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 8th March 2020.
Experience is Everything
KYLOTONN got a professional rider’s input into TT Isle Of Man Ride On The Edge 2 by chance. Five-time French road-race champ Julien Toniutti bumped into the team in the paddock one race weekend and the rest, as they say, is history. The Frenchman revealed:
“In 2018 I was racing on the island and I had just set the fastest French lap on a Superstock bike. I was in the paddock when the guys from Kylotonn bumped into me and we got talking about the record. I asked them if they wanted to do a lap of the track in my van. They were up for that so I took them around and it was great. Then, a few months later, the guys contacted me to be a consultant on the new game and I couldn’t say no.”
Julien — who has also risked it all in the Dakar Rally — was the ideal fit for the developers even if he admitted he wasn’t a gamer. He said:
“I stopped playing games really about 15 or 16 years of age but I came back to them when a friend gave me a copy of an old TT racing game on the PS2 back in 2014 to help me learn the track before my first race. I see the racing games as real tools that can help you memorise the course. You can use them to learn the braking points and things to look out for when you there.”
There has been a surge of sim racers making the leap into the real motorsport world, but Julien believes it would be a step too far for a gamer to tackle the awesome Isle of Man course. He insisted:
“If you have a team, all your racing licences and thousands of hours on the game, there are things that you just can’t learn even if the game does feel very close to the real thing. You have to know when and how to accelerate and how much brake to use on corners, plus there is a rush and feel from having the bike moving under you. It’s important to get some laps on the bike but there is a year between each TT so it’s a very long period to go without having time on the course. However, between races, the game really helps with remembering all the little bits you need to keep fresh, so you are ready to go the next time you take to the course.”
Preview – TT Isle Of Man: Ride on the Edge 2 (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC)
THE first TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge was a true test of skill and ability on a virtual bike. The follow-up looks to take that solid foundation and turn everything up a few notches. We headed to Kylotonn studios in Paris to get hands-on time with the latest build ahead of the game’s launch later this month. It is immediately obvious that they have worked on the presentation and gameplay. The career mode has been totally overhauled to deliver a more in-depth taste of the life of a road racer. You now play a set calendar of events with the ultimate goal of tackling the legendary TT. But, keep your feet on the ground, you won’t enjoy a victory in year one — this is a long-haul affair and you will suffer a lot of defeats.
One of the developers admitted you could reach the TT in year one if you were really good, but most of us mere mortals will take three to four seasons — and that’s an interesting take on the career formula. The gameplay is tighter and feels better. You’ll still go sideways if you hit a kerb but everything feels a lot more controllable than it was first time out. And that comfort eases the almost vertical learning curve. This game is set at brutal and it never wavers from that. We had hoped there would be a few new features to help the band of not-so-hardcore players. We even asked about adding the likes of a rewind button — something that is commonplace in most racing titles — as it’s an ideal teaching tool, but the developers just smiled and said that really wasn’t their bag — they reckon it gives the game too much of an arcade feel. But we reckon that view will be the key issue with this game’s success. There is no doubt that it is a rock solid SIM racer, but not everyone wants to be slapped in the face every time they play.
Realism is important but so is being about to enjoy yourself. Kylotonn is aiming for the ultimate bike racing sim, and they may just have ignored gamers just looking to enjoy a race on the island. We accept that this is a preview build so there is time to fix this issue but the decision is ultimately down to Kylotonn. They will have to lower the skill bar. We think it is too high for everyone beyond the most skilled and hardcore sim racers. But it looks and sounds so good.
Preview – Bleeding Edge (Xbox One and PC)
NINJA Theory is a studio best known for its work on action-packed, heavy story- driven adventures but the firm has been picked up by Microsoft and this is their first offering — and it is way off the beaten track for them. We got a taste of what’s on the way later this month with a closed beta session and it seems that the Cambridge-based team have set their sights on the Overwatch crown. At the moment it’s a real mixed bag. The look and sound is really good and there is a real mix of characters to take into battle with their own move sets to master. The world is rooted in a twisted cyberpunk future.
But the combat was a bit of a mess and the time to kill was way too high which led us into to a pack hunter mentality because it all took too long. We can only hope that they will be looking closely at that side of things before the launch because, apart from that, it has a lot going for it. The look, style and depth of combat and strategy could make this an online smash.
Two Point Hospital (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £34.99)
GAMERS of a certain vintage will surely remember Theme Hospital — a game that put you in charge of running your own medical facility and keeping everything healthy. Believe it or not, that was back in 1997. It was additive but it never really evolved. But the management idea was never totally killed off. Cue Two Point Hospital. This is very much the spiritual successor especially as some of the minds behind Theme Hospital are involved in this fresh outing. It’s open to debate whether the timing — with the global coronavirus outbreak — is good or bad. Two Point Hospital first saw action on the PC but it has now been ported to the consoles, so it was interesting to see how well it made the jump. The simple answer is really well. It almost mirrors the PC original and the controls for the most part are good thanks to some smart button layouts.
The gameplay starts in easy mode but soon ramps up as you move around a few hospitals in Two Point county. You face more and more challenging scenarios, but the game also has a wicked sense of humour as you’ll not be dealing with your standard flu or coronavirus. No, you face Mock Star, where the patient think they a rock star and look like Freddie Mercury, or Jest Infection, where they are a clown. You must train your nurses and doctors to diagnose and treat them and hiring and firing is also a big part of the strategy. This is funny and addictive game that will have you doing a hundred and one things then throws in a huge outbreak to spice things up. You’ll lose hours in it.
Dreams (PS4, £34.99)
THERE are very few bigger buzzes in gaming than dipping into a new title and telling immediately that you have discovered something special. UK firm Media Molecule have thrown the rule book out of the window with Dreams. This isn’t just a game — it’s a portal to hundreds of thousands of games because, at its core, it is a super-slick building programme where you can build your wildest dreams. In that respect it’s really hard to nail exactly what the game is. There is a story mode and you can play the levels and games created by others, but then you can also build and craft wondrous pieces of art yourself. The scary thing is that we are not talking about games which have been slapped together. These are creations that could have been built by proper developers rather than fans. Some people have spent hours polishing their visions to the point where they would give some full-price titles a run for their money.
If you’re new to the game then there are a number of tutorials that show you the ropes. From that point it’s up to you to jump in and get lost — the only limitations are your ability and your ambition. That said, the best starting point would be to play through Arts Dream. Media Molecule has built a short tale that showcases just what you can do within the game in a rather cool way. You are a down-and-out musician called Art who travels through three very different settings. It might be a short tale but it really tells a heartfelt story and touches on some subjects you would not expect to see here — like childhood trauma, isolation and friendship issues. When you consider that this is basically a trailer for what you can get up to then it is fair to say that this game punches way above its weight. Once you’ve completed the tale it’s time to get stuck in and build.
OK, spoiler alert: it is very daunting at first because there seems to be a million buttons and items to drag and drop but don’t forget those tutorials to teach you the basics. They are very welcome. Control will also be a word that rarely leaves your head. Here goes: there are a number of control options to get your head around — from the controller with motion controllers to the move controller. See, we told you. Each part has its own positives and negatives and you need to spend some time to find out which best suits you. Eventually you will build something and it will be your baby. It will make you proud and you can share it with the world and, in turn, see what everyone else has shared with you. At that point, you will realise that you need a lot more practice.
You will be blown away by what some folk have done — from building original ideas to faithful tributes to much-loved titles such as Sonic, Metal Gear Solid, Star Wars and Crash Bandicoot. They are so good, you might even consider what the copyright situation is with them. The more time you spend with the game creator the deeper and more complex you can go and the ability to asset share comes saves time on backdrops and characters. Dreams is a title that the 12-year-old us would have loved. It’s a doorway into the land of game design and development where you can unleash your wildest dream and only your imagination will hold you back. We fully believe in the future we’ll see developers that credit this game as the starting point for their career. Even if you’re not into creating you can still have a blast playing this — it has a real charm. Some bits and weird and wonderful, others are familiar — but it all needs a healthy creative community. And we have that in spades.
STONE (Xbox One, PC, Mobile, £12.49)
THERE is nothing more gripping than a ‘tec case that has you guessing every step of the way. Aussie studio Convict Games’ latest title takes that idea and rams it all up. Stone is a wise-cracking, pot-smoking, alcoholic private eye . . . who is a Koala! A sort of stoned Stone. He feels a bit rough after a “big” night and finds his partner Alex is missing. He has to find him and solve the case they were working on. Oh, and delve into his own past. There’s comedy and dark in equal mix.
It is a little shorter than your average movie, and it’s less about solving puzzles than being an interactive novel. The look is chunky if a little rough at times, but it did start life on mobile devices so you’d expect a few glitches. The voice acting is solid and the soundtrack isn’t half bad too. It’s not brilliant, but it is different.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…