Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 6th August 2017.
Splatoon 2 (Nintendo Switch, £49.99)
IMAGINE Call Of Duty got the Nintendo treatment. It would be a blast of colour and wacky characters in a blur of shooting and explosions. So Splatoon was born but it had a very limited reach because of it was exclusive to the Wii U. They are trying again with Splatoon 2 on Switch. It is still a third-person online shooter but it has had an HD makeover and been given bags of new elements and options. It has a shiny new suit but, thankfully, the core appeal is the same as the original.
The campaign mode will clock in around the seven-hour mark to complete. The story line is largely forgettable and should be seen more as a training session than an epic yarn. Do that and the campaign does an outstanding job at teaching you how to use the vast array of weapons, how to use the unity control system to move around and deal with the increasing challenges on each level. There is a new Salmon Run mode, where you and four pals fight waves of enemies and try to pocket golden eggs — it’s a fun take on the standard horde mode seen in most games. But the real meat is the frantic multiplayer side. It is unlike any other game out there at the moment.
You play as an Inkling, which is a cross between a human and a squid, and you can swap between them at a press of a button. As a human you can run and shoot but, as a squid, you can move faster, jump greater distances and hide. And, as the core gameplay doesn’t focus on the number of kills, that can be a big advantage as you work with your team to complete missions. There are other modes, but I reckon you’ll stick with Turf War — a fast and very tactical mission where you have to cover the map in paint while trying to stop the other team from beating you.
Weapon selection is key. There are huge paint rollers, mini guns and everything in between. Each handles differently and getting the one that suits you best is vital if you want to win. Add in an RPG light-style gear system where buying and upgrading your hat, top and shoes gives you extras and you are set for the battle. There is Splat Zone, Tower Control and Rainmaker — each feels and plays differently but some are only available in the ranked playlist and you must hit level 10 to play. One of the biggest buzzes is playing such a tactical game with the Nintendo splash of colour, but although the soundtrack backs that up, it has a J-Pop feel that drove me nuts around the four-hour mark.
Splatoon 2 is not perfect. Go online and things are not as slick as you’d want. You get locked into places, have to leave online to swap guns and the online chat system is way over the top. You need a standalone phone app! They need to streamline the options in the next few months to guarantee cult status — but it still doesn’t stop the game being a winner.
John Robertson takes the Dark Room to kids called Darren
Where did the idea of the doing the Dark Room for kids come from?
Well, kids show up to the adult Dark Room all the time – and they have huge fun! So I thought, “Let them have a go!”. I mean, The Dark Room’s only full of horror and terror and makes grown adults wet themselves. It’ll be fine!
How has the show gone down with a younger crowd so far?
Beautifully! Kids love the adventure, and it’s like nothing they’ve ever seen before. It makes them proud when they play, and it’s fun for them to watch when they aren’t. And they know it’s a game – I’m a grown man dressed in spikes and armour, when I yell at 5 year-old girls dressed as unicorns, they just tell me to shut up!
What are the biggest changes you have had to make from the full fat show to make it more to a taste of kids?
Not so many! Just changed a few jokes so they were about things kids understand – Minecraft, Youtube, all that junk – and then there’s a few less swear words. We’re keeping a couple of swears in, though – these are Scottish kids, after all.
Will everyone still be called Darren? Well wee Darren at least?
And do they still die! die! die! If they don’t make it out of the room in one piece?
Yep! In fact, the only reason your kid won’t get out of The Dark Room in one piece is because they’re in several dozen pieces. Plastic bags are provided for the long trip home. No, wait – we’re up in Scotland. Plastic bags aren’t provided at all.
And if they make it out of the room in one piece what will they win? Or will it still be a trip to the nearest cash point with your fine self for £1,000?
If the kids win, they get £1,000! But it’s just for them. Not their parents. A kid can think of many, many more things they can do with £1,000.
Would you say parents bringing their kids will also get a kick out of seeing the younger edition of the room?
Yeah, I reckon they will. For the adults, it’s nostalgia – ‘cos my show is based on retro video games. It means you’re sharing something with your kid. Also, who doesn’t want to see their kid go toe-to-toe with a monster? And then maybe lose one of those toes?
While you are in Edinburgh do you have any plans for any other shows or possible stand up?
Sure do! The normal Dark Room show is at 8pm every day 3rd – 27th August at Underbelly Cowgate, and my stand-up show Dominant is every day 3rd – 27th (not 14th) at Stand 5 (I’m with The Stand! Scotland’s best comedy club!). You can bring your kids to normal Dark Room if you want, but not the stand-up show. Trust me on this. I feel kinda like a parent, you know what I mean? Once the kids are out the door, it’s back to being an adult for a few hours. Except I’m an adult people pay to say strange things, I don’t have to stand naked, drunk and screaming on Niddry St and do it for a hobby.
And what next for the Dark Room beyond the Fringe?
We go everywhere! Birmingham, London, Singapore, Hanoi, Bangkok, Brisbane, then back to the UK to run around a few cities, towns and events before Christmas. YOU AWAKE TO FIND YOURSELF ON A WORLD TOUR! All details at www.thejohnrobertson.com/livedates.
THE DARK ROOM FOR KIDS will play at the Edinburgh Festival 4:30pm, Just The Tonic @ The Community Project, August 4th – 27th (not 14th though). John Roberson also stars in Dominant at the Edinburgh festival, at the Stand Comedy Club August 3rd – 27th (not 14th though) and the original Dark Room, 8pm at the Underbelly 3rd-17th August.
WiFi Wars Interview with Steve McNeil (and Rob Sedgebeer, sort of)
Where did the idea for Wifi Wars come from?
Back in 2014, someone involved in the BBC/Royal Institution Christmas Lectures came and saw the live version of Go 8 Bit. At the time, we used to make a comedian attempt to ride a virtual reality rollercoaster whilst holding a tray of champagne glasses, and they asked us to recreate it for their show. Afterwards, we got chatting about the tech Rob had invented for Go 8 Bit and we convinced them we’d be able to do an hour-long lecture about it. They called our bluff and scheduled it in for their 2015 Summer Programme but, the truth is, at the time all we had was a version of Pong and a voting system. So, Rob then had to invent the tech we pretended he’d invented so that we could do a lecture in Faraday’s theatre.
And just how does it all work?
As you can imagine, that’s a question with a LOT of different answers, depending on how complicated/boring Rob gets but, basically, we rig a private wifi network in a venue, get the audience to connect to it on their smartphones, then beam controls and games to their devices, so everyone can compete against each other.
Who came up with the name WiFi Wars?
As with everything good in the show, that was Rob. I pretty much just stand there and shout “look at the clever man’s fun toys” for an hour. I’m lucky he’s not confident enough to do the show himself, because he totally could.
What can people expect from Wifi Wars at the Fringe?
It’ll be all our best games (the show has over 30 now) that we can cram into an hour – everything from Pong to VR. And if they’re not gamers, don’t worry, we’ve designed everything to be as accessible as possible.
How do you go about firstly picking the games to play? And then finding out if they work with the system?
As the show’s evolved, Rob’s always tried to put the limits of what we, and people’s devices, can handle. So he began with beaming controls for Pong to people, then he developed new control mechanics, then he started beaming entire videogames to people, and now we’re able to do multiplayer deathmatches and VR. The show is a good tour through the history of games, albeit recreated entirely by Rob and his genius brainpipes for our own purposes.
Are there any games you’d really like to play at Wifi Wars that you haven’t yet?
Rob’s really keen to develop more stuff in 3D, but that takes a LOT of learning. As well as WiFi Wars, Rob’s also the Technical Manager on our TV show Go 8 Bit, so he hasn’t had much time to explore that over the past couple of years! We use his tech for the TV show too, both the voting, and also his adaptations of classic games.
And have there been any that just don’t work on that scale?
Nothing’s beat us yet. We use audiences as guinea pigs, so we’ll often try out something new on them as part of a set, with the caveat they’ll either get to be the first people ever to do a cool thing or, alternatively, it won’t work. We’ve got a version of Flappy Bird, for example, which crashed Rob’s system when we attempted it in 2015, but it ticks along fine now. He just had to do a lot of re-coding!
What has been the biggest game you have played so far/crowd?
Officially, it’s Pong with 286 people – we broke the Guinness World Record for that in 2016. We’ve had more people than that connected to the show before though, playing with all our toys.
Having tested the games/system out over Twitter lately is there any plans to maybe do this more often?
Yep, online’s going to be our focus for a while now – the next goal is to create the biggest multiplayer game ever. By which I mean, Rob will attempt to do that, and I’ll be there to point at it.
What next for WiFi Wars after the Fringe?
We’ve got a few tour dates booked in, but the main focus is definitely to get the regular show going online (possibly on Twitch, although Microsoft’s ‘Mixer’ platform’s particularly appealing as it sounds like there’s very little delay at all on there). If people keep an eye on our Twitter accounts, we’ll hopefully be posting links to streams very soon. But come to the live show first, obviously. We need the money. The kit we need to run the show cost us a fortune.
You can see Steve and Rob in WiFi Wars at the Edinburgh Fringe on Friday 11th August, get tickets for the one night only show here.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…