This weekend a number of us from CCL attended the second PLAY Expo at Manchester Event City. A larger event than last year, much more of the large floor space was utilised with a good mix of old and new games on display.
Returning from last year was the retro arcade section, with a large number of classic games available to play. I was a little disappointed to see how many games were out of order, but there were still many to play on. Last year me and Dave played a side scrolling shooter that we'd been trying to work out what it was ever since that we finally find out was Thunder Cross 2, and the four player Gauntlet machine was good fun despite the joystick for the Valkyrie not working correctly. Also, Puck Man is apparently Exciting!
Also returning was the console selection, with machines of all ages having some key games available. There are some very old and obscure units on display, as well as the more well-known and common machines Many of these were the same as last year so we didn't spend too long here, but they did also have some networked PCs set up playing the original Doom which is always good.
Nintendo put on another good display this year, with a number of upcoming Wii U and 3DS titles playable. Mario Kart 8 is fantastic (despite me getting stuck with the steering wheel controller) and looks set to be another solid entry in the series and Super Mario 3D World brings competitive scoring (and a cat outfit) to the classic Mario game play. The new Zelda game, A Link Between Worlds was there, and is likely to be the reason I finally pick up a 3DS. Also on display was Pokemon X and Y which I didn't play as I've never been much of a fan, and Dave avoided for fear of wanting to play on it all day. My favourite game on the stand though was Sonic Lost World, which was fast paced and gorgeous. This was on display for both the Wii U and 3DS, and while both versions were good fun the Wii U version was definitely the more impressive of each two as it was just so much brighter and more colourful.
Ubisoft had Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag playable for the PlayStation 4, which we waited until the end of the day to try for the queues to finally die down. The game itself was rather underwhelming as it put you in a naval battle without any instruction on what to do and I'd much rather have been free running around a city or something, but I was mainly there to have a try of the PS4 pad. The triggers are greatly improved and the pad overall has a greater heft and felt a lot better than the PS3 pads. There wasn't any use of the touch panel with the game as far as I could tell, so no idea yet how well this functions.
The most impressive thing on display though wasn't a game at all, it was hardware. The Oculus Rift VR headset was being demoed and this was the first time I'd gotten to try one out. While the main demo booth showing off the latest version of the hardware had epic queues all day, we luckily found another unit down the other end of the hall that was showing off a dungeon crawler tech demo. The sense of immersion is simply incredible, and one point in the demo has you balancing across a beam over a pit of lava and you can almost feel the depth to the drop. The demo itself needed a bit more work to be playable, but the promise of the technology is spectacular.
I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to find where to sign up for most of the games competitions that had been advertised, and only saw a Marvel vs Capcom competition being played so perhaps these were all on the Saturday and we missed them. All in all though, this year's was another fun show, and I'm looking forward to going again next year.