HCF Events – Play Blackpool


Over the May day weekend, Replay Events held another retro gaming expo in the north west, this time going back to their roots by the seaside in (not so) sunny Blackpool. Those who have been to one of Replay’s events before will know that the retro fun will be in abundance and Play Blackpool didn’t disappoint. Although it was a large venue, this was smaller than Play Expo, which is held at Manchester’s Event City, so there wasn’t as many consoles as you would find at the main event, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a variety. From the Vectrex to the Famicom and PC Engine to BBC Micro, there was pretty much every console you could think of from the past 30+ years. In particular I had the personal achievement of playing Nintendo’s obscure Virtual Boy for the first time. The first 3D gaming system flopped terribly because it gave users headaches and made them feel sick and after a few minutes, I was no exception to the rule but it was great to have a go on Mario Tennis, in its wiry red form. It was interesting seeing the reactions of the younger attendees.


A young lad was watching me play Super Mario Bros. 2 on the Famicom. He said it looked weird. For me it’s a past time I grew up with. For the wee boy it was probably nothing more than a novelty! Away from the main hall which contained all that wonderful retro console goodness, was the multiplayer and LAN area, which had several PC’s with the likes of Quake, as well as loads more consoles such as the Sega Saturn, set up for an 8 player Saturn Bomberman session, Gamecubes with Mario Kart and Samba De Amigo on the Wii, including maracas! There was another multiplayer area set up, which has been a mainstay of Replay Events since the first one I’ve been to, all set up for four player fun on the likes of Goldeneye, Powerstone, Smash Bros. and loads more. There was also a small section dedicated to unreleased and unfinished games, including the recently unearthed Toe Jam & Earl III on Dreamcast and the much talked about Putty Squad on the Amiga. In fact, there wasn’t a corner you could turn where there wasn’t something to play on.

Accompanying the plethora of consoles were many free to play arcade machines courtesy of Retro Games Party, including golden age classics like Space Invaders and Pacman, and legendary Sega machines like Out Run and Super Hang-on. There was loads on offer although some of them didn’t seem to be set to free mode, unless some of the buttons got a bit worn out. A personal favourite of mine on the day was another I’d experienced for the first time, Bomb Jack. It’s a frantic and fun game which took me back to when I was a kid on holiday putting in 10p after 10p in the arcades.


In addition to all the retro goodness, were several indie developers showing off their titles, including the legendary Jeff Minter, the man behind recent PS Vita phenomenon TxK, showing off Llamasoft’s Oculus Rift game Minotaur Rescue. I’m not sure which was more impressive though, that or his fabulous jumper. The Ouya was also present with it being the platform of choice for some of the developers, including a fun little kart racer, Bears Can’t Drift, which was pretty much what you’d come to expect from the type of game, a good laugh. There were also several tournaments, including the Classic Gaming Championships, which included the likes of Tetris and Sonic 3, where the player with the best score would go through to the finals (several other heats have been held at various venues earlier this year) at this years Play Expo in October. Other competitions included the ever popular Cosplay. There were some impressive costumes, half of which I’ve no idea what they were, but I believe that the general consensus is the more obscure, the better.

There were also talks and showcases, including a reunion of Gremlin Graphics, the developer behind such greats as Monty Mole and Zool as well as an appearance from the star of bizarrely addictive TV show Storage Hunters and retro enthusiast Jesse McClure. On top of all that was a large selection of traders at the event, themselves taking up their own hall, with some great retro games, consoles and merchandise available for some great prices, and some not so great. I was in luck and snagged myself a decent Sega Saturn bundle for a good price. If I had the money to burn I’d have spent the whole day in there! Fans of table top games would have been in for treat too, as there was also a room dedicated to those as well.


Pretty much the little sibling of the massive Play Expo, Play Blackpool is a great time for retro gaming enthusiasts and gamers in general. There’s no shortage of fun, and if you’ve got deep pockets, there’s more than enough to buy to keep the experience going at home. And much like Play Expo, we highly recommend it.

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