Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight.
Atmosphere: A circus of events.
Price range: Sandwiches under $3. Pizza from $3.95 to $11.95.
Reservations: Birthday parties need two weeks advance notice.
Credit cards: No.
Special features: Booster seats and highchairs. Internal ramps and accessible entrances. An entertainment center with limited food menu.
Darth Vader would feel right at home. Yoda would be comfortable among the masses. Space-age electronics has taken up residence in Rockville.
Actually, an indoor amusement park is operating under the name of Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre. It goes almost without saying that the concept was born in California. The restaurants, created by the man who invented the Atari video machines, are now franchised in more than 75 locations, including Australia.
Surely there is enough to do. Dollie Dimples entertains in the Cabaret at the piano bar. Adorable Dollie is just one of many cybernetic animals creating the magic of fantasy. A huge hippo robot rolls her eyes and winks as she sings one of her popular songs and delivers one-liners.
In the lounge, there is a larger-than-life wide-screen television. And if these offerings bore you, there is the option of playing almost every imaginable video game. Or you can spend your time reaching high marks at skee ball.
Wait, there's more: little rides for the little ones and even a balloon machine. And in the theater, the rest of the PTT gang, all large cybernetic creations, entertain every eight minutes with a set of programmed numbers. There is even a play area for some quick games of hide-and-seek.
Every entertainment lover needs nourishment; those in Rockville are no exception. Pizza Time Theatre offers a limited menu headed by pizzas that range from the ordinary to the unusual: pineapple pizza.
Food is definitely not the main focus, but there are some mass-produced items to stave off starvation and enable you to play one more game. Pizza runs the gamut from soggy to crusty. Sandwiches are heated on the same cooking belt and have a tendency to be overbrowned on top.
Yet there is an extra incentive to eat: with each food purchase, you receive some free tokens, those magical gold circles that operate the video games. The machines swallow tokens as quickly as they are purchased. As one parent remarked: "I've never seen $20 go so fast."
Another possibility is the salad bar ($2.25; $1.49 with a pizza). The soaked bowl of lettuce is unappetizing, but there are enough vegetable choices to consider this a reasonable alternative to pizza or a sandwich.
And for dessert, there's a do-it-yourself sundae bar complete with hot fudge sauce ($1.59).
Pizza Time Theatre is exhausting and expensive. It takes great restraint to merely sit and stare and not participate in the great token barrage (one for 25 cents or the big bargain: 25 for $5). And if you don't participate, what is there to do? After all, they forgot to serve popcorn.