarming to see a group of men who genuinely care for each other, connected by their love of gaming. Some of the film’s best moments are in its study of this and as a result it has a surprisingly emotional sentiment that runs through the entirety of the feature. 

So whilst viewers’ hearts will most definitely be stirred the film also knows how to stimulate their senses. With a crowd-pleasing soundtrack which includes songs such as Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero” and Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” as well as the use of gaming graphics to create a more immersive experience for audiences, Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest consistently conveys the excitement and intensity of Kim’s impressive training.

With all the preparation and planning complete, Kim’s attempt begins at around the one hour mark of the film. Although on paper it might not seem that thrilling to watch a man attempt to play an arcade game for 100 hours the way in which the film showcases it is rather effective. Building on the already boisterous soundtrack utilised, the music featured in this section feels appropriately reminiscent of Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy and the way in which the gaming sound effects are infused in this too only further contributes to the thrilling atmosphere created. What follows is a gripping sequence that will have audiences glued to the screen waiting to see if Kim completes his attempt or not.

However, it’s somewhat of a shame that the film has a bit of trouble knowing when to say game over. There’s multiple stop off points where the film feels like it should end, but it continues to respawn for another few minutes. This struggle to conclude succinctly feels jarring, compared to the previously well-paced film before it. Although, there are a few moments throughout the film which feel a little shoehorned in as well. 

Despite this somewhat faltered finale, the film remains an absolute treat. It introduces outsiders into the world of arcade gaming with ease, providing the correct amount of information without overloading audiences. This balance of information and entertainment is further complemented by its huge heart, shedding light on gaming communities and venues providing a safe haven for those who’ve previously felt excluded. Furthermore, it has all the makings of a feature length dramatisation and in the right hands could welcome high scores from audiences. Nonetheless, Hedegaard has expertly shone his cinematic spotlight amongst the lights of the arcade machines, highlighting gaming legend Kim – a man of few words but whose story is one worth talking about and Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest does so joyously. 

Rating: ★★★★