Last weekend Replay Events held their Blackpool based games event, the second since they returned to the city after launching the larger summer event in Manchester a couple of years ago. I’d not previously been to the Blackpool show, though knew it was going to be a smaller event. Taking place at the Norbreck Castle Hotel, the event took place over several rooms of the venue.
The main hall of the show had a very good vibe to it. Unlike the large, brightly lit hall of Event City the gaming room was very dimly lit, echoing many arcades of old. As usual, there were a wide array of retro consoles and arcade cabinets to play as well as a selection of newer titles.
A couple of dozen arcade units were just inside the entrance, with a large range of titles available to play from classic late 70s/early 80s games up to some of the more popular games into the 90s. As the event itself was smaller so too was the arcade section, so the games on display were all standard arcade cabinets and none of the larger custom games like Outrun or Afterburner were present. After losing a good chunk of time to addictive shooter Point Blank we checked out the rest of the arcade games and played several, though sadly Operation Wolf was broken and still no Thunder Cross 2 for us to finish even though Dave tried to get it there through their online game request – hopefully next time!
The console section had mostly the usual selection of common games, though I was quite amused to see an Amstrad GX4000 running it’s pack in game Burnin’ Rubber - the console failed miserably on launch in 1990 and was discontinued the next year and I picked one up about a decade ago for around five pounds and even that was probably too much. Thanks to the infinite continues of the Xbox Arcade version, we played a hefty chunk of Final Fight before realising that either we really suck or it’s just too hard. It turns out that we're also pretty bad at Super Monkey Ball, though in our defense it was the Xbox version with wonky pads. There were also a number of competitions going on, and a few record holders showing off their skills.
Elsewhere in the hall, several UK developers were also in attendance. Old schoolers Llamasoft were showing off not just their more recent games like Minotaur Rescue on the Oculus Rift but also some of their classics such as Tempest 2000. MAG Studios had both their Ghostship games playable, they had a pretty cool atmosphere but the gameplay isn’t quite there yet with it being quite difficult to aim at and actually hit enemies, but I understand that the most recent game is still in beta so this could well change.
Radiant Worlds, the new company of the Oliver Twins (most well known for the Dizzy series of games, and who were also speaking at a panel at the event) were showing off their new game Skysaga. Visually it’s very much in the Minecraft style of things but with a nice looking cartoony art style and more of an MMO angle.
There was also a large section of the room given over to more recent games with a number of titles on display on the PlayStation 4. These are generally of interest to me, as most of the titles available to play were PS4 exclusive and I haven’t gotten around to picking one up yet. I had played Towerfall Ascension before but it’s still good fun, there were some other interesting looking games there as well, but helpfully nothing about to actually say what each game was (though in retrospect I should have just hit the PS button to see what was running, ah well!)
We also got to play a bit more of Wulver Blade, which I was very interested in at last year’s PLAY Expo. It looks and plays great, with a really nice art style, though I’m hoping that the demo version of the game was just showing off a battle mode and that it has a more conventional side scrolling story mode as all of the available sections were a waves of enemies horde mode game – the only chap there from the company was pretty busy with people all day so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him to try and find out more details about the game.
Aside from the main hall, there were several other rooms, with the largest being filled with shops. The last few Play shows have seen a steady increase in the number of sellers attending, which is always good as I do love to add more and more games to my collection though I didn’t find anything that caught my eye (or at least, that did so and was in my budget) this time around. As well as games, there were also stalls selling various toys and other memorabilia and a few t-shirt shops like RetroGT and one selling Japanese art themed shirts that Dave was very tempted by.
Also off to the sides were a selection of board games to try out and buy, though sadly this was split up into two smaller rooms instead of getting a larger open space likely due to the layout of the event which made it a little more difficult to see the games that were going on.
Finally, and a fair way away from the main room, was a smaller room dedicated to the ever popular Minecraft. I don’t believe there was much in the way of particular events going on in there and it was more just somewhere for the younger gamers to meet and play Minecraft together, I’m somewhat outside of the demographic for that so we passed through the room quite quickly.
As is customary for most games shows these days, later on in the day was the cosplay competition and there were quite a few well made costumes that people were wearing that we saw during the day.
All in all another fun show, and always a good day out. We should be back again for the next big Expo in the summer.. and hopefully we’ll finally get to finish Thunder Cross..
Some of my photos came out even more blurry than my usual super high quality photography, so Dave has graciously let me use a couple of his for this article. You can see more of these over at his gallery.