19th of March, 2021
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: antique chairs, lighthouses and properly great pixelart.
Concrete Genie, PS4
The lighthouse at the start of Concrete Genie might be one of those rare perfect locations in a video game. I adore it. Beyond the gate is a little courtyard with a fountain. There's a door to push through and then an entryway where the wooden planks on the floor have become warped and bowed, and eventually cave inwards, curved like pieces of a ship. Below you is a cellar where treasures lurk and above you is a network of iron ladders and gantries leading you back outside, where you can curve your way upwards until you reach the light itself.
I never tire of playing around here, spotting the detailing, no two pieces of wood exactly alike, no railing without a twist or a kink in it. And before even that, I love the part of the game where you learn how to handle paint by filling in creature designs in your sketchbook. The paint is lovely - watery and occasionally thick, uneven, the sense of a powder or paste in suspension. You move it, but it moves too - the colour is something you have to tug around on the page.
So many special moments. I'm replaying Concrete Genie over the course of this month, one evening at a time. It's a short game that you have to measure out and savour. It's transporting.
Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Neo Geo MVS
I've been lucky enough to chat to some members of the SNK team this week, which offered a perfect excuse to fire up the arcade cabinet and head straight to one of my most beloved Neo Geo games, Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Coming just towards the demise of the original iteration of SNK, it captures them at the peak of their artwork - the combat is considered, and like its contemporary Street Fighter 3 has some hardcore wrinkes with its own parry system in the form of Just Defend. It has all the swagger, too, of SNK in its pomp.
Perhaps most importantly, though, it's where you'll find pixelart of the highest order. If you're lucky enough to play Garou: Mark of the Wolves with your face pressed up against a 29-inch Nanao MS9 monitor, it's easy to persuade yourself that this is as technically impressive as games get, and the height of 2D games art. It's as stunning today as it was way back at the turn of the century.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo Switch
I've played New Horizons every day for nearly a year and, throughout those 365-ish days, Nook's Cranny has never had an antique chair on sale. Sure there'll be cellos, laptops, tables and that bloody diner neon clock, which I swear makes a weekly appearance, but not one single antique chair. In fact, Timmy and Tommy's control over my island's furniture economy is so absolute none of my villagers have dared to give me the desired chair nor have I received it from Wisp and he's a ghost. How could they hurt him more than life already has?
Honestly, it's starting to feel personal. The antique chair is what will tie my half modern, half rustic kitchen together perfectly. Currently, I'm having to use an imperial dining chair as a replacement and it throws the whole vibe of the room into disarray. To add a pinch of salt to the wound, it prevents me from receiving a set HHA bonus from the other pieces of antique furniture I already have in place - a fact I think those little tanukis are aware of.
Once I thought spending nearly five months looking for the wooden bookshelf DIY recipe, interrupting my villager's crafting sessions three times a day only to discover they were making a log clock or apple television again, was bad. Simpler times indeed.
Thankfully, after learning about my antique chair dilemma, Chris Donlan sent me one in the mail. My kitchen is finally complete, but the betrayal of a local business which I helped establish still lingers. Now I'm left to simply wander the beach until I find the bottle containing the magazine rack DIY recipe and then, maybe, I can finally stop.