Power UP at London’s Science Museum is described as “the perfect family friendly summer holiday solution for kids.” Because playing Street Fighter in a museum rather than at home makes it more… educational. Well it does when it’s Street Fighter II: Turbo.
The Science Museum had previously hosted the Game On exhibition nearly ten years ago, and Power UP seems to have taken its inspiration from there.
Gamers can get their hands on 160 consoles from the past 40 years, which sounds great, but it all depends on the games available to play, which mostly consist of mainstream classics. So you can play the likes of Pac-Man, Frogger, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario 64, Halo 3 (with 16 Xbox 360’s set up for multiplayer), League of Legends and… New Carnival Games. Also, to give an idea of where they stand on football games, none of the FIFA titles seemed to be there, but Sociable Soccer was.
There are also a few rare titles, such as Marvel Vs Capcom 2 for the Dreamcast, and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist for the Mega Drive, which was a bit of a surprise.
As you enter, you see that areas are split into themes, with artwork on the walls indicating what kind of games are playable in certain areas. These range from the two iconic mascots – Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as racing, rhythm action, and beat-em-ups. Plus, there is a pretty big Minecraft area. There are also areas that aren’t inherently gaming related, such as Disney and Batman!
If you’re hoping to play on some consoles and games that never made it to the UK, then you might be a little disappointed. Just be thankful that there is a PC Engine there, as well as the opportunity to play Taiko Drum Master.
The far back of the gallery has a row of consoles and computers, each with a little bit of history. There is a Binatone TV Master to try out, all the way up to the current generation of the PS4 and Xbox One, with almost everything in between. Be it a Vectrex, Commodore 64, Atari XE, Atari Jaguar, Panasonic 3DO and Sega Dreamcast. I say almost, for there appeared to be no Neo Geo consoles there, though having a few arcade machines kind of made up for this in some way (including one with Konami’s Aliens).
There was also a distinct lack of handheld consoles – no Atari Lynx, Game Gear or WonderSwan here. Maybe this would have required additional room to set up? Or maybe the small screens on a handheld just make playing one a more personal, yet isolated experience. Nevertheless, the omission of Nintendo’s Game & Watch, Game Boy, Virtual Boy and 3DS consoles is noticeable. This also means that Pokémon has a minimal presence. Minimal for there is a Gamecube there with Pokémon Colosseum.
The range of games available to play means that you will find something to suit you, and people of all ages were trying their hands at a bit of everything. Seeing two young kids having fun on a decades old Binatone TV Master playing Atari’s Pong proves that the classics are still just as enjoyable as they used to be.
Tickets are £8 for a 90 minute session (£6.50 for under16’s), with four sessions during the day. There is a day pass for all four sessions, or if you prefer, there are adult only late sessions for over 18’s only, where you can play titles from the Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Left 4 Dead series.
If you just want to play some video games with your mates, then you might be better served with The Heart of Gaming (once it reopens at its new location at Shepherd’s Bush). If you’re a gaming enthusiast you’ll obviously be drawn to Power UP. It’s highly likely you already own a few retro consoles and games, but Power UP offers the chance to play on those you might have missed out on. Particularly a few rare ones that tend to fetch high prices on eBay. So have a go on Super Star Soldier rather than playing Mario Kart again. For the older generation, it’s also an opportunity to introduce your children to what you used to play when you were growing up… so they too can know the thrill of trapping your opponent during battle mode on Super Bomberman.
Power UP is on at the Science Museum and runs till 7 August 2016.
By Shalimar Sahota