For the final weekend in October, we head up England’s North-West coast to the city of Blackpool and the Norbreck Castle Hotel, home of this year’s Play Expo show.
Play Expo is being held in the Exhibition Centre, which is in Norcalympia – the left part of the somewhat sprawling complex of function rooms and guest accommodation. The building looks rather run-down and in need of either significant restoration or something more drastic.
Play Expo is a large retro gaming show featuring hundreds of PCs, consoles, handhelds, arcade video games and, of course, pinballs. For the last few years it was held at the EventCity exhibition hall in Manchester but, apparently, the owners of that facility had become too difficult to work with, and so for this year only the show has returned to the place it all began – Norbreck Castle in Blackpool.
We arrived on Friday evening during the set-up time to check out the pinballs provided and managed by the Northern Lights Pinball team. These machines are located in a corridor running down the length of the adjacent main hall.
The main hall was also looking pretty complete, with all the games, computers and consoles in place ready for the start of the show at 10am the next day.
We returned on Saturday morning before the doors opened to the public, and there was a sizeable queue of visitors waiting for the start of the show.
Members of the Northern Lights Pinball team were going over some last minute organisational details and fixing machines which didn’t survive the journey to Blackpool unscathed.
In a small side room, a curated set of machines formed the Pinball thru the Ages collection, complete with explanatory cards showing how pinball progressed through its history.
Once the doors were opened at 10:00 sharp, it took around twenty minutes before all the pinballs were occupied.
There were 57 pinballs at Play Expo 2018. Here’s the full list:
AC/DC Pro Metallica Addams Family, The Mr & Mrs Pac-Man Addams Family, The Nautilus Aerobatics NBA Fastbreak Aerosmith Pro NBA Fastbreak Avatar Paragon Batman 66 Queen’s Castle Batman: The Dark Knight Revenge from Mars Black Knight 2000 Robocop Black Rose Silver Slugger Circus Ski Jump Creature from the Black Lagoon Skill Pool Deadly Weapon South Park Dialed In! Space Jam Dracula, Bram Stoker’s Space Ship Elvis Spectrum F-14 Tomcat Spider-Man Family Guy Star Trek (Data East) Flintstones, The Star Wars (Data East) Free Fall Terminator 2: Judgement Day Getaway, The: High Speed 2 Theatre of Magic Getaway, The: High Speed 2 Tron Legacy Hobbit, The WhoDunnit? Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure Wizard of Oz, The Iron Man Wizard! Jackbot World Poker Tour Junk Yard World Poker Tour Kick-Off X-Files Medieval Madness
The Addams Family electric chair challenge – as featured here in Pinball News – was back, giving visitors a new way to experience the classic game.
There were three high score competitions taking place. The adult one was being run on World Poker Tour, the kids one on Creature from the Black Lagoon, and there was an EM competition held on Skill Pool.
Occasionally, all the constant play took its toll and a machine developed a fault, as pinballs do. Every machine was numbered, and faults could be reported at the organisers’ desk for swift attention.
The rest of the show was just as packed, with any available spaces in front of monitors soon pounced-upon.
The arcade video equivalent of the pinball display was located at the back of the main hall. Several clusters of upright cabinets brought back many classic videos for visitors to enjoy.
Play Expo 2018 is still continuing as we write this report, with a second day tomorrow. We’ll update this article with any developments.