Play Expo 2015 entered the fourth year of this event, held at EventCity, next to the Trafford Centre (accessible via M60 J9 and J10), and this was the second time I had been, following Play Expo 2014, and I enjoyed it even more than the first time, so much so that when it the whole two days were finished, the withdrawal symptoms began.
This time round, I worked out that I’d taken far more pictures than last year – 1083, to be exact, but there were a fair few duplicates, which I soon learned had to be done because you’re taking pictures inside and, depending on the area you’re in, the lighting can vary. The majority of them turned out well, but there were still a few which ended up in Blurryville, which is annoying, but I later learned that I was not the only one, so it happens to the best of us.
Note that the first picture you can see (which can be clicked on for the full-size image) is one of a number of Superheroes and villains playing football, but more on that later.
At Play Expo, there are plenty of arcade machines, a stack of retro computers and consoles, a nice addition of Virtual Reality, plenty of PS4s, a ball-breaking bevvy of pinball machines, and some incredible cosplay costumes – even more than I remember from last year. And this time round I made sure I took as many pictures as possible, although I subsequently realised that I *still* didn’t get round to everyone.
In each of the different sections to come – each given its own separate page (8! Count ’em!) – I don’t know the names of all the companies and organisations who brought these joys to us, so if I’ve missed you out, comment below and I’ll add a link back to your site and/or Facebook page.
And for fans of TV and movie stars, you could pay around £15 to have autographs or your picture taken with big names such as Dave Prowse, aka The Green Cross Code Man as well as a small low-budget film called Star Wars where he played Darth Vader; Mike Edmonds – Logray in Return Of The Jedi and Og in Time Bandits; and Colin Baker, the sixth Doctor in Doctor Who.
First up, the arcade machines are on display. There weren’t any hydraulic-based machines this time round, such as After Burner, although there was a sit-down (and rather small) Outrun cabinet, so those featured below are general uprights which are still wowing me thirty years on (I know I don’t look that old….), and you can find the full album of my arcade pictures on Facebook here.
Paperboy (1985, Atari) is a game that still holds a special place in my heart and it’s also a good one for adults to show their children because at no point do you kill anything, but before I turn into a pacifist, you still get to injure people, sometimes accidentally. The point is to delivery newspapers by throwing them from your bike. Make your way up an isometric 3D road, throw papers to hit the customers’ doors and land on their doormats, but avoid breaking their windows otherwise they’ll be cancelling their subscriptions. If all customers cancel, then it’s game over. Along the way, you’ll encouter various items trying to trip you up, but the clever controller – a bicycle’s handlebars – allow you to manoeuvre deftly. If you can keep going, then you’ll progress through the week, with each day’s delivery culminating in an obstacle course (the only time where crashing does NOT lose you a life)
I have great memories of playing this game at an arcade in Brixham, Devon, when my late father took me on holiday in the summer of 1985.
Tron (1982, Bally Midway): Released to tie in on the movie featuring groundbreaking special effects, plus a wonderful turn from David Warner as the baddie, this featured four mini-games that included a Combat-style tank game and a rudimentary light cycles game. The picture below shows the moment where you have to save the day at the end of the film with your disc, like a basic version of Breakout – break through the wall and run through the gap. It was followed in 1983 by Discs of Tron, a 3D-looking game which blew my mind as much as the film.
Q*bert (1982, Gottlieb) – another timeless classic, and one of its programmes, Warren Davis, also gave a talk at Play Expo about this and the other games he’s created. The game has a 3D-look as you, as the anteater-looking Q*bert, jump diagonally around a pyramid turning each block from one colour to another, whilst avoiding balls and snakes catching up with you. It’s completely hatstand and I’ve always loved it. Get caught by one of the baddies, and Q*bert almost swears. Sort-of 😉
Return Of The Jedi (1984, Atari) is based on the Star Wars film of the same name and shares many traits with Atari’s later Paperboy, above. It has the same isometric 3D appearance and also a controller that takes you forwards, backwards, left and right in similar style, feeling like a very long obstacle course from that title, and it was also a game which was insanely difficult, first travelling on a speeder bike towards the Ewok village, then a bonus stage as you fly the Millennium Falcon to destroy a reactor… or in my case this time round, fly straight past it. Whoops! Either way, it’s still as exhilarating as ever.
Berzerk (1980, Stern Electronics) – a game I haven’t partaken in many a moon, it plays as simple as it looks in the picture. Move from room to room as near-static robots shoot slowly at you, but they grow in number and you’ll soon find yourself OUTnumbered. It’s basic imagery gave rise to an excellent home conversion for the Atari 2600 VCS two years later. It’s still as gripping as ever.
Go to page 2 for the Retro gaming section.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.