PLAY EXPO 2015
Date: 10th & 11th October, 2015
We are back in Manchester in northern England at the EventCity complex for the annual Play Expo gaming show, and in particular the pinball element provided by the Northern Lights Pinball team.
Thanks to the traffic on the M6 motorway it was almost dark by the time we arrived, but with the show opening tomorrow morning, set-up was well underway.
The Play Expo show covers all types of games, from board games to consoles, from retro video to Cosplay, with a healthy dose of arcade video games, and of course, pinball.
The pinball machines were still being set up. More than 100 machines are expected to be available by the time doors open tomorrow.
Pinball Heaven had sent along a fine selection of new machines.
Whoa Nellie!, Game of Thrones, Medieval Madness remake, The Walking Dead, The Wizard of Oz and Scoregasm Master are all here. To best show off Whoa Nellie! though, it needed to be on its crate base.
There's one special novelty of which we will show more tomorrow. Here's a preview.
As the show was about to open to the public, the queues outside EventCity were just as large as in previous years.
Once people got through the door, one of the first items they saw was this prop vehicle from Mad Max.
Although there are more than 120 machines here, the pinball area is a relatively small part of the show.
There were two Bally Gold Ball machines to play, but they were differentiated by their cabinet paint colours.
Although there was no full-blown tournament, there were several competitions taking place over the two days.
On Saturday the NBA Challenge was run on two NBA Fastbreak machines which were played in linked mode.
Each player chose an NBA team to represent and played initially in a group, followed by straight head-to-head play to decide the winner. After a series of very close matches, the eventual winner was Ailsa Clunie.
Ailsa's husband Colin was second, with Ad Jonker from the Netherlands in third place.
Two individual high score competitions were also held. The EM Challenge took place on a Williams Heat Wave.
Along with a cash prize for getting the highest score of the weekend, there was an instant prize for anyone who managed to raise the thermometer in the backbox to the top.
The second high score competition was run on a Stern Mustang Pro machine. At the time of writing both tournaments are still running, so we'll bring you details of the winners a little later. Entries for both were available at the competition desk, where the new Pinball Magazine #3 was available for £15. All thirty-seven copies sold out, with another two donated to the charity tombola.
Two vendors were present this year. Sean Mills' Pinball Palace was doing brisk trade and quickly sold out of ColorDMDs.
Pinball Heaven's machines were, as predicted, busy all weekend. The new Game of Thrones was on pay-to-play, with all proceeds going to the Northern Lights Pinball nominated charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Pinball Heaven's Phil Palmer also had a stand selling pinball parts, including the range of X-Pin displays and replacement boards, set up in front of the machines.
Also raising funds for charity was the tombola stand.
Tickets for tombola costs £1 for 3 tickets, £5 for 18, or £10 for 40 tickets.
The biggest prize to be given away this weekend is a The Hobbit machine. Tickets for the draw have been sold for several months at various pinball events in the UK at a price of £10 each.
The lucky winner of the The Hobbit machine when the draw took place at 3pm was Geoff Lipinski.
Back with the games and there was a nice line of Gottlieb solid-state machines, many of which you probably don't get to play very often, such as Arena, Big House, Spirit, Genesis and TX-Sector.
The electric chair was up and running and connected to the The Addams Family machine which was located directly in front.
There was some clever circuitry built into both the game and the chair, and some code written to interface the two.
When certain dot matrix frames are displayed, they are recognised and trigger certain effects. A shaker motor under the seat vibrates the whole thing, while separate high-speed shakers are built into the chair's two handle grips. Buttons mounted on these operate the flippers, with the added surprise that after starting a mode the flippers are reversed for ten seconds.
In addition to all this, there is a smoke unit built-into the chair, a large sub-woofer, rear speakers, LED flashing lights and a power meter which responds to the game's sounds.
For many more pinball mods a visit to Jim Askey's Hacking Lab was a must.
Apart from his own game design - High Voltage - he also had a unique Stern Indiana Jones machine which was running a customised version of the Williams Indiana Jones software. So shooting the scoop beneath the captive ball locked a ball in the idol, shooting the other scoop started a mode, and so on.
The Revenge from Mars was demonstrating his saucer LED kit which provided animating LEDs around the edge of the saucer and a glowing centre.
Here's the full list of the 128 pinballs on free-play at the show:
In addition, there were the three competition machines - Heat Wave, Mustang and The Addams Family for a total of 131 machines.
To see all these and more, why not take our exclusive Eleven Minute Tour of the Northern Lights Pinball part of the show?
You can also check out pictures of all the machines on Peter Duerden's Flickr page.
Elsewhere in the hall, there was a large area dedicated to players of Magic: The Gathering.
There were games of all kinds being played, from small hand-held electronic ones...
...to full-size arcade games.
PC gaming was as popular as ever, with dozens and dozens of PC set up for gamers to play.
A gamers show wouldn't be complete without a significant presence by the Cosplay fans. There were numerous stands catering for those dressed as their favourite characters.
There were also seminars about Cosplay and the chance to pose with your favourite Cosplay characters.
If you're already famous (or think you are), then you could star at the autograph session.
If you wanted other ways to spend your money, there were T-shirts covering just about every game out there.
Or you could just crash out and get some refreshments.
You've seen the pinball section, now here's our Fourteen Minute Tour of the rest of the show.
Without any doubt, the Play Expo show is a sight to behold. The sheer scale of it is impressive, and yet this year's show seemed a little lacking compared to previous years, with unoccupied several areas and others which needed more effort, such as the movie props.
© Pinball News 2015