It was all a bit last minute, but this year I bit the bullet and decided to take a wander up to Blackpool and attend the awesome Replay event at Norbreck Castle. Although I was dreading the 5 hour train journey, it was completely worth it. Me and the family left at about 5:15am and got the 5:45 train, arrived at Blackpool around 10:30am. Hotel was good and about 10 mins walk away from the venue.
The main hall was stunning, and blew me away with the shear size of the place and goodies which was tucked inside. There were tons of machines to play, and a wide variety of formats to check out. Wandering around, there was an 8-bit section where there were quite a few C64’s, and then I spotted someone having a good game of Sub Hunter on the Amstrad, which was cool (and I stood behind and watched for a bit 😉 )
Finally I had chance to play on a proper Robotron and Donkey Kong cabinet for the first time, which were great experiences and certainly far better than playing them on a modded Xbox on the telly or on a desktop PC. The range of arcade cabinets was amazing overall, and ranged from the likes of Pacman to Operation Wolf. Unfortunately the Asteroids arcade wasn’t working, but there was still plenty left to check out.
Almost right away I met up with Zzap/Crash’s Oli Frey and Roger Kean at the Attic Bug stall. I was slightly nervous and humbled at meeting them, so babbled a little – but enough to be able to say how much I appreciated all their brilliant work. The nerves and babbling continued as I then had a quick chat with Jeff Minter, mentioning that his Hellgate game on the Vic was my favourite. During the course of the two days, I also spoke to Fred Gray, Mark Jones and Simon Butler. Mark in particular was great to catch up with after all his help with the Games That Weren’t website. He was working on the Attic Bug stall, chatting to users and promoting the fantastic conversion of Dingo which he and Sokurah/Tardis Remakes produced, which they had produced a limited signed and produced edition for the Spectrum.
During the course of the two days were a series of talks, of which I managed to catch two in total. First was an excellent talk ran by Retro Gamer’s Paul Drury with Bruce Everiss from Imagine Software and the producer of the Commercial Breaks episode where Imagine infamously collapsed. Sunday featured GTW’s Andrew Fisher doing a talk with Oli Frey and Roger Kean which I throughly enjoyed and it was great to see them both get the recognition they deserved.
I ended up spending a lot of money yet again – in particular being very tempted by some new/old C64/Spectrum stock from Attic Bug and some Atari carts from Console Passion. My wife bought me a few bits for my birthday, including a t-shirt and retro clock. I used some birthday present money to get a Oli Frey mouse mat and mug, and picked up the new Dingo game on the Spectrum. I was also bought a boxed Astro Wars for £30, but sadly this didn’t work when I got it back home 😦
Then in the side hall was much quieter, but was my favourite area overall where Jason Kelk and Jason (Kenz) Mackenzie (amongst many others) had their stalls along with others showing their homebrew software and hardware. Jason Kelk had a number of machines on display and had his new Atari game Callisto on show, which was a very challenging sideways SEU. We also got treated to demos of an enhanced version of Lunar Blitz on the Vic 20 (which his partner really got into the “zone” playing 🙂 ) and Block Copy on the Atari VCS. A friend of Jason’s called Mark “GroovyBee” Ball (Thanks Jason!) had a very special expansion equipment for the Atari 7800 which vastly boosted the performance and features of the machine. The “Outspace” game which I first saw at Retrovision earlier this year was also released too!
Also on display was an Oric running various impressive conversions including Impossible Mission and also Skool Daze, which my daughter really got into (as she loves entering her teacher’s names in the C64 version)…
Jason Mackenzie had his Specadore 64, which continued to catch people’s attention (and even a request for a custom build by Boyo!), but even more so with the recently stunning release of Prince of Persia running on it – which was superb. Kenz also had put on sale the excellent Shoot Em Up Destruction Set 2, which Richard Bayliss, Alf Yngve and Kenz have been working very hard on over the past few months. Oracle 3 sadly didn’t quite make it, but Kenz had a sneaky preview to get people salivating 🙂
Jason Kelk’s C64 partner in crime, Sean Connolly, was also present and it was an honour to meet the guy behind many of those awesome Turbocharge tunes with Marc Francois. I still remember all them years ago when Jason recommended I purchased the budget version of Turbocharge because his friend’s music was in it and it was awesome. He wasn’t wrong!
I had plenty of great chats with Sean about his musical past and demoed some tunes and he demoed some of his very cool Midi tunes, including the Midi original of his Block Copy music.
It was the first time I had seen Andrew Fisher in a few years too, as unfortunately he’s been unwell recently and unable to attend two of the Retrovisions I went to. He was looking very healthy and full of gaming enthusiasm, excited about interviewing Oli and Roger.
Also it was the first time I had got to meet Andreas Wallstrom of C64.com fame. We didn’t get to speak for too long sadly as on the first day he had to reherse for the evening event and then on the second day I had a job trying to find him to catch up with 🙂
I also met Dan Gillgrass for the first time, as well as James Monkman (who was in the same hotel and I walked up to the venue with on Sunday morning). James had plenty to demo, including all of the RGCD 16k competition entries, which included the fantastic Canabalt game (which sadly I only caught a brief glimpse of). I had a good chat with Antiriad2097 about the Oric and the various new developments on the machine. Sadly I only briefly saw Subzero near the end of the day, as well as Ben Daglish and Jon Hare briefly before they went off to reherse. I kept seeing Darran Jones from Retro Gamer, but didn’t get chance to say hello.
Overall time went soooo quick that it was all over before I knew it and we had a long journey back (including standing for 2 hours on the train to London as it was packed!!). Again I didn’t take many photos or video clips as I was pretty tied up with all the bits and pieces going on. Here is a video from YouTube which is worth a look to give an idea of events 🙂
I kinda missed the pinball and competition areas, which was a bit of a shame – but hopefully next year i’ll get to check more stuff out. I kinda felt that it needed a 3rd day overall, but that is probably a testament to how brilliant the weekend was. I just about survived with the wife after commenting on how awesome the Lara Croft girl was – probably not the best thing to mention as one of the highlights when asked 😉 If things go ahead again next year, then i’ll be certain to go. The only real downer was that sadly Vinny (C64 endings) Mainolfi couldn’t make it this time round, and it wasn’t quite the same us both causing havok (or bending everyone’s ears off 😉 ).
Thanks to everyone at ReplayExpo for a really superb time!