Play Expo 2016 – another two days of gaming and cosplay, and so much fun that, once again, as the second day ended, I wanted to hide under a table and go where all the games go, as I like to imagine that there’s another location where the Manchester event continues for another five days…
That way, I’d get to play ALL the games, as there’s too many to get through in two days, particularly since I love taking loads of pictures – especially of the awesome cosplay participants, but then again, I try to make sure I play as many games as I can that I’ve not seen before.
And when it comes to cosplay, I realise that a lot of the cosplay pics I’ve taken are just when I’m walking about, so that’s why part of me prefers always to be walking round – so I don’t miss anyone, but only after the event, on Facebook, do I realise that I’ve missed a few and I’m all “Grrrr….” for not getting them, but I guess it’ll happen until I’m able to clone myself.
2016 saw the fifth year of this event, again held at EventCity, next to the Trafford Centre (accessible via M60 J9 and J10), and this was the third time I had been, following Play Expo 2015 and Play Expo 2014, and it just gets better and better to the point that, once again, when it was over, the withdrawal symptoms kicked in.
Last year, I took a total of 1083 pictures and this year it was close to 1800 – including the selfie with R2-D2 (and see him in the fab video below), although in most cases I took 2 with flash, and 2 without, since you’re taking pictures inside and, depending on the area you’re in, the lighting can vary.
I’ll start, as usual with the arcade machines. So many favourites, here. You can see the full photo album here, but whereas there were no hydraulic machines last year, this time we had THREE!
There was Outrun, Powerdrift, while probably my favourite was After Burner, because I can get the further on it out of all three. Keep one hand on the controller, and the other on the low/high gear to your left, and you can full all kinds of G-turns, rocking back and forth like you’re in a violent La-z-boy (well, more gently than that), whilst also tipping left and right within the unit. It’s such a rush. AND you seem to get loads of planes! Kinda handy given that I kept crashing.
Powerdrift – a game that was notoriously difficult to get right on 8-bit consoles back in the ’80s, due to the way the sections of track were overlaid upon each other, rolling along perfectly, being a visual assault on the senses while the music blares out at you. With the hydraulics, this made me realise I should’ve had a practice on the regular version elsewhere at Play Expo, since you have to finish within the Top 3 in each race, and in addition to my laughing so much at the frenetic action – and this is entirely my fault – I broke my right arm when I tripped over a pavement in February (and I wasn’t even drunk!), so banged it a bit while turning a sharp corner on the machine and that kinda put me off doing my best.
I have a picture of all three regular stand-up versions in the Arcade photo album, and a later attempt on these saw me reach the next stage on this game 🙂
Tempest – I didn’t get a great picture of this one, hence had to find one online, but it has very simple controls of a knob to twirl and a fire button with which to shoot. Depending on circumstances, you’ll have enough bullets to shoot at the enemies that crawl up the tube you can manoeuvre around, plus one ‘superzapper’ per level which can eliminate everything. Sounds easy? Well, I lasted a fair while but that was by luck rather than expertise, but while you’re winning, you can look damn cool. Eventually, it gets faster and faster until it’s game over, literally.
Ms Pac-Man – another game I didn’t get a good shot of at the time, but I needed two attempts at this. Following, an awesome first day at Play Expo, I beat the high-score on this machine… kinda…
The fun technically all ended at 6pm, so I and others knew we were overplaying our hand still playing games after that, but realising I was doing very well, I kept at it, and just beat the high score when….the power was pulled. It was just like in The Simpsons, when Homer almost beat Bart at that boxing video game when Marge pulled the plug. However, when I went back on the Sunday and played it again and, indeed, beat the high score again, I could see that it resets the high score table upon being switched off and on, so my score wouldn’t have been retained after Sunday anyway. You can’t beat a bit of Pac-Man in any form, though.
Road Runner – based on the classic cartoon, this was far from the easiest game to play, as you have to escape Wile E. Coyote (from whom ‘RR’ usually finds it a doddle to escape) and I kept getting caught since he continually strapped himself to a rocket and snatched me wherever I got up to. I tried this a few times but had to admit defeat. Still, I don’t recall playing this one before, so it’s always good to try something new, and a lot more practice would certainly help.
Go to page 2 for the Retro gaming section.
I grew up with the ZX Spectrum and the Atari VCS 2600, including games like Space Invaders, Manic Miner, and Midnight Resistance, the latter brought to the ZX Spectrum by gaming legend Jim Bagley (right), who was also at Play Expo!
This year, the Retro Gaming section was partioned even better than in the last two years I’ve attended. While 2014 saw the consoles and games spread about randomly, and 2015 had them partioned into individual sets of games (eg. Tomb Raider, James Bond), the partion boards were upright, so they acted as a barrier, leaving the arcade area looking a little cut off. This time, most of the consoles were placed in their own section with the game posters adorning the outside, so everyone passing could see them, and step inside if they wanted to play them.
So many great games, many of which I hadn’t played before, and many of which I didn’t get to play this time as there was so much to do, but there’s always something to play. Check out my full Retro gaming album.
The MSX Users Club were back with a number of games, for the console that never saw its potential in the UK in its day, including Road Fighter. Sure, the games don’t quite always stand up to today’s standard, but they’re an absolute must for sampling a classic piece of gaming history.
On the original Xbox, I’m not sure which game this one, but just look at that controller!!! Eventually, I started to figure out what to do but didn’t do very well at it. After moving on to another game, it was easier to watch someone else play it when they clearly had a better idea of it than myself 🙂
Atari VCS! Jungle Hunt! Pitfall! To be honest, I don’t recall playing Jungle Hunt back in the day, but Pitfall was a game I played over and over until the cartridge melted. Nowadays, the game feels a little repetitive, but back then, I just couldn’t get enough of standing on a crocodile’s head, desperately trying not to fall into its mouth!
On the Philips CDI-450, I really have no idea what this game was about – other than with the main character being called Gandorf, it was clearly inspired by the works of JRR Tolkein – but why are there young women surrounding our wizard, wearing nothing more than their underwear and a smile? I had no idea, but it did make me laugh.
If you’re not sure what Philips CDI was, it was like a pre-cursor to DVDs. Using MPEG I-quality encoding, you could play movies on it which were sold on such specific discs, but while DVDs (MPEG II) were just over the horizon and coming very soon, the quality of MPEG I movies was woeful by comparison and the machine never replaced VHS, especially since VHS looked better! And as such, the games never took off, either. Still, it’s another example of checking out machines you won’t see anywhere else.
Go to page 3 for the Cosplay pictures.
Cosplay was once again a major part of this event, with Replay Events again devoting a catwalk masquerade on both days to those who had dressed up as their favourite characters from movies, videogames and TV, ranging from Street Fighter, World of Warcraft, Pokemon, Overwatch, Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat, plus many more.
While previously, I’ve occasionally shyed away from asking to take the picture of some cosplayers, as it’s not human nature to just stop someone in the street and ask to take a photo of them, and you see some people walking from A to B, and with a sense of purpose, and you feel bad for stopping them. However, I’ve realised that anyone cosplaying will be happy for you to politely take their picture.
Saturday pictures are below – including the Saturday Cosplay Masquerade dance video, with the Sunday pics on the next page. Note, there wasn’t a dance on the Sunday, as while they played the same music as the judges came to their decisions, there were loads more people on the stage and a lot more chat from the MC that day, so dancing didn’t evolve.
Also below is a brilliant cosplay compilation video from Strong Choice, set to Once In A While by Timeflies.
(but one of the Laras had escaped! 🙂 )
And the Sunday Cosplay pictures include the following. Both Cosplay Masqurades were filmed on the day, but at the time of posting, they’re not yet online. Check out the full Sunday Cosplay album here.
Check out the pictures below, then go to page 5 for the Virtual Reality machines.
Virtual Reality gaming was back again at Play Expo and stronger than ever. While there was an HTC Vive VR game, the queue was either too long or occasionally closed to stop it getting longer, so I didn’t get chance to play it, but for those I did, let’s begin with one from the creator of Attack of the Mutant Camels.
Jeff Minter (right) brought us Polybius on the Playstation VR, and into-the-screen title which is difficult to describe other than being very Minteresque, if that makes sense. Basically, check out the video below, and note that when you’re playing the game, you can indeed look around yourself, but if you do that too much, you’ll probably crash!
Battlezone VR, from Rebellion Games, is another title using the Playstation VR headset, along with the standard PS4 controller, and completely blew me away. Strap the headset on and you can see your controller when you look down (but obviously not your hands). The movement was beautifully fluid, even when moving the tank sideways, and after shooting tanks and other things at ground level, WOAH! Planes and a swarm flew about overhead and I had to shoot them all!
And I completed the demo! Just wonderful! And to both Rebellion and Jeff Minter, I concluded with “TAKE MY MONEY NOW!!” 🙂
Simon Marston from Retro VR and the Retro Computer Museum was back with an Amiga 1200-controller Virtuality machine. This time, it was sit-down unit which I’ve not encountered before, playing another tank game – Exorex!
I really need to try this again as it took a while to get used to the controls as the game is about 25 years old, but just as I was getting the hang of it, I died for the last time. I love virtual reality, though, and this is an essential game to try.
Go to page 6 for the Pinball machines.
There were many Pinball machines once again – at least 50 or 60, but I didn’t countt them all, and while I took a stack of pictures, I didn’t get to play all of them.
The machines below and many more are including in my Facebook pinball album.
First up, was one of my new favourite pinballs – Dirty Harry. Very responsive, lots going on, and great fun to play.
The Addams Family was one I didn’t get to play, but I really should queue up for it next time. You can see why it looks a treat. Not only are you sat in a big chair, but there’s an element of the game that makes you look like you’re in an ELECTRIC CHAIR and about to fry!
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (should be ‘Judgement’, James Cameron, but it’s 25 years too late for that, now) is always a pleasure to get stuck into.
And, last but not least, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I played a few games of this, including towards the end of the Sunday (Note: unlike the arcades, the pinball machines can’t be switched off mid-game for obvious reasons, but if I hadn’t broken away from it just after 6pm, then I’d still be playing it now).
This machine was also streamed live via the Pinball_Live Twitch channel. I assumed it was happening for the whole weekend, but just checking their stream now, I see it was for almost the last three hours on the Saturday. Hence, you can’t see me doing badly 😉 There are some great camera shots on the table, though, so it’s very entertaining to watch.
Also, this was the first time all weekend when I finished any pinball game and the ‘Match’ thing at the end – matching up the final two digits of my score with two apparently random digits that the machine’s just thought of – actually worked in my favour! Of course, since all the machines were set to free play, you could say this was irrelevant, but when it happens so rarely, it’s a great victory 🙂
Go to page 7 for some PS4 games.
If you wanted a bit of current-gen gaming, then as well as the PSVR, there were some Playstation 4 games. Check out the full PS4 album, and a selection is below: Tekken 7 on both the regular screen and the BIG screen, Dragonball Xenoverse 2, BlazBlue and… well, you can see it says WWE 2K17, but I’d barely taken a picture of the intro screen before they said no more were allowed as the game was a work in progress. I wasn’t going to stand there taking a ton of footage, just a pic or two! Oh well. It played a bit iffy… but Tekken was great!
Go to page 8 for some indie games and other miscellaneous pics!
For our last collection of pics, I really enjoyed Mao Mao from AsobiTech. The game is controlled by your hand, swishing back and forth, controlling your cat in the style of Space Harrier, while making a fist would cause your character to speed along! A short-range projector displays the game on the wall. There were prizes given out to those who were good at it… which didn’t include me 😉 Great fun, though.
Also check out the talk from AsobiTech below.
Below that, is Snake Pass, an indie title from Sumo Digital which I didn’t get to play, but it looked to have very fluid movement.
As always, check out the full Misc album here.
Red Bull were there with a 5G eSports event – qualifying rounds on the Saturday and then competing against online players on the Sunday. I had a go at Project CARS, and was thinking I was doing quite well when it told me I once got the fastest lap… but then as we got to the end, and others were getting up before me, and I saw I came 8th…. yep, I didn’t win 😉
Other games included Street Fighter V and Rocket League.
Guppy was a weird indie title where you control a fish, and one of a number of bizarre games, none of them the same. There was also a hand-foot co-ordination game along the lines of Tetris. I thought I was doing okay, but each time, it was quickly game over!
In addition to card games aplenty, there were some intriguing board games such as Brandub….
Videogame Carnival were back with their Giant Gameboys, the Fruitcade and much more…
(and I think I was spotted!)
And if you fancied a quick trip home (if only!) Bumblebee and Barricade were on hand to promote next year’s fifth installment in their movie franchise – Transformers: The Last Knight.
All there’s left to say is Roll on 2017! At the time of posting, the dates haven’t yet been confirmed, but expect Play Expo Blackpool around the early May Day weekend, Play Expo Glasgow around mid-June, and Play Expo Manchester back in early-to-mid October.
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.