Maaaaannnnnchetser Play Expo 16!

Waking up at 4am on Friday, I jumped on the Megabus from Cardiff to Manchester armed with a bag full of DS & PSP games to keep me company. After six hours of travelling I arrived in sunny Manchester (albeit with a numb bum), walking out of the bus station I instantly spotted a pawn brokers (not part of the event!) with a load of games in the window, dashing over I thought I was about to make my first purchases of the weekend…when I spotted the prices.

WOW (£43 for a tatty copy of Road Rash 3, anyone?). The price labels on the games were clearly old and at the cost they were, I’m not surprised that they remained unsold!

Manchester Play Expo Blog - by @kingdomofcarts

Play Expo Manchester 2016 Retrogaming

Arriving onto the Event City grounds itself after a really pleasant, straight journey from the city centre journey past Old Trafford (note to self: play more Super Sidekicks 3) I initially accidentally walked in to the mother / baby expo held in the next block. (The only babies I wanted to be surrounded by are the stars of Chuck Rock 2 and Jack the Nipper!)  heading into the Replay Events expo itself, the first person I saw was the perfect start to the weekend…Jeff Minter!

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The event was bustling with like-minded people and amazing cosplay, you could see that some people had spent hours on making their costumes. After watching some gameplay footage of his newest game ‘Minotaur Rescue’ I cursed myself for not bringing my copy of ‘Attack of the Mutant Camels’ for him to sign and vowed to remember at the Blackpool Replay event in May.

Picking up a surprisingly decently priced pint of Aspall’s cider I did a circuit of the event to see what was on offer, getting side-tracked by everything along the way, there was a tense Streetfighter tournament on the Red Bull stage and managed to catch an awesomely tight finish by Zangief with a spinning powerbomb, easily the coolest move in the game! (Although I always choose Ken, who could resist that blonde bob in SF2!)

It was a really moving sight to see so many kids wide-eyed with joy, playing Minecraft en masse, it still amazes me the level of complexity that young children can weave out of these games, admittedly I’m more of a 7 days to die fan (a deeply flawed gem in my eyes) but it’s impossible to ignore the impact that Minecraft has had on an entire generation and rightly so. Next to the Minecraft fans there was some intense DOOM-ing going on, (such a cool game even 23 years after release) and then I saw the shining beacon of home that was the gaming stalls.

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Such an enormous election of solid gold on offer, the first stall I approached was a charity stall specialising in Amstrad / Commodore /Spectrum cassettes and magazines which is something that is especially close to my heart.

The staff there were amazing and I got into a really insightful conversation regarding how to soup up the Amiga 1200 which will definitely be a future project for me, I ended up buying over fifty games and about a dozen magazines from this stall and was rewarded with a free, mint copy of Winter Games, bargain! One of the things I love about games from that era is how quintessentially ‘British’ the artwork is, something I need to look into in more depth as the cartoon-ish covers really capture the fun of the game within.

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After playing Ridge Racer for half an hour in the community Zone, I noticed that there was a high-score competition going on and it was taking place on a newly released indie version of Space Invaders on a Mega Drive, after trying (and failing) to beat the high score (at the time it was 10,500 but by the Sunday it was well over 12000, I got to about 8500 and met my match!) I got into a conversation with the developer (Psychatic) about how the game came to be, it turns out that initially, the developer began to create the game as a way of illustrating how game development works to his children but it turned into a fully-fledged game project. Now, I’ve always wanted to own a ‘new’ Mega Drive game and as I’d had so much fun trying to beat the high score, combined with the fact that ‘Invasion’ also had a 2-player co-op mode and was only made in a single run of 100 games, I couldn’t miss this opportunity to grab one and I can’t wait to beat that elusive high score!

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Following this, I picked up a few other PSP, PS2 and Sega Saturn games (oddly, no mega Drive this time around which is unusual for me) and listened to the Tomb Raider panel which had some great questions being put to the developers and managed to catch some of the TR music being blasted through a PA system in all it’s glory, something that I have no problem with!

After a brief dalliance with the packed arcade section, where I kicked ass in Virtua Fighter and was reminded of how fun and frantic Operation Thunderbolt is the day was coming to an end and it was back to the hotel to have a closer look at my gaming haul, have a few whiskeys and get ready for round two.

I managed to arrive earlier on the Sunday and after getting the obligatory cider, headed over to catch up with the guys more at Games You Loved,  as I was covering the event for them and had a press pass.

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They even gave me a couple of awesome T-shirts which I immediately changed into! GYL were as cool and knowledgeable as you’d expect, it was great to finally meet them in person and put faces to names, following a quick interview (Coming Soon!), we chatted about everything from Japanese wrestling games to the Vectrex and beyond, awesome guys and I really hope we stay in touch.

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Following this, I managed to catch Jon Hare sound-checking for his set later in the day and heard what was for me, one of the highlights of the weekend, an instrumental version of the ‘Boot Hill’ theme from Cannon Fodder, easily one of my favourite pieces of gaming music, such a beautiful melancholic melody…in fact I’m going to listen to it right now.

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After one more circuit of the event seeing and picking up yet more awesome stuff at the cassette stall, I entered a raffle for a Commodore 64 signed by, among others Rob Hubbard! Sadly though I was one ticket number away from the win : (

Overall the day was a success and I'm definitely looking forward to going back again next year. What an awesome weekend.

To finish the weekend while waiting for the megabus to arrive I stumbled across an 'aladdins cave' of a store which had lots of cool antiques and movie memorabilia, hidden under one of the tables were 3 copies of Crash magazine for the Spectrum from the 80s they we're priced at only £1 each, what a bargain, I bought those right away.

What an awesome way to end the day.

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