Mario Kart, Street Fighter and Bomber Man are all names that strike nostalgic excitement into the hearts of many of a certain generation. So what happens when you mash these inimitable titles together with some of the Fringe’s best comedians and sketch acts? A room full of geeks shouting at each other about bananas, power-ups and the correct button-mash for a Hadouken: an evening of pure comedy gold.
Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon host the show with energetic excitement from the start and a rapport reminiscent of the Mighty Boosh, hilariously acknowledging how nerdy a show we are all letting ourselves in for. We are then introduced to a host of Fringe favourites (Cariad Lloyd, Nish Kumar and Eric Lampaert, among others) who battle it out playing each game to avoid their team leader having to take a punishment for their team’s gaff – getting steadily more difficult, and in turn more brilliant to watch. Eric Lampaert giving Steve McNeil a one-punch dead arm and Sam Pamphilon having to eat a whole jar of jalapeños while struggling with a ‘particularly sensitive gag reflex’ are images that will stay with me for a good while.
Some of the more gleeful gamer satisfaction comes from The Beta Males’ Jon Gracey and Guy Kelly’s explanation of each game before the battles commence, explaining with masterful comic timing and speed the aim of each game and the possible pitfalls for the contestants. If there wasn’t already enough in the evening, video-game inspired sketches added another element to proceedings, with The Real MacGuffins performing one of my favourite sketches of the Fringe to date. The mix of actual game-play and great stand-up and sketches from special guests to break up the battles made the whole show move at breakneck comic speed with laughs a-plenty.
Perhaps the best thing about this show and what made it so enjoyable to watch was seeing the performers having such a good time. While the stand-up and sketch intermissions were slick, the actual game-playing battles saw the contestants really fighting to win and loving it. With a different line-up of guest contestants and performers for each of its nights this is a treat for gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s one HALO-v a night.