Arcade fire

When Japanese firm Konami devised this groundbreaking game in 1998, naming it “Dance Dance Revolution” could have been an act of hubris. But it turned out to have a huge impact on gaming culture. “As a kid I used to play fighting games in the arcades,” says veteran gamer Toby Na Nakhorn, “and it was very male-orientated, with quite an aggressive atmosphere. I dropped out in the 1990s, but Dance Dance Revolution brought me back and kept me going through the 2000s and 2010s. It brought in a whole new community – a mix of guys and girls, different ethnicities, more inclusive, open and friendly. And I lost a lot of weight playing it!”

The game has gone through many iterations (including versions for home consoles bundled with plastic dance pads) and has had a number of imitators over the years (with Konami’s lawyers keeping a very watchful eye), but nothing quite matches the two-player original, with its patented and instantly recognisable four-arrow dance platform. The newest version, the A20 Plus, has taken a while to reach the UK and Europe, but a preview machine is installed at the Funland Arcade in London’s Brunswick Centre ahead of its official launch next month. It has a lustrous 42in screen, a licensed catalogue of 800 songs (with, in some cases, official music-video footage accompanying the arcade action) and a preposterously powerful sound system.

DDR devotees will immediately delve into the advanced options, but the A20 Plus also comes equipped with a new, simpler user interface designed for newbies. If that is you, well, the basic idea is simple: each dance step is designated by an arrow scrolling up the screen, and you have to sync your step with the moment that arrow reaches the top. A couple of experts facing off can make for a glorious spectacle; I watched two teenagers stepping their way through joyous, very rapid jazz fusion (“Chronos” by DDR in-house composer Yasuhiro Taguchi) and it was exhilarating. I passed up the opportunity to challenge them because I had a bad knee, honest.  Konami Dance Dance Revolution A20 Plus, £24,995,

Loud and proud

Video description

Rhodri Marsden tests the JBL PartyBox Ultimate


I can vouch for the heft of this mighty Bluetooth/WiFi speaker (just under 40kg), as I foolishly put my shoulder out while trying to manoeuvre it down a few stairs. That’s certainly not JBL’s fault; two tweeters, two midrange drivers and two 23cm woofers pushing out 1100W will always mean a significant weigh-in. In terms of power, think of it as overkill for a house party but plenty for a small venue holding 100 or so people. If the room is bigger, you can link multiple PartyBoxes together.

JBL One app. JBL PartyBox Ultimate speaker, £1,300
JBL One app. JBL PartyBox Ultimate speaker, £1,300

Rather neatly, its start-up sound doubles as a sonic test for the space it’s in, and it will adjust its internal EQ accordingly. Additional party ambience is provided by a multicoloured/effect light show, adjustable via the JBL One app. JBL PartyBox Ultimate, £1,300

Instant cool

V-Tex drinks chiller, £4,299 plus VAT 
V-Tex drinks chiller, £4,299 plus VAT 

A whole range of drinks, from champagne to fizzy pop, are unpleasant verging on undrinkable at room temperature, and no one enjoys waiting for them to cool. V-Tex solves this problem in a chest freezer-size unit that perfectly chills cans in three to five minutes and wine bottles in five to seven. No chemicals involved: the secret is a clever convection method, which agitates the drink in a chilled chamber without disturbing the CO₂, so lager doesn’t explode nor prosecco froth over. Pop in a can or bottle, choose its size and shape from the menu, press go and wait (but not for long). Businesses that waste energy keeping drinks cold until they are actually drunk will appreciate its potential ecological benefits.
V-Tex drinks chiller, £4,299 plus VAT 

Better not kill the groove, DJ

AlphaTheta Omnis-Duo DJ system, £1,369
AlphaTheta Omnis-Duo DJ system, £1,369

Pioneer DJ’s sibling brand, AlphaTheta, is doing its fair share of pioneering. This battery-powered portable DJ-system has a layout that might cause seasoned DJs to raise an eyebrow, and the fact that it’s blue (not black!) might even provoke a sneer, but there’s nothing amateurish about it. A 7in touchscreen lets you search for, cue up and match tunes to perfection, and it’s rich in connectivity: SD card, USB, WiFi and, most notably, Bluetooth. So, mid-party, if a friend wants you to play a tune they have on their phone, they can play it (silently) over Bluetooth into the unit, which analyses and stores it for incorporation. It has up to five hours of battery life and fits into a (large) backpack. AlphaTheta Omnis-Duo, £1,369

Hit the lights

Chauvet GigBAR Move+ ILS, £975
Chauvet GigBAR Move+ ILS, £975

For people like me who gawp in admiration at lighting effects but don’t know their pars from their gobos, Chauvet’s ILS system provides a way of setting up for events in as little as 10 minutes with a guarantee of high quality. (ILS, of course, stands for “instant light show”.) This unit, perfect for solo DJs, places moving heads, derbies, washes, lasers and strobes on the same bar, automatically following the music and, crucially, following each other. You can change programmes via a remote control or footswitch, but a lighting tech with know-how can adjust them manually. Given that Chauvet’s high-end LED engines are used in stadium venues, we can certainly trust them with our landmark birthday party. Chauvet GigBAR Move+ ILS, £975


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