Play It! Manchester

Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, until August 9th 2015
Admission £4 (90 minute session) or £10 (whole day), family tickets also available

They bought it to help with your homework.. says the opening line of MJ Hibbett and the Validators' classic single "Hey Hey 16K", a wonderful nod to computer games as they were back in the day. Play It! Manchester, held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, and organised by Replay Events, who have a good record in this sort of thing, is a nod to computer games from the old Binatone black and white Pong machines all the way through to multi player online Minecraft, with pretty much every single major home computer and games console in between.

There are four ninety minute sessions, designed in part so that you can get a good flavour of a lot of the games on show, and there's potential replay value in going back and having another go, or revisiting some of the favourites you've liked during the session. All games inside are covered in the cost of the admission, and with around 120 plus machines set up, there's also plenty of choice for you to get your gaming head around, and even a little café at the back so you can relax (especially if you have an all day ticket and want to rest up a bit)

So what of the 120 plus machines? Well, there's plenty of variety and a fair number of the blocks of tables are themed into zones. For example for the music games genre, you have Samba de Amigo on the Wii (complete with full maracas), Guitar Hero 3 on the Xbox 360 (two guitars), DJ Hero on the Xbox 360, and best of all, Donkey Konga on the Gamecube, with two bongo controllers which work spot on. Plenty of people were in two player co-operative mode on that, and certainly a good representation.

For the 8-bit gamer in me, most of those were laid out on tables around two edges of the room, with plenty of good nods to the Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amstrad, Atari ST, Amiga, NES, BBC Micro (even with a BASIC program for you to type in and run too) and further along, a Vectrex vector graphics console, an Atari 2600 laden with Pac-Man, and a very old Binatone black and white machine with some form of Pong tennis as well. In fact people were queueing to play the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man, despite the arcade version being available as you walked in.

The Commodore 64 was well presented with Wizball (I had to explain to a few people how to start off with this but they got the hang of it), the Amstrad had the superb Head Over Heels, and the Spectrum + had Daley Thompson's Decathlon (the original rubber keys Spectrum with that would have made no sense - that did have Jet Set Willy on though, another classic). One of the Amigas on show had the conversion of Bubble Bobble on it, which again proved a good hit all round, and a NES with Megaman on it too (the right decision - still a great game this.)

There were also tables set up with all sorts of sports games on, from Tiger Woods golf to FIFA, and to the bowling on Wii Sports. There was also a set of tables with PCs on which you could log on to and join a Minecraft session - these were more strictly timed though so you needed to be around and ready to play when the announcement was made over the tannoy.) Game characters also featured too, with a number of consoles set up with the different Tomb Raider games, including the classic first one on the PlayStation, and several Mega Drive consoles with the different versions of Sonic The Hedgehog, including the classic original and Sonic and Knuckles.

You also had a number of arcade cabinets set up with games too, from the likes of Pac Man, to the rather good puzzler Puzzle Bobble as well as one of the Street Fighter games. It was notable that the first two of the seven or eight machines were the ones people enjoyed the most, and not surprising to me as Puzzle Bobble is immense fun. In fact because they were upright and not laid out on tables, they were also a little overlooked close to the entrance, maybe they needed to be moved.

In fact, the main difficulty wasn't actually getting on to a game, as most people would play one game and move to the next one, but it was the time span. Ninety minutes may seem long but once you start playing a few games (and I did take around nine minutes or so on one game of Bubble Bobble) that time will soon catch up on you and wishing you had longer to play. It might have worked out a little better having options for half day tickets for two sessions for say £6 or £7 as well as the full day, so you could then have the option should you wish to do so - maybe something for the future.

However, I have to say that for me I really did enjoy the whole time there. It was certainly not just a throw back to games that I would have played heavily back in the day, but a real lesson to today's families that it's not just about the fancy graphics or sound necessarily, but the fun of the game you're playing and how you project that. With big smiles on little and big faces alike across the room, I can see that the event is one which has certainly been enjoyed by many so far, and if you've not yet been, you need to go and sample the real feeling of playing some old and new classics with a real sense of fun and happiness.

Warren's rating: 87%