We are in 2015 and here's the sixth edition of EAG International, the big European amusement trade show. Each year, manufacturers use this event as an opportunity to unveil their latest machines and the prototypes to be released on the European market. Unlike the previous years where we reviewed every single stand, we will focus on our specialty this time: video games.
At the time EAG was held, the London Boat Show was occupying several halls of the ExCel. That much space was necessary to shelter the many boats on display. Fortunately, there was enough room left for our favorite machines. Follow the guide...
Let's start with Bandai Namco Games who announced several highly anticipated titles by players.
So here's the famous Star Wars Battle Pod that is much talked about for the last three months! Despite our "Press" badges, we were forbidden by Namco to film or take pictures of the game. You will therefore have external views of the cabinet only. But what is the game worth? The principle is the same as Mach Storm; the freedom of action is not complete, the player simply aims and shoots enemies before him. That said, we found the action much more readable than in Mach Storm. For those unfamiliar with this cabinet, it is equipped with a half-dome screen, a surround sound system, air blowers directed to the players, a speed throttle and a joystick which vibrates when firing. The seat is equipped with a subwoofer.
The player pilots several vehicles during the 5 missions that make up the game: an X-Wing at the Battle of Yavin, a snowspeeder on Hoth, a speederbike on Endor, the Millennium Falcon in the attack of the second Death Star and a Tie Advanced in the "Revenge of Darth Vader". Obviously, said like that, it strongly reminds of Sega's Star Wars Trilogy. But the comparison stops here because in addition to enhanced graphics, the sensations are increased tenfold with such a cabinet. You feel you're there! And that makes Star Wars Battle Pod a sure hit! [Video]
The other highly anticipated title is of course Time Crisis 5! This famous series of shooting games needs no introduction. The success of the series is largely due to the pedal system that makes the game more dynamic than the competition. What's new this time? First, the cabinet is very classy and very imposing with its two 55" screens. Then there is not one but two pedals (labeled "Left" and "Right"). They serve to move between cover points to the left and right of the scene. This allows you to kill enemies you're not able to shoot from the front. The reload system has not changed, just release the pedal to take cover and reload. Pressing the same pedal allows you to recover and shoot in front of you, pressing the other moves you in that direction. This adds a much welcome new strategic dimension. At certain times of the game, events prompt you to press the indicated pedal at the right time (this varies between games).
The gun is equipped with a side button to change weapons at certain times of the game; you decide which of the machine gun or the rocket launcher is most suitable against a cloud of insects for example. Time Crisis 5 has never shone by its graphic quality and yet Time Crisis 5 is beautiful in this area! In short, this is a fantastic game! The only downside is the lack of a movable slide on the gun. It was withdrawn for reliability purpose. But even if we are assured that the same recoil system was kept inside the gun, the characteristic tap-tap sound is missing. Despite that, it's a successful return!
The current game consists of three levels; a classic level in a resort, a sequence aboard a heavily armed gunship and a chase while riding a motorcycle. A free update currently in production called "Time Crisis 5 True Mastermind Edition" will add 3 whole new levels.
The game features new characters (Luke O'Neil and Marc Godart), but we also come across old acquaintances like Robert Baxter and Wild Dog. Time Crisis 5 is a total success and one of the must-have games. [Video]
And here is Lost Land Adventure, the other Namco shooting game this year. Equipped with a hemispherical screen, the cabinet bears a ruined temple theme and calls the player for adventure. Players must go hunting treasure in a ruined temple in the middle of the jungle, an abandoned city in the desert, caves in snowy mountains or in a old mine on fire. 4 stages must be completed (in any order) to reach the bonus stage where the ultimate treasure is. Fortunately, it is possible for players to save their progress through a pin code system (the cabinet features a numeric keypad).
The levels are punctuated with huge bosses and (easy) puzzles to be elucidated. The enemies come from everywhere and players must scrutinize all around. This is a good point for immersion that is unfortunately marred by the presence of a window through which passers-by can see the screen. If the lighting of the room is not suitable, their shadow is projected on the screen. The idea is good but Lost Land Adventure does not provide the expected gaming fun for players accustomed to shooting games. Rather, it is intended for a family audience. [Video]
Little surprise, crocodiles from Wacky Gators and Funky Gators were replaced by virtual models in Gator Panic VR. In this version, we no longer use a hammer to transform reptiles into handbags but large buttons placed in front of each gate. You guessed it, push the button in front of the porch from which comes an alligator to make it disappear. The usage of a screen adds more diversity to the original game with giant enemies that occupy the place of several small ones. A very entertaining redemption game!
The only new Raw Thrills game this year is Jurassic Park. And what a game! Available as an environmental cabinet with or without motion (both equipped with a 55" screen), this fixed gun shooting game immerses players into the dark world of Jurassic Park. The 9 levels are filled with action and you will be chased by no less than 30 different species of dinosaur. Graphics are gorgeous and the action is sustained. There is indeed little downtime and although we're less impressed by the T-rex than in Sega's Lost World in its time, we constantly feel the danger of being surrounded by dangerous creatures.
Fortunately, there are many weapons to defeat the threat; guns that freeze the enemies or electrocute them, triple shots, or grenades. Each mission consists in capturing a large specimen into a cage, which is easier said than done. As with other Raw Thrills shooters; the staging is very cinematic with many events happening to punctuate the action. And it works!
Note that the deluxe version with motion has a new compressed air system developed for the occasion. Thanks to its dynamic staging, Jurassic Park avoids the bore that plague many fixed gun games. It is therefore highly recommended! [Video #1] [Video #2]
In another style, the famous Candy Crush Saga arrives in arcades. You all know the principle; align 3 candies using the touch screen and complete the 15 levels that make up the game to win the super bonus.
Another title from Adrenaline Amusements: Flying Tickets. It could not be simpler: the player has a single button that allows the stunt volatile (he wears a helmet) to stay in the air. The longer the bird flies without crashing into an obstacle, the more tickets you earn. Beat the reference time displayed at the top of the screen to win a bonus ranging from 100 to 1,000 tickets.
The vertical 65" screen displays simple but beautiful graphics. The Flying Tickets cabinet can accommodate 2 players simultaneously. Note the violent sound of the bird crashing. A fun and simple game to play but which requires great skills to go far. A great redemption, much better than the Bay Tek Games version of the game entitled Flappy Bird.
JET's Ocean Pearls is a video version of Space Ballz with a marine theme. The dropped balls bounce off studs and must land in the boxes worthing more tickets. The space between the two transparent 55" screens is cleverly hidden by a sticker giving the impression of a giant continuous display.
The black screen technology used there gives a great sense of depth. A multitude of marine creatures (siren, eel, pelican, crab, ...) react to your actions. The simple principle and nice graphics make Ocean Pearls a great redemption for all audiences.
Here's an innovative concept from JET, Citrus Crusher uses Aromerama technology. The machine sprays lemon, orange and lime scents according to the fruit you hit. Unfortunately, we could not test this effect because there was no way to start a game on the showcased machine.
Unveiled last year, Mario Kart Arcade GP DX is prominently featured on the stand. A very good game that is unfortunately hampered by the inability for the player to choose his kart and more problematically; the engine. That makes the game feeling slow. It looks as if for the European version, they tried to make a game exclusively for children. Too bad because this DX version doesn't lack in content: 20 karts, 40 circuits, 90 types of objects and a co-op mode that allows players to merge their karts. [Video]
Super Alpine Racer is this time presented in final version. And that changes everything! There's more space to put your feet, better handling, better animations, adjusted difficulty... So many improvements in fact that we can decently recommend it to locations drawing the general public. [Video]
Dead Heat Riders is once again part of the show. This Dead Heat spin-off whose cars were replaced by motorbikes, this is a good game of motorcycle street racing. Races take place in the cities of London, San Francisco, New York and Chicago. Apart from the use of Nam Cam, no frills; this game is simple and effective. [Video]
The classic Super Bikes 2 and its fantasy courses.
The Big Buck HD online hunting game also available in panorama model with a 70" screen.
Animal Kaiser, the animals fighting game using collectible cards, is presented in its fifth version. Always popular with children, it is still available in English only. Too Bad. To the left; Pac-Man Ticket Mania lets you earn tickets by playing the classic Pac-Man (with updated graphics). Very nice!
Plush toys from the upcoming DreamWorks animated film "Home" is already available from Bandai Namco Amusement Prize (formerly Namco Prize Europe). The movie will be released on March 20 in the UK and on April 1 in Belgium.
Also available: an electric kart from Mario Kart! That will delight many children!
The "Special Attraction" version features 65" HD screens (as opposed to the curved screens seen at IAE 2014) and seats that swivel on themselves. The cabinet is equipped with a large LEDs illuminated arcade and monitor screens overlooking the players that allow viewers to follow the race. The dashboard has a radio with an LCD display for switching music on the fly and a keypad for PIN codes. The standard model sports a "modest" 42".
There are four types of events: Race Off (stroke), Demolition Derby (in an arena), Knockout (you have to push the enemy out of a platform) and Crossroards (circuits with intersection points). If you blow up your car early in demolition derby (which is the funniest mode in multiplayer), you start again with a new car. In the end, the player receives a code that he can type in at the start of the next game in order to unlock upgrades for his car. There is also a global online ranking. Showdown is no short on content; there are about twenty cars available in classes ranging from trucks to sport cars through old-timers and muscle cars. The environments are seven in number: Yokohama, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Nevada and Colorado.
The high resolution graphics are superb. The cars are well detailed and damage is apparent. Fireworks go off during jumps, it's very well done. A beautiful presentation so, but what worth the game itself? Alas, this is where it gets bad... The car drives like a bumper car (no speed shifter, press the brake pedal while turning the steering wheel to engage reverse), the problem is that any sense of speed is absent. It's true that in real banger racing, speed rarely exceeds 80kph but it's not what you would expect to incur in an arcade game. There is a boost button but even with that, the result is not conclusive. The game therefore lacks sensations and that's a shame because the presentation is enticing. But ultimately, it's the gameplay that matter. See for yourself but Showdown didn't convince us. [Video]
Attention! Make room for the Super Deluxe version of Transformers Human Alliance! This behemoth of almost 4 meters long has a 80" screen. The sound was cut off at show so we cannot give you an impression on the full experience offered by this machine. The game remains the same anyway... just bigger. [Video]
The friendly Plants vs. Zombies - The Last Stand redemption now has its deluxe version with a 60" screen instead of 42" on the standard version. This cabinet has nice white gates on the sides. [Video]
Storm Racer G [Video] and Storm Rider [Video] by Wahlap are still available. We played Storm Racer G again and it left us a better impression than last year. Better to the point of making it one of the best racing games on the market. Highly recommended!
The player must indeed strike the correct pad according to the direction from which the object comes to the screen to have Po destroy it. The goal of each level is to destroy a number of targets in a given time limit. Be careful though because if some objects give you extra time, others like the bombs makes you lose it. Fun for the whole family, the height of the pads can be adjusted depending on the target audience.
Let's go to JNC Sales who distributes three games made by IGS. The first one is the Monster Eye environmental cabinet shooting game. As often in this kind of game, players embody two tourists who find themselves embarked on an adventure that goes beyond reality. Here it is Jack and Betty who find themselves in the midst of attack from genetically modified animals and find mysterious weapons to face them.
There are 5 chapters, players can choose the order of the first 4: the water park, the train passing through a forest, China Town and Central Station. The last one is Adam City. The gameplay of Monster Eye is the same as in Let's Go Jungle! but with some original innovations. First; motion detection! At times, players will have to reproduce with their body movements indicated on the screen (leaning in one direction, swimming, ...). Second; a button on the controller increases the firepower for a while.
The cabinet has a HD 55" screen that displays beautiful graphics in 1080p. Unfortunately the vertical synchronization is disabled and generates an unpleasant tearing effect. It is also equipped with moving seats and air blowers. Monster Eye is a very good game that will be perfect for locations not yet having an environmental cabinet shooter since it's available at an attractive price. [Video #1] [Video #2]
The other game from IGS is Overtake - The Elite Challenge, a Ford licensed car racing game. As a consequence, players can drive several models of the brand: Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo and Mustang. These can be customized.
There are 3 game modes: Race, time trial and multiplayer (up to 4 players). In race mode, the player participates in the Overtake Competition where he has to go through 4 stages in a row (he must be ranked third or better to continue). The player chooses the first part but the following three are drawn randomly from 12 possibilities. While driving, unexpected events occur. The player must then press the "View" button to avoid the obstacle. There are hundreds of events. The cabinet is equipped with a "Boost" button. Press it and the speed of the car is augmented, press it again during the active boost to activate the "Turbo Jet" that transforms the car to go even faster!
A keypad system allows the player to save his progress, his records and the customization of his car. An online ranking is available (and you can choose Belgium as a country!). Another good surprise from IGS, Overtake - The Elite Challenge is a fun game, easy to handle and bringing a lot of surprises. [Video]
The third game of the brand is for a younger audience and is called Go Go Pony. The child rides a horse and participates in a competition set in a fantasy world. There are 8 characters to choose from and each horse has a special skill of its own. The gameplay is simple; the player pulls the reins on the side where he wants to go. To jump, he must pull on both sides at the same time and to speed up, he must press the button that is on the horse's head.
Crown Direct presents a photo booth for children with funny characters.
At Harry Levy, Bay Tek brings hopscotch up to date with HopStar. The player must jump in rhythm with the squares that come on the screen. Either on two feet if there are two squares or on one foot if there is only one.
Piñata is a video redemption by LAI Games that rewards players with candies. Players hit a drum to try to break the piñata in a 3D world. There are 7 different environments and 28 piñatas shaped like animals. The game includes fun facts about the animals and is dubbed in both English and Spanish languages. Fun but physical because you have to strike continuously as quickly as possible.
Instance Automatics offers the latest Universal Space creations such as Monkey Shakedown. A video redemption for two players whose goal is to bring down monkeys that climb trees before they catch the bananas at the top. To do this, players have to push ball-shaped levers with force along rails. There are special events like a big monkey that takes up much of the screen. The game is stupid but very fun!
In Safari Ranger, you have to launch the lasso at the right time and grind to bring animals back to the shelter. The big cats are not easy to catch, which makes the game a bit frustrating.
Do you remember Dangerous Curves by Taito? A racing game of the '90s where one player riding a motorcycle was facing another aboard a sports car? The same concept is adapted to children in Duo Drive. The difference is that a barrier separates the two sides of the road, preventing players to meet. The road is littered with obstacles to avoid and coins to collect to earn a max of tickets. The start button has a "boost" function during the game. Who will cross the finish line first?
Already present last year, Fly Fishing Festival is a fishing game for 6 players. Each fish caught is worth a certain number of tickets.
Third fishing game on the stand: the venerable Fishin' Time where the player has 30 seconds to catch as many fishes as possible. Developed by Play Mechanix, the dated graphics of this game show how much they have improved on that matter over time.
Sea Wolf - The Next Mission by Coastal Amusements, a naval battle redemption classic out a few years ago.
Another game out of the attic, Frantic Fred is a family game where you move Fred the bear with a steering wheel so he eats all the apples falling from trees. Be careful though because mischievous squirrels try to knock him out. When hit, he exclaims "Dat hurt!".
This prototype of Formula 1 built by Kupper-Automaty is sold without any electronic equipment. It's available in 5 colours. Up to you to customize it.
For this game, Tecnoplay uses the same cabinet model they licensed to Sega for Virtua Tennis 4. The cabinet is this time equipped with two steering wheels, pedals and two RFID (contactless) card readers. Up to 3 machines can be connected for furious 6-player races. The handling requires a little practice to get used to but once mastered, it's a great pleasure to chain drifts in this racing game viewed from above. Mini Motor Racing Arcade is graphically very nice. There are 3 game modes: Arcade, Quick Race and Career. The player can improve his car at the end of each race and save his progress on a save game card. A good little original game. [Video]
Power Truck Special is a new version of IGS's truck racing game released in 2012. The game boasts of a lot of improvements, the first being a new cabinet more beautiful than the old one. The seats vibrate and up to 4 cabinets can be linked-up. Two new trucks are now available: the Hovercraft and the Bulldozer.
Three game modes are offered: Story mode which follows a well-developed story with dialogues a bit like in the Initial D games, Extra mode in which the player may attempt to enter the online ranking in Time Trial, Slam and Drift categories and Battle mode for up to 4 player. Power Truck Special has many great features but the handling is not easy in large part because of the actual size of the truck steering wheel. [Video]
As usual, Electrocoin showcases the latest Stern pinball machines. This year, there are two of them. First, the WWE WrestleMania pinball table in Pro version (there is also a limited edition signed by Hulk Hogan). And then the The Walking Dead pinball which exists in Pro, Limited Edition and Premium versions.
The playfield of WWE WrestleMania features a wrestling ring and the player can start a wrestling match by aiming for the right targets. 10 wrestlers intro music and the voices of the official WWE announcers Jerry “The King” Lawlor and Michael Cole are present. This pinball uses the new "Spike" system (more powerful and less complex) instead of the aging SAM system equipping the old tables.
The Walking Dead pinball immerses the player in the horrific atmosphere of the eponymous series. He must fight zombies alongside Sheriff Rick Grimes and complete various missions. The playfield features zombies and key locations in the series are represented as the prison and the Block C cell.
Let's continue the tour of pinballs with the booth of Pinball Heaven who still distributes the pinball machines from Jersey Jack Pinball including the brand new The Hobbit and its 27" HD LCD screen. Medieval Madness Remake of Planetary Pinball Supply is also presented on the stand. As the name suggests, it is a remake of the classic pinball table equipped with modern electronics and LEDs replacing the original bulbs.
Heighway Pinball is an English pinball manufacturer whose characteristic is the Heighway Pinball Gamechange System allowing the user to easily install any of their games into any of their machines. The game presented here is Full Throttle which exists in standard edition and limited edition. The player live the career of a motorcycle pilot from rookie to world champion while facing a rival. Full Throttle offers many races, challenges and trophies.
And we finish our tour of the show with the stand of Whitehouse Leisure. This year, plush toys from Frozen are the main event notably with the giant Olaf plush! Irresistible Minions from Despicable Me are always a safe bet in the field of fluff toys...
This year is a very good year! There was indeed no bad game at the show. Obviously there are some machines that stand out of the lot, future hits that you can buy eyes closed. This category obviously includes the new Time Crisis 5 which is the shooter of the moment! The other big game from Bandai Namco is the highly anticipated Star Wars Battle Pod which offers unprecedented immersion into the world of Star Wars. It also includes the new Jurassic Park by Raw Thrills, a fast-paced shooting game in an environmental cabinet.
Do not forget the last year's releases that remain good choices: Mario Kart Arcade GP DX, Super Alpine Racer, Storm Racer G (a very good racing game!), Aliens Armageddon and Transformers Human Alliance.
Welcome the initiative of Tecnoplay whose Mini Motor Racing Arcade offers a good game ideal for locations with limited space. Video redemptions are also very good this year. In short, a very good edition with lots of good products, the ball is now in the court of the operators! The next EAG International exhibition will take place at the same location from January 12 to 14, 2016. Save the dates!
Text / pictures: Sophie & Nomax.
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