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Play Expo 2016 Review

This years Play Expo managed, once again, to do the impossible – to top the previous years Play Expo!

Replay Events, the organisers behind this and all other Play events, managed to gather together a whole host of retro and modern day gaming fun, and cram it all into Event City in Manchester for a huge weekend of gaming.

I went along, as usual, partly to spend 2 full days gaming, but also to go to watch a few talks by industry legends. This year talks were to be held by Mevlut Dinc (Enduro Racer), Ian Livingstone (Fighting Fantasy books and Tomb Raider creator,) Tony Crowther (Monty Mole on the C64) and Kevin Toms (Football Manager.)

The talk schedule was published a few days before Play Expo started, making it so easy to plan my day. Unfortunately, Ian Livingstone had to cancel due to health problems, but the Tomb Raider talk still went on as planned.

The talks with Tony Crowther and Mevlut Dinc were ace! Retro Gamer writer, and the man who first introduced me to Matthew Smith, Paul Drury hosted a Q&A session with Tony Crowther, asking him 10 questions about his own career – the running joke being that Tonys memory is not what is used to be!Tony Crowther talk Prizes were offered out to anyone who knew more about Tonys career than Tony did, which was great, but I didn’t manager to win anything.

Mevlut’s talk was also an eye opener, with his discussing how he started programming but also went on to create his own super hero game featuring licensed Marvel characters, and make Wacky Races for the Dreamcast.

Wi-Fi Wars, hosted by Steve McNeil from Go 8-Bit on TV, was something I knew absolutely nothing about beforehand, but turned out to be absolutely brilliant! It was a multi-player game that everyone in the audience could play via their own smart phone, by simply connecting to local Wi-Fi and using their phones as controllers. All the gameplay appeared on a projector screen, and players could upload avatar pics to have their achievements or lack of talent highlighted publically. Genuinely superb stuff and something I will look out for next time.

Duncan Gutteridge was also there, hosting a workshop on how to raw Sonic the Hedgehog. Yes, I know Sonic isn’t 80s, but come ON! To have the actual artist there in the flesh teaching you how to draw Segas iconic character is SO MANY TYPES OF AWESOME! I managed to draw Sonic, take it to Duncan later in the day and he graded it for me! Superb stuff!

Hewson's Hyper Sentinel StandIn between the talks, there were literally hundreds of games to play in the arcade, the pinball areas and the board game section. I could have spent weeks on end there. ALL the arcade and pinball games were set to Free Play, and you didn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes to get a go on something. (I’ve put a clickable gallery below if you would like to take a close look at a small section of the gaming area.)

I met up and chatted to Rob and Andrew Hewson, from Hewson Consultants. They recently launched their new game Hyper Sentinel on Kickstarter. One of the perks of backing was that you could play the demo way before the game was released.

Andrew Hewson, a man who many would describe as the Godfather of publishing, was also kind enough to sign my copy of his Hints and Tips for Videogame Pioneers book. It is now pride of place on my “signed things” display shelf, along with Jim Bowens signed autobiography and a PR photo of Peter Falk. THATS how important I feel Andrew Hewson has been to my history.

Another highlight for me was to see Jim Bagleys Guinness World Record breaking fully playable Dragons Lair running on the ZX81. Jim is genuinely in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest game running on a ZX81. I was going to buy a copy of the Guinness World Record Gamer Edition for him to sign, but Asda didn’t have any when I nipped in. Gutted! Check out the footage of the Dragons Lair attract film below.

All in all it was a superb event. Mind you, when Replay Events bring you an event, you know it will be awesome.



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