PLAY Margate 2015

This weekend I went to PLAY Margate, a games exhibition which is the little brother to equivalents in Manchester and Blackpool.  It was great; many different types of games all set up to be played with, random competitions, themed areas, and stalls selling stuff.  Obviously I didn't buy anything - cough - but I played plenty.

Chuckie Egg - BBC Model B

Justine's favourite game of all time, and it would have probably been great if I could find the key to go up ladders.  The joystick didn't work; I worked out that the keys V and N moved left and right, and the space bar jumped.  But standing in front of a ladder, I tried every key and none of them made me climb.   In desperation I tried every key on the keyboard, including the Break key which obviously quit the game.  I had to quickly search on the Internet how to restart it ...


Head over Heels - CPC 664

A game I've never given enough time to, but will certainly be doing so in the near future.  I started from the very beginning and realised that without graph paper I wasn't going to make a dent on the game.

Manic Miner - Spectrum

I've always found it overrated, but that might be because I didn't play it at the time and only experience it after being used to the platforming on consoles.  Fixed jumping paths and overly tight timing isn't a huge amount of fun.

Mine Storm - Vectrex

I've never played on a Vectrex, and was very pleasantly surprised with this.  Graphically it looks fantastic, and the way the game expands on the Asteroids template by introducing enemies that move towards you, fire back, or move quickly around the screen.  The controls were very tight indeed, and I managed to reach the fourth level before losing my first - and indeed my last - life.



PGR4 - Xbox 360

They had a competition for the best time around a certain circuit.  I only managed to get within 5 seconds of the winning time - I need more practice!

Hang On - Master System

Talking of competitions, there was a more formal competition where you had to record high scores for three different games.  Hang On was the first; I'd been playing the 3DS version a few days before so thought I would do OK but the Master System game just felt all wrong and as a result my scores weren't great.  I still got 28th highest score of the weekend, though!


Kung Fu Master - NES

Kung Fu Master was the second game, which I did rather better on despite never having played before - 6th highest of the weekend, and setting a high score on the machine I was using.  It's a relatively simplistic game, but I quickly worked out that punching an enemy gives 200 points while kicking gives only 100 - so I was able to work through levels building up points quickly.

Pop n Pop - PlayStation

Again, I'd never played this but quickly got the idea.  Challenge mode sees you working on two sides of the screen simultaneously, firing balloons upwards to form groups of three or more.  It took a little while but I soon worked out how to set up combos, which gave many more points and extended my playtime.  In the end I came 8th on the leaderboards.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Master System

I played through the Green Hill Zone mainly to amuse a couple of toddlers who were watching, managing to get through without dying.  Some people say that this game is better than the Mega Drive games; they are wrong.  It's still good though.



Sonic & Knuckles - Mega Drive

As part of the same display as the MS game, they had Sonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, Sonic and the Secret Rings, and Sonic Generations - representing the evolution of Sonic.   It's quite telling that the later games - other than Generations - were being less played.  I had a quick blast through the Sandopolis Zone, which is where the previous player had left off, and was reminded how much fun it was. I may need to go and play the Xbox 360 versions some more.

Street Fighter Alpha - Saturn

Similar to Sonic, there was a display showing the evolution of Street Fighter.  They didn't have a version of the original game on display, starting with SFII on the SNES, but I chose to try Alpha, a game I've not played before.  Initially I tried to play as Final Fight's Guy, before realising I didn't know any of his special moves and losing in the second fight.  I then tried Ken, and fought through four fights, before losing when the computer used the special gauge which is something I've never quite worked out.

Crazy Kong - C64

A hilarious rip-off on Donkey Kong, which basically changed the layout of some of the levels and made everything brown.  That latter bit may have been the C64 though.

Micro Machines 2 - Mega Drive

A couple of games against three random opponents in the multiplayer arena.  I won two and lost one, which felt like an achievement given that I had no idea of the courses before racing.

Defender - Arcade

I'm not sure I've played this before, actually - it was more complex than I was expecting. I'm sure I've played something very similar but without the humans to rescue, and given that that is a central mechanic, it must have been a different game.  Anyway, I played through a few levels of this before dying.

Crazy Taxi - Dreamcast

I got an A licence!  Mainly because I did a drift into a wall and sat there racking up points for 30 seconds, half way through my run.  It's amazing how much of the map I can remember, and despite the joypad having seen better days I managed a few limit cuts on the way down the hill.

Samba de Amigo - Wii

The music in the hall was too loud to be able to play this properly (or Donkey Konga, which kept hearing the clap sounds constantly), but I can't understand why they were showing the worst version of this.  Why not the arcade game, or the Dreamcast version?  And why has this never been released for Playstation Move?

Tomb Raider II - Playstation

A few minutes of exploring Venice, which took me back to the Christmas when I got my Playstation. I still prefer TRII to the first game, even if the rest of the world is the other way around.

Super Mario Kart - SNES

I still prefer later games to this.  Mario Kart 8 is just so much better.  They actually had quite a few of these in a display, but I've played the others to death and have them all at home anyway.


Random shooter game - 3DO

An illustration of how far first person shooters have become.  I have no idea what this game was, and searching for screenshots has turned up nothing. 


It was just a bit dull.

Pong - Binatone

A game against a random man.  We were both hopeless and unable to control the bat.


Arkanoid - Arcade

And another game I was hopeless at, having lost my ability to control with a paddle wheel.  After losing the first game very quickly, I lasted a bit longer on my second attempt and even got onto the high score table.  The last position, but still.

PLAY Margate 2015

This weekend I went to PLAY Margate, a games exhibition which is the little brother to equivalents in Manchester and Blackpool.  It was great; many different types of games all set up to be played with, random competitions, themed areas, and stalls selling stuff.  Obviously I didn't buy anything - cough - but I played plenty.

Chuckie Egg - BBC Model B

Justine's favourite game of all time, and it would have probably been great if I could find the key to go up ladders.  The joystick didn't work; I worked out that the keys V and N moved left and right, and the space bar jumped.  But standing in front of a ladder, I tried every key and none of them made me climb.   In desperation I tried every key on the keyboard, including the Break key which obviously quit the game.  I had to quickly search on the Internet how to restart it ...


Head over Heels - CPC 664

A game I've never given enough time to, but will certainly be doing so in the near future.  I started from the very beginning and realised that without graph paper I wasn't going to make a dent on the game.

Manic Miner - Spectrum

I've always found it overrated, but that might be because I didn't play it at the time and only experience it after being used to the platforming on consoles.  Fixed jumping paths and overly tight timing isn't a huge amount of fun.

Mine Storm - Vectrex

I've never played on a Vectrex, and was very pleasantly surprised with this.  Graphically it looks fantastic, and the way the game expands on the Asteroids template by introducing enemies that move towards you, fire back, or move quickly around the screen.  The controls were very tight indeed, and I managed to reach the fourth level before losing my first - and indeed my last - life.



PGR4 - Xbox 360

They had a competition for the best time around a certain circuit.  I only managed to get within 5 seconds of the winning time - I need more practice!

Hang On - Master System

Talking of competitions, there was a more formal competition where you had to record high scores for three different games.  Hang On was the first; I'd been playing the 3DS version a few days before so thought I would do OK but the Master System game just felt all wrong and as a result my scores weren't great.  I still got 28th highest score of the weekend, though!


Kung Fu Master - NES

Kung Fu Master was the second game, which I did rather better on despite never having played before - 6th highest of the weekend, and setting a high score on the machine I was using.  It's a relatively simplistic game, but I quickly worked out that punching an enemy gives 200 points while kicking gives only 100 - so I was able to work through levels building up points quickly.

Pop n Pop - PlayStation

Again, I'd never played this but quickly got the idea.  Challenge mode sees you working on two sides of the screen simultaneously, firing balloons upwards to form groups of three or more.  It took a little while but I soon worked out how to set up combos, which gave many more points and extended my playtime.  In the end I came 8th on the leaderboards.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Master System

I played through the Green Hill Zone mainly to amuse a couple of toddlers who were watching, managing to get through without dying.  Some people say that this game is better than the Mega Drive games; they are wrong.  It's still good though.



Sonic & Knuckles - Mega Drive

As part of the same display as the MS game, they had Sonic 2, Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure, Sonic and the Secret Rings, and Sonic Generations - representing the evolution of Sonic.   It's quite telling that the later games - other than Generations - were being less played.  I had a quick blast through the Sandopolis Zone, which is where the previous player had left off, and was reminded how much fun it was. I may need to go and play the Xbox 360 versions some more.

Street Fighter Alpha - Saturn

Similar to Sonic, there was a display showing the evolution of Street Fighter.  They didn't have a version of the original game on display, starting with SFII on the SNES, but I chose to try Alpha, a game I've not played before.  Initially I tried to play as Final Fight's Guy, before realising I didn't know any of his special moves and losing in the second fight.  I then tried Ken, and fought through four fights, before losing when the computer used the special gauge which is something I've never quite worked out.

Crazy Kong - C64

A hilarious rip-off on Donkey Kong, which basically changed the layout of some of the levels and made everything brown.  That latter bit may have been the C64 though.

Micro Machines 2 - Mega Drive

A couple of games against three random opponents in the multiplayer arena.  I won two and lost one, which felt like an achievement given that I had no idea of the courses before racing.

Defender - Arcade

I'm not sure I've played this before, actually - it was more complex than I was expecting. I'm sure I've played something very similar but without the humans to rescue, and given that that is a central mechanic, it must have been a different game.  Anyway, I played through a few levels of this before dying.

Crazy Taxi - Dreamcast

I got an A licence!  Mainly because I did a drift into a wall and sat there racking up points for 30 seconds, half way through my run.  It's amazing how much of the map I can remember, and despite the joypad having seen better days I managed a few limit cuts on the way down the hill.

Samba de Amigo - Wii

The music in the hall was too loud to be able to play this properly (or Donkey Konga, which kept hearing the clap sounds constantly), but I can't understand why they were showing the worst version of this.  Why not the arcade game, or the Dreamcast version?  And why has this never been released for Playstation Move?

Tomb Raider II - Playstation

A few minutes of exploring Venice, which took me back to the Christmas when I got my Playstation. I still prefer TRII to the first game, even if the rest of the world is the other way around.

Super Mario Kart - SNES

I still prefer later games to this.  Mario Kart 8 is just so much better.  They actually had quite a few of these in a display, but I've played the others to death and have them all at home anyway.


Random shooter game - 3DO

An illustration of how far first person shooters have become.  I have no idea what this game was, and searching for screenshots has turned up nothing. 


It was just a bit dull.

Pong - Binatone

A game against a random man.  We were both hopeless and unable to control the bat.


Arkanoid - Arcade

And another game I was hopeless at, having lost my ability to control with a paddle wheel.  After losing the first game very quickly, I lasted a bit longer on my second attempt and even got onto the high score table.  The last position, but still.

Gaming moments: G

Gauntlet (CPC)

Andrew and I realised that as long as we could keep one of us alive at any one time, we could have effectively infinite lives, moving through levels forever.  We played for about five hours until Death attacked us both at the same time and we both died.  We both stared at the screen for a good minute then shouted "bastard!" together.

Geometry Wars Galaxies (DS)

One of the later levels had a stupidly high score for the silver medal, and enemies spawned all around my ship constantly. I seem to recall the level was shaped like a star. I finally beat it, sitting on the train, hiding in one of the points of the star and setting the drone to be a turret rather than my usual bait type.  I almost missed my stop.

Grand Theft Auto (PS)

I vividly remember completing the Liberty City missions, not knowing that there were two more worlds to unlock.  I also remember the soundtrack with the lyric "Grand Theft Auto" in one of the songs, which I thought was incredibly clever the first time I heard it. 

Gaming moments: D

Dear Esther (Mac) 

The end sequence will probably stay with me for a long time - but only when combined with the crash scene and hospital bed at the bottom of the cave.

Dancing Stage (arcade)

I only played this a couple of times, at the Trocadero.  The machine felt huge, and even before getting on the platform you felt energised by the lights and colours.  I had seen someone playing already, so knew what to expect, but the first time that two arrows came up the screen at the same time still threw me off guard.  Unfortunately none of the home versions quite hit the same spot, partially because of crappy dance mats.

Daytona USA (arcade)

A four-player cabinet at the bowling alley in Bexleyheath.  I had just learnt to let the back drift out and powerslide around the corners, and overtook my friend John doing so.  He shouted at me that it wasn't a powerslide, just a lucky skid.  So I did it again the next race.

Desert Strike (Mega Drive)

I actually remember this more from my playthrough on the PSP, given the use of save states which allowed me to actually complete the game. There were a number of memorable points, but the best was chasing the madman across the map in his speedboat at the end of the penultimate level.  I was raining missiles on the speedboat the whole time and it didn't explode.  Of course not; where would the last level come in if that happened?

Donkey Konga (GameCube)

The instructions speeding up a few bars into Don't Stop Me Now.  We played this again recently, and it's still great.

Doshin the Giant (GameCube)

I played this when it was first released, back in 2002, to completion. I can remember very little of it now, other than the moment when I first realised you could pick up and throw villagers.  I did it many times and they all hated me, so I had to restart the day.

DLC Quest (PC)

Three points:
  1. Being unable to move left at the start of the game, and audio cutting out.  I thought the game was broken; evidently not. 
  2. Meeting an NPC called Phil at the end of a long cave, who informed me that he was just there to fill space. 
  3. The ending of the game not actually being the ending of the game unless you buy some DLC and finish it. 
Driver (PS)

I have never completed the last level because it was just too hard. 

Gaming moments: B

Bangai-O: Missile Fury (Xbox 360)

Having played both Bangai-O and Spirits, I was expecting many missiles.  The sheer size and number of projectiles when I first launched a MAX attack stays with me, as well as the slowdown, half of which I'm sure was fake.

Bayonetta (Xbox 360)

I am hopeless at the game itself - but I will never forget the car's radio playing Outrun music in the cutscene after the prologue.

Beyond Good & Evil (Xbox)

The final upgrade to your hovercraft ... and suddenly you have a spaceship.  Having become familiar with the world over a number of hours, being torn away to pursue the final fight was unsettling.

Bishi Bashi Special (PS)

ATTENTION!  Matt didn't read the instructions, and failed time and time again.

Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons (PS3)

Calling upon the bravery and spirit of the elder brother to cross the water. An astounding statement made with no words.

Broken Sword (PS)

Unbelievable slowdown when reaching the desert town. I gave up and played the PC verion a couple of years later.

Black (Xbox)

Having made it to the end of the game, the last corridor and boss were just too difficult.  I never completed it and resent the whole thing to this day. 

Game memories: F

Feel the Magic XX-XY (DS)
Project Rub in the UK, but I got this with my imported US DS ahead of the European launch.  In many ways it was an ideal game to launch the DS with, showing many varied ideas on how the touchscreen could be used.  It didn't hang together that well, but I remember the black, white and orange colour scheme vividly.

F1 '97 (PS)
Murray Walker shouting "He's on the green stuff" over and over again; tracks being messes of pixels a little way down the road.  A great game.

F1 2010 (Xbox 360)
Far too many options and menus to wade through.  Completing a single race in the career mode took ages, since you had to go through practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself.  Ideal for people who love F1, but for me it was just a bit painful.

F1 2011 (3DS)
As with F1 2010 above, but with a third of the framerate.

F355 Challenge Passione Rossa (Dreamcast)
At the time this felt like a massive technical achievement and tales of the arcade machine using three monitors underlined the game's credentials.  I played it for about fifteen minutes before being totally overwhelmed by the options and realistic gameplay - in other words, I kept spinning off the track, couldn't work out how to switch to a behind-car view, and had better things to play instead.

Field Commander (PSP)
Like Advance Wars but with little charm, little challenge, and a rubbish online mode.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (Gamecube)
I've never completed a proper Final Fantasy game; I've never even passed the first hour of one.  This, however, was played loads at virtually every games night we held.  Kieron had a bucket on his head, I was a Selkie.  John was accomplished at ranged combat, we all could heal each other but often didn't.

Fire Emblem (GBA)
I never completed this.  I remember it getting very stressful due to the fact that if a character died in a mission, they remained dead.  I restarted missions again and again to protect my favourite characters, and as a result it grew stale and too difficult.

Floigan Brothers: Episode One (Dreamcast)
It's a shame there was no episode two - this was an amusing game which was unlike anything else, as with a lot of Sega's Dreamcast output.  It was far too short and there was a bit too much collection required as far as I recall.  I got this in Singapore and worked out pretty quickly that it was a pirate version, but bought the proper version on my return from HMV for a fiver.

Ford Racing 3 (Xbox)
I was convinced to buy this by people on RLLMUK praising the second game, the fact it was online (when there were few other online games around, and it was £10 brand new.  I think I played it online three times and offline twice, before being tempted away by other games that were just more fun to play.

F-Zero (SNES, Wii, Wii U)
F-Zero GX (Gamecube)
F-Zero X (N64)
F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (GBA, 3DS)
GX is the best.  The Mode 7 games are a bit pants now, but at the time they seemed great, particularly on the GBA where the handling was much more refined.  Replaying them now, they are just too floaty and the career mode is a bit lightweight with daft difficulty spikes.

Future Tactics: the Uprising (Gamecube)
I bought this in the US and as a result, the hassle needed to load the game meant that I played it little.  A shame, as when I did I remember it being a clever game melding a strategy turn-based game with something that felt more action-based.  I'm now able to play US games on my modded Wii; I may try this again when I find it.

Fighting Vipers (Saturn, Xbox 360)
I continue to be hopeless at fighting games that are more complicated that Street Fighter II, but Fighting Vipers has a pleasing lack of combo, super and extra EX WTF meters.  The fighting feels solid and the idea of being able to knock off armour works well.  I get the feeling that if I played this a bit more I could get quite good at it.  That's unlikely to happen.