Monday, 13 October 2014

GamesYouLoved at Play Expo 2014 - day two

Day two update - 
Manchester - 12th October 2014

The second day of Play Expo brought more of that old-school goodness with a modern twist, more costumed shenanigans and Retro game competitions with both prizes and pride at stake.

Sunday morning at Play Expo went a lot more smoothly without car worries to hold us back. The Games You Loved team got through the doors as early as possible, quickly unveiled our stand and hit the arcades for some cheeky games before the doors opened

I greatly appreciated the chance to try Smash TV and Tatsujin – two games I’d only heard of and would never usually get the chance to play, let alone see them in an arcade cabinet where they belong. As a younger generation gamer myself, experiencing all the 80s arcade machines in all their glory was a real privilege. The only thing I’d seen like it was Funspot, the American arcade featured in the movie King of Kong so it was a bit like standing on hallowed ground.

Forgive me for being a bit biased towards shoot’em ups but I have an unhealthy love for the genre, so here we go. I was able to play a real Galaga machine for the first time ever! Seeing the solid foundation behind the games I love was very cool, Galaga has definitely aged well which is probably why the series continues to this day. The same awe from playing on a real machine hit me when I tried Sinistar as well, it’s amazing to see how an old arcade game can be as intense an experience as Sinistar is.

Hanging out beside my beloved Progear cab while waiting for a turn gave me a chance to take in the friendly atmosphere of Play Expo. Shared passion makes for easy conversation and after a couple of attempts at my mission from yesterday I finally cleared the game on a single credit, and people who’d seen my efforts were quick to approach afterwards, have a chat and ask for advice about the game.

Day 2 brought out my competitive streak, even if that meant losing to Chris from the GYL team at Kung Fu Master, something I’m sure he’ll remind me of forever!

Alongside all this was a massive walkabout with Chris and a few of the other GYL team and some cool chaps in the community. When it came to arcades from Star Wars to Outrun you could pretty much take your pick.

I spent some time challenging people at Street Fighter games on the SNES, you have to respect the amount of time and energy these guys ‘n’ gals put into learning their fighting games, some of these brawlers were seriously good. I entered 8bit Planet’s Smash Bros Melee tourney despite being a pretty average player myself. 

Just watching the physical act of pressing buttons quickly was impressive enough; the better players’ hands were just a blur of movement and the game was being played so fast that a non-initiate probably couldn’t tell what was going on. As for myself I had the rare pleasure of actually winning a couple of matches before being knocked out of the third round in some really close games. One of my opponents was so good at mind reading he could tell everything I was going to do before even I knew, impressive stuff all round.

Some more exploration led me to a new indie game for Xbox 360 and PC called Tiny Keep, which invited me to begin my ‘tiny escape’. It’s a roguelike dungeon crawler with a charmingly cartoonish visual style that doesn’t detract from the game’s dungeon setting. You progress through randomly generated floors, hacking your way through enemies or leading them into traps. Once I figured out how to control my character I found it very fun, the random element is intended to keep players coming back for a varied adventure while each level has its own distinctive theme and boss.  My escape was cut short however when I ignored warnings to leave an ominous skull totem alone, disturbed it and was mowed down by a sudden ambush of skeleton warriors. As a gamer it’s hard to avoid interacting with any given object, but I definitely learnt my lesson.

Finally I tried out a retro arcade classic born anew on the Occulus Rift: Tempest! This was my first time trying the Occulus Rift for any type of game, so allow me to state the obvious; that it’s pretty damn cool. I won’t overdo it though. Even with the frantic shooter action of Tempest and its constant explosion of trippy colours, I wasn’t freaking out or having problems with my eyes afterwards like some testers have claimed. Somehow even in this crazy cyberspace disco, being totally immersed and having full use of my peripheral vision just felt natural. After trying Tempest I do wonder how I’d be affected by an Occulus Rift game that makes use of visual realism.

By Ben Cataldo

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