So a couple weeks ago Kirsty and I, as well as my friend Cheez and my little brother Hayden, took a trip to Manchester. You know, the place with the football teams that aren’t quite as good as Liverpool? Yeah, there. Anyway, we weren’t just on a random wander to the northern city, we were attending the largest video game expo in the north, PLAY Expo Manchester. Put together by Replay Events, this expo aimed to deliver an experience like no other where gamers could get hands-on with the latest games from AAA studios and small indie developers as well as a chance to play some absolute classics on retro consoles and arcade machines.
Having recently attended the Insomnia Gaming Festival I had big expectations going into this. Now, that may have been unfair since Insomnia is the UK’s largest gaming festival, but when you claim to be the biggest in the north, you need to be prepared to deliver something special. We walked into the main hall at Event City, and straight away I was kind of underwhelmed. The map we got made it look like a really organised affair packed with all sorts of stuff going on, however, reality hit pretty quickly. Areas were pretty small, there was lots of space in between, and certain ‘Zones’ were nothing more than 4 PCs lined up on some tables (I’m looking at you VR Zone).
Although first impressions weren’t as great as I was expecting, the first game we were invited to check out at PLAY Expo Manchester actually surpassed our expectations. Employee of the Month by Team Cup of Char is a multiplayer party game in which you compete against others in an attempt to paint the office floor in your colour, which is done by just simply moving over it. To help you beat the opposition you can pick up powerups that appear around the office; coffee to speed you up, paperwork to slow your opposition down and a mobile phone to stun everyone else in the office. There is one more obstacle though…a baby. One person in the game will always be stuck looking after a little bundle of joy, and you can’t paint a floor whilst your hands are full so you’ll need to bump into other players to offload the little tyke if you want to be in with a chance of winning employee of the month.
After beating everyone to claim the coveted title, we soon quickly set off to explore what else the event had to offer. We found ourselves at the very back of the room where there was a whole host of arcade games from 80s classics to popular 90s shooters like Time Crisis. Now, there was a similar set-up at Insomnia, but nowhere near as impressive as this, and what made it even better was that at PLAY Expo, it was all FREE. Yes, you didn’t have to spend a single penny, just press the button on the machine to insert an imaginary credit and away you go. This was great because last time we went to one of these things I ended up spending about £6 on Sega Rally.
After checking out the arcades, a bunch of awesome retro consoles and playing some classic Doom, we had another little walk around where we found a stall where we could win swords. All you had to do was pay a few pounds for a chance to stick your hand in a box and pull out a specific coloured lollipop to win a prize. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much luck in the way of swords but we did manage to get about 14 lollipops that kept us going all afternoon. Next to that stall was an awesome card game called Random Minds. It can best be described along the lines of Cards Against Humanity, except its probably a little sicker and definitely more twisted and part of that is due to the fact the game is much more story based. You essentially get given a person and using the cards in your hands you’ll have objects and actions, and you’ll need to create a story better than your opponents to collect the person card. The one with the most at the end wins. As you can see above, this game came very naturally to me.
After that we managed to check out a whole host of other games too, including;
Everything we checked out was awesome in all honesty, we didn’t come away with a bad word to say about a single indie dev, however, I was less impressed by some of the AAA stuff. I mean it was meant to be the UK’s first hands-on experience of WWE 2K18 and I’ve personally made a bigger fuss about toast than they seemed to about the latest game in the franchise. It was hosted on a couple of PS4s and that was pretty much it, except for when there was a showing of it on the Machinima Stage, which was again underwhelming as my bedroom was bigger than it. That said it did offer some entertainment in the form of some bloke rapping on stage during day one. Besides that though there was little else in terms of ‘big titles’ to play that really got me salivating.
— FULL SYNC (@fullsyncnetwork) October 14, 2017
After many games, it was time for a break, and an opportunity to see all the cosplay that was on show at PLAY Expo Manchester. There was a lot of competition but my favourite of all was an evil Morty I saw strolling around. So simple, yet so brilliant. We also checked out some other shows whilst there and won ourselves a couple cans of Nurishment to quench our thirst by playing their mobile game, before calling it a day and heading home.
In the grand scheme of things, we had a pretty good day out. It wasn’t quite what I had expected it to be, and probably not as good in some departments if I compare it to Insomnia, but we got to play loads of games, meet some awesome people and even bumped into RhysHasSpoken who was working for Streamers Connected. Would I attend again? Probably, yes, but I’d like to see a little more effort put into the AAA side of things and a better presence from Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox.
If you’d like to see a little more of what we got up to, I managed to scramble a couple of pics from my phone below: