Mana Bar Melbourne Review

Ok, so I sacrificed my Saturday morning sleep in, woke up early and left for Brunswick St, Fitzroy for the opening of the Mana Bar, the popular video game themed bar that’s carried over from Brisbane onto our Melbourne shores. So I went, I queued up, what did I think? Read on below.

Finding the venue was dead easy! Just look for the cosplayers, the Umbrella Corp. zombies and the buskers with violins and a drum kit playing Zelda, Pokemon and Mario themes! I arrived at 10.30AM and  was confronted by a queue of about 60 gaming g33ks, Otakus and people eager to start drinking at midday. Alcoholics? Maybe, but there was an excitement in the air, new friends being made, crazy handheld gaming taking place and massive, copious amounts of 3DS StreetPass whoring going on. Helping to pass the time was the number of people driving past, slowing down to take pics of all the revelers as they, in turn, took pictures of them. The buskers with their merry songs and aerobic playing techniques helped as well. The number of times shop owners came out to kindly remind us not to lean on their shop windows also helped – sorry about that 🙂

Before we knew it, it was midday and no there was no countdown from 10 to 0 like there tends to be at anything geeky like a console launch at midnight. We all streamed in and had to show ID no matter old we looked or how much facial hair was present, the security reminded us. Walking in, you’re confronted with the bar at the end of a small room which serves as the main area where there are consoles on the walls for your gaming pleasure. There are also three tables with stools around them and the front window is lined with a couch that spans the length of the room. Overall, I found it a tad smaller than what I had in mind and the crush to get to the bar wasn’t fun either. The bar is able to serve two people at the same time, so that helped, but overall maybe the layout could have been slightly more ergonomic.

More on the drinks soon – I’ll save the best for last 🙂 Walking through the corridor to the rear of the house, you come across a space under the stairs filled with gaming paraphernalia that is from their own personal collection but a number of the items had been donated by patrons as well. While a great idea, it has a dim blue light illuminating the display making it harder than what it should be to see everything. Also, I would have thought that something like that would have been worthy of being shown off like a showcase for example but it doesn’t seem like the owners agree with that 🙁 That was a tad disappointing as there are some really great pieces in the collection that deserve to be highlighted and given the attention that they’re due. Maybe it was a rush just to get the bar opened and it’ll be rectified in the future? Who knows? Walking into a smaller room has a Guitar Hero setup complete with 2 guitars, vocals and a drum kit. I heard some players mentioning that there was no chair for the drum kit; there was, but it was away in the corner, unseen by most. Another massive bone of contention, not shared by me, but by 100% of the people that played on the player one guitar was that the guitar was broken or the buttons were way too stiff and hard compared to player two. And judging by how bad people were playing on that guitar, I’d say that it’s something that needs to be looked at, stat, considering that it was a major quibble on day one.

One side of this room was running ‘The Darkness 2’ game that looks amazing by the way but I wasn’t allowed to photograph it or take video but it is looking like a vast improvement in graphics and gameplay over the first outing so good job so far on that one 🙂 And finally there was a door leading into the small courtyard in the backyard where smokers can go to quietly kill themselves, complete with toilet facilities for both males and females.

Let’s go back to the drinks, the cocktails, that are really the showcase of the venue and what people really go for. I only had one shot which was the Cloud Strife which tasted amazing if pricey at $9.50 but you expect the drinks to be expensive in a venue like this. One of my other acquaintances had the Red Vs. Blue Shot and he swears that it tasted great and the other big drink, the Ocarina of Lime, was doing big business. A lot of gamers were guzzling heaps of the Ocarina! Check the Mana Bar website for a complete list as they really make the place and you really want to try one of everything as they incite curiosity and wonder with their colours and ingredient combinations!! One day after you no longer have to queue up to get in, I’ll be going back without a car and a full wallet and trying all of them 🙂

Overall…I was expecting more and felt a bit underwhelmed but credit to the guys for making it happen and bringing it to Melbourne. Let’s give it time to really plan out and maybe they’ll expand upstairs as well which would be cool. At the moment it feels a bit cramped! The lines to get in will be around for a while I imagine but considering that before Mana Bar there was nothing, congratulations are due all round and while not quite the nirvana I thought it would be, I will definitely be a return gamer/drinker 🙂 Pics and a vid below. And before closing, a rating system has been introduced to all new things I review from now on…

[starreview tpl=16]
3 out of 5 stars…the drinks make the place however the prices do not 🙁 And more seating please!

PS. Thanks to Ty from Aussie Gamer for helping me out with the star rating plug in…it was a nightmare to work out!!

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