It’s another year and thus another Spring amusement trade show has come and gone. The Amusement Expo 2013 was held from March 20th-22nd in Las Vegas, NV and with that we were there to check out some of the new stuff that game manufacturers had on hand that was not seen at other recent trade events like IAAPA 2012 in November or EAG 2013 in January.
While the show was three days long I opted to go for the latter two days. It just works better with schedules and on top of that the show was a little slower so less time was required to wait while playing certain games.
While there was some new content to be found, there was also plenty of games that were shown off at the aforementioned events. For video arcades some already familiar names such were to be found; first at Namco which was closest to the entrance as usual – Dark Escape 4D, Deadstorm Pirates, Pac-Man Battle Royale, Pac-Man Smash and Dead Heat could be found. Raw Thrills was next door and had Terminator Salvation, Big Buck HD, Super Bikes 2, Super Cars, Dirty Drivin, and Snocross. Sega had Operation Ghost, Dream Raiders, GRID 42”, K.O. Drive 42”. GlobalVR had The Swarm and Frightfearland. Stern had Avengers, X-Men and surprisingly AVATAR; Jersey Jack had a couple of Wizard of Oz pinball machines. UNIS had After Dark in its two flavors as well as the videmption games found at IAAPA.
The newest thing for Namco at the show that was drawing a lot of attention, aside from a few new mechanical redemption games like the football themed Goal Rush, was the surprising Pac-Man Ticket Mania. This is a new entry into the videmption space for Namco but one thing that might surprise everyone that sees this is that it is a joint effort between Namco America…and Raw Thrills. The premise of the game is simple – play Pac-Man and by accumulating points you can get tickets for hitting certain point levels. It’s essentially classic Pac-Man although in talking with Andy Eloff of Raw Thrills, they recoded the game from scratch so the patterns and AI of the ghosts will behave differently than in the original. Another thing that really stands out on the slim cabinet is the multi-color bright LED design. It’s a scrolling marquee that shows Pac-Man and ghosts but it really stands out (for anyone that cares about esoteric trivia, it took about two hours to write the code for that marquee animation). Anyways, for the game if you can finish off all the dots on the maze without losing your supply of lives, you get a chance to race for the jackpot. This is in the ghost house in the center of the screen and you start at the bottom of the maze and have to race for it past the ghosts to win the jackpot. The door opens after five seconds. If you get the jackpot, you not only get rewarded with more tickets but a fun animation of crazy pac munching of tickets and tons of fruit on the screen.
The next booth was the Raw Thrills and in addition to this Pac-Man videmption game they had one other new item, Disney’s Cars Arcade. We have mentioned this before as it has been seen on test – it was supposed to be at IAAPA actually but was pushed back for AE. I have not played the console version of Cars 2 but according to Nick Lombardo of Arcade Hunters, its the same thing as the Xbox 360 version minus the story and training modes. You race around one of seven closed circuit courses based on locations seen in the Pixar Cars movies, racing as one of the characters from the films. Aside from that is the way you get boosts in the game. There is a four-block gauge beneath your car on the screen. As you hit blue targets that will occasionally appear on the screen, it fills the gauge. These blue markers do vary – I noticed three separate ways to fill it, either collect the battery items (this is the quickest way to do it), drive over blue arrows or drive between floating blue arrows. This wasn’t really explained by the game but it is something I picked up on without trouble. The game was still in prototype form and a few things I noticed – you only get two laps to race so its over very fast, the steering could use some calibration and for some reason the game lacks networking. According to a document the game will only support two units linked together (a large majority of Raw Thrills drivers support up to eight). I don’t think that will be a big deal though since most locations only get two drivers, but it is a little different from the norm.
Last but not least was Toccata Gaming International. These guys are based in the US and they are starting to get attention by creating some original, innovative content. I first noticed them at IAAPA last year where they had a coin-operated Beer Pong game and a video balance board game. They came to Amusement Expo and brought the beer pong game with them, as well as a new version and a brand new video concept. On the beer pong which was their most popular item, they had a more compact version now that still lets two players go at it. This was actually not the only beer pong machine that the show. Apparently BayTek Games liked the idea and came up with their own Beer Ball Pong game. The differences: Baytek’s Beer Ball Pong has 4 player support, better graphics on the LCD and the cups are lit by LEDs which looks cool. The Toccata Pong 180° has a rotating platform to switch cups between 2 players, and more target area for throwing or bouncing the balls. So in that sense its “control” is better than the Baytek one. But the Baytek is flashier. Either way, I bet this will become a huge thing to have in bars, although it would work just as well in an arcade in the right area.
I don’t want to ignore Toccata’s other game however, called Rock N Roll Verti-Go. This is a brand new video concept that will be out in April, and for around $3200. Retro game fans might instantly recognize the basic concept – it’s just like Taito’s Ice Cold Beer(1983), but virtual instead of mechanical. This also uses the rock ‘n roll theme instead of a beer one. Controls are the same as Taito’s – use the two joysticks to move the platform around to get the ball to the goal. each level is determined by the position of the pick – it gets really hard at level 3 as you can see. There are 10 levels but the guy who was at the Toccata booth said that he would be making some further adjustments before it is released in April, including changes to the levels and music tracks. For some reason, the volume on the game was set really low so you could barely hear it. There will be three hardware versions available, amusement-only, ticket redemption and a coupon printer version.
Stay tuned for more!