PLAY Expo arrived in Manchester city centre today. The two-day gaming event (it runs today & tomorrow) featured a wealth of gaming activity and was a great day out!

For the cost of a ticket (£20 per person) the con provided countless games from every era, including pinball machines, arcade cabinets and a huge amount of consoles. All the games were hooked up and ready to play, from Frogger and Sonic the Hedgehog to Doom and Super Mario Kart.

A space was dedicated to PS4 games, there was a Minecraft zone, a cosplay area, a section for streaming, and a number of spaces for tournaments. In addition there were various trader stalls selling games, consoles and related paraphernalia.

I didn’t spend a great deal of time at the stalls, but from what I could see there was a LOT of games for sale – from the ZX Spectrum through to the Switch and everything in between. Some games were loose, while others were boxed and in mint condition.

Now I’d like to say I spent a great deal of time today playing a diverse array of games, but in truth I picked a small collection and stuck with them. These games included Die Hard Trilogy (PS1), Castlevania IV (SNES) and Moon Patrol.

Until today, I was unfamiliar with the arcade game Moon Patrol – an ’80s side-scroller – but after today I feel like a pro. Well, maybe a semi-pro.

Moon Patrol was easily my favourite game of the day, and the one I played the most, but it was great to reconnect with Die Hard Trilogy and Castlevania IV. Just look at the concentration.

While these were my favourites, they weren’t the most popular games at PLAY Expo – there were a number of games that were clearly very popular with convention attendees. These included Mortal Kombat II, Time Crisis II and Pac-Man, amongst a couple of others.

How do I know these were popular?

Because a queue formed behind each of these games and it rarely went down. The arcade zone was very popular.

If PLAY Expo returns next year (and I’m sure it will) then it might be worth the organisers investing in a few more arcade games. This zone was consistently busy throughout the day and could have benefited from a few more machines.

This isn’t a criticism – just an observation.

As an added extra for the day, myself, my husband and a friend, attended The Dark Room – an interactive game based around ’80s text-based adventures. This ‘add on’ event cost £5 and it was well worth it.

Hosted by John Robertson, The Dark Room was a hilarious way to spend an hour of the day. If anyone is attending PLAY Expo tomorrow and they haven’t bought a ticket for The Dark Room yet, then I’d highly recommend paying an extra fiver and giving it a whirl.

The Dark Room gave us the opportunity to take a break from the busier areas of the conventional hall. But in truth, PLAY Expo never felt ‘too’ busy – and this was a great thing.

While there was a little bit of queuing on popular games (as noted above), queues were pretty much non-existent. We didn’t have to queue to get into the venue and even when we wanted to get a drink or a bite to eat, there were no huge queues.

This was a well organised con, with friendly and helpful staff. I’ve attended PLAY Expo multiple times over the years, but this was the first time the event was held in the city centre (it is usually a bus ride out of the centre) and in my opinion this was one of the best.

A big thumbs up!

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