Prizes of both the anime and edible varieties can be yours even if you can’t make it to the arcade.

We’re living in an age where so many of our entertainment options can be enjoyed online. Watching movies, listening to music, and shopping are all things you can do with your smartphone, and recently our Japanese-language reporter Udonko found out you can use your smartphone to play crane games too.

We’re not talking about a virtual crane game with polygonal models of the crane and prizes interacting via a physics engine. Cloud Catcher is an app that lets you control an actual crane game, just like one you’d find at a video game arcade, remotely. It’s not just the machine that’s real, though, but the prizes too, because if you win something while playing Cloud Catcher, they’ll send it to you in the mail!

Anime/manga fan that she is, Udonko’s eyes were naturally drawn to the plushies and figurines on Cloud Catcher’s list of prizes, where she was tempted by character goods from franchises such as Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Tokyo Revengers, and Pui Pui Molcar. In addition to prizes picked to appeal to otaku hearts, though, Cloud Catcher also has ones that call out to hungry stomachs.

After giving it a lot of thought, Udonko decided to go for a figure of Rice Shower, one of the horse girls from the Uma Musume franchise. After tapping on the figure’s icon on the prize listing page, the view switched over to a live video stream of the crane game Udonko would be playing on.

To play, first you purchase “coins” through the app, which count as tries you can use in attempting to win prizes. Once you’ve inserted a coin and tapped the start button, there’s a countdown…

…and then you can take control. Similar to arcade crane games, the Cloud Catcher machine Udonko played was controlled with two buttons, one to move the crane’s arm to the right, and the other to move it towards the back wall of the case.

Since Udonko was controlling the crane remotely, she was worried about the possibility of the one thing that can instantly ruin the fun of online games: lag. Thankfully, the controls felt perfectly responsive, and in the 10 rounds of Cloud Catcher she played Udonko didn’t notice any sort of input delay.

▼ There’s even an alternate camera angle you can check that lets you see the case from the side.

The type of crane game that Udonko was playing is called a “taniotoshi,” or “valley drop” game. Instead of picking the prize up off a flat surface, carrying it, and dropping it in a hole in a different part of the case, the prize starts perched on a pair of rods. Your goal is to pick it up and drop it so that it slides or bounces around the rods and falls into the prize retrieval tray, but Udonko encountered a problem when the box managed to somehow get itself wedged firmly between the rods.

Yet another cool feature of the app, though, is that you can contact the Cloud Catcher staff in situations like this, so she pulled up the help and inquiry (問い合わせ) form.

From there, she selected “Please return the prize to its original position” (初期位置に戻してください), and less than a minute later a pair of human hands appeared, and put the box back in its starting spot.

Sadly, Udonko wasn’t able to win the Rice Shower figure she’d been hoping for in this session. Maybe she’ll try for it again next time…

…or maybe she’ll move on to one of the other cool crane game variants or prizes that Cloud Catcher has.

Related: Cloud Catcher official website, Cloud Cather (iOS), Cloud Catcher (Android)
Images: Cloud Catcher (iOS) screenshots
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[ Read in Japanese ]