This week as Bowl Expo ’18 and as I had mentioned on the previous post, I wasn’t planning on attending until a last minute change took place. Granted, with Las Vegas being as close as it is by plane, it’s not much of a journey. Although waiting until the last minute to get a flight doesn’t exactly warrant the best options.
Anyways, previous Bowl Expo shows have not been much to talk about when it comes to arcades but this year it was different. With Amusement on the upswing over the past few years, plenty of new product has been in development and that means we’re seeing more debuts than at just IAAPA or maybe Amusement Expo. With that, I found the trip to be beneficial and worthwhile, so let’s jump into what was there.
Pac-Man’s Pixel Bash (Bandai Namco)
Bandai Namco’s first video effort in a while is both new and old at the same time, continuing the tradition of bundling Namco’s 80s arcade classics into a cabinet form. We spoke about it earlier this week in this post. The Pixel Bash re-uses the classic upright shape as the old Midway cabinets and is being made in both coin and non-coin models. Only the Coin model was at the show, sporting a 26″ monitor and an 8-way joystick. The stick felt slightly stiff but it was usable for the games that require diagonals. The monitor bezel art and the screen itself needed some adjusting (the latter something that commentor Voltz has mentioned both in this video below and in the comments on another post). But overall this will offer the best compilation of games released in this format that Namco has done so far.
As a note, the sales staff discovered that if you set the coin-op version to Free Play, Ms. Pac-Man appears, so 32 games are included with the package. But, there is no way to have it appear in a pay-for-play setting. It is also the original version (not the Turbo). Non-coin models will be released around August and Steve at Namco mentioned a “mancave” style design that they were looking into that would include cupholders and even a mini-fridge.
Connect 4 Hoops (Bay Tek Games)
Caught on test earlier this year, Bowl Expo was the first time that Bay Tek brought this title to an event like this. It wasn’t hard to miss either – standing at 11.5′ tall (3.5m), this was one piece that attracted a crowd without breaking a sweat. The concept is pretty straightforward – you’re playing the classic Connect 4 game, just using the basketballs as the ‘chips’. You can play alone or against a friend but like the board game, it is the most fun when played versus. The game qualifies as a videmption piece as it uses a high quality LED projector to show the gameplay. That said, this is the most innovative ‘twist’ that has ever taken place in basketball arcade gaming since the concept was first created. Dave & Busters will be enjoying this one for a while with the general industry getting their hands on it this Fall.
Transformers Shadows Rising (Sega Amusements)
Sega’s next original arcade release was on hand, the sequel to Human Alliance although surprisingly they used the same cabinet I saw at Amusement Expo 2018 and not the final production cabinet that was unveiled earlier this week. That disappointment aside, the software was “the latest” and was much better than before. I noticed where they moved some enemies around, added more action, added more effects and so on to make this a complete experience. With the game shipping in July there could a few more adjustments made…but they would be minor (mainly with the storyline, which I still didn’t really understand as it seemed disjointed apart from you’re fighting the Decepticons because they are attacking). I played through the entire thing and found it to be a solid mounted gun shooter – very similar to Human Alliance but more fun. The achievements in particular add a nice touch, especially Sega history callbacks like “Outrunners” and “Zaxxon”. For anyone who enjoys ‘spoilers’, here’s the final level of the game and the ending, something you can only play once all three other levels are complete:
Tomb Raider Arcade (Adrenaline)
I shot some footage of this but haven’t had a chance to edit it together. Just keep an eye out for it on my YouTube channel, it’ll be up this week. You might recall that Dave & Busters locations got their hands on this earlier this year, with the wide industry being able to get their hands on it starting in May. In talking with Adrenaline, it sounds like the game has been a big hit out there, posting itself as the #1 video on location in several venues. One surprising piece of info I discovered about it is that the game will contain around 60 minutes of gameplay – the standard gameplay length for a light-gun shooter falls around 20 minutes, maybe 25. The same thing applies to Rabbids Hollywood (which uses the same cabinet).
As such, the software that has been out there hasn’t been 100% finished, with the completed build coming very soon – and for free!
Mannequin Challenge (Touch Magix)
Mentioned at both IAAPA and Amusement Expo, this game also saw an upgrade to the software that was different enough that it is worth mentioning again. The company Touch Magix has actually been enjoying a strong success with their Magix Floor game (where it is outearning several big names in the business from well-known companies, by the performance numbers that they showed me) so they are hoping to build on that momentum with MC.
The new software that you’ll see in the video here has been designed in a way that makes it a little more exciting but also better suited for redemption style play. That is mainly through challenge poses where you must strike two of them before the timer runs out instead of one and playing for the Super Bonus of tickets. The game does have a non-redemption mode but they said that redemption is the main focus.
Daytona Championship USA Standard Model (Sega Amusements)
Last but not least is the recently unveiled Daytona Championship USA standard version. It plays just like the Deluxe version running the “Definitive Edition” software that we saw at IAAPA 2017. The re-design will work better for smaller locations who may not be so tournament focused as these units are also more affordable. I didn’t spend a lot of time filming this one since it has been recorded several times…I really just need to get some direct capture footage of it at this point 😉
I also finally got a chance to play Stern’s Iron Maiden pinball machine but I only did so right before I left the show as I stumbled upon it by accident. Stern wasn’t there with a booth but IM and Guardians Of The Galaxy were tucked away at an easy-to-miss part of the Betson booth. I like how IM plays, it was fun and didn’t feel like a Drain-O-Matic (*cough*hack*wheezeSTAR WARS*Cough*sniffle*hack). I just don’t know that a classic hard rock band is what my clientele are looking for.
Three Amusement VR companies were on hand – Hologate, Holocube, and Modal VR. Modal had some new white headsets I hadn’t seen before but I didn’t take a close look to see if that was just a shell around a pre-existing HMD. Here’s the Hologate system:
QubicaAMF also had their Hyper Bowling system there, which promises to turn bowling into more of a video gaming experience; Touch Magix mentioned above was showing off this video of a new dynamic projection system that is integrating with Brunswick lanes called Magix Lanes; and I saw a few other bowling items while passing by but didn’t really stop to investigate them.
All-in-all, it was a good expo. The exhibitors seemed pleased. attending the