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What we've been playing

A few of the games that have us hooked at the moment.

12th of November, 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: idols, coat hangers, and the pit...

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Idol Manager, PC

At first glance, the Idol Manager looks like a simple management sim about girl groups and the idol industry. You get a job as a manager and is tasked to create a new girl group that would sweep the nation. You hold auditions, train your group, release singles, and eventually put the company on the map.

However, like in real life, being in the entertainment industry is not all glitz and glamour. One moment, my group's releasing a fun single that lands on the top 5 hottest this month and then the next, I get a notification that one of my idols is getting ratio'ed for some mishap on livestream. It's a lovely glimpse of the idol industry - frustrating and stressful, but really nice and eye-opening.

I'm currently on my first playthrough at normal mode and I'm still trying to figure out how to pay off my loans without overworking my idols. Half my idols are already on hiatus but we need to roll out one more concert so that we get more fans and more gigs. But oh no, another dating scandal? I think I need a vacation.

Felisha Dela Cruz

Unpacking, PC

"Play Unpacking," they said. "It'll be relaxing."

They were wrong. Unpacking is anything but relaxing. But that's also the point.

Moving house is a stressful experience and Unpacking certainly captures that. The seemingly endlessly piles of boxes; the careful deliberation of how exactly to organise objects; the nostalgic pause to contemplate old items. I just wish these characters would learn to pack up their belongings in an ordered fashion, categorised properly by room.

And as for those Steam reviews bemoaning the game is too short...it took me almost six hours to get through Unpacking. Am I anal and pedantic? Yes. Did Unpacking bring out my worst qualities? Absolutely.

But the stress of arranging these objects just so comes with immense satisfaction. That's only aided by the sound effects - do yourself a favour, turn off the music and revel in the clatter of plates, the scuffle of a drawer opening, and the pop of another cardboard box finished with.

That satisfaction extends to the storytelling too. The simple act of unpacking objects has so much weight as you slowly piece together someone's life: their likes, their relationships, their big life decisions. It all subtly unfolds, blossoming into a story the player takes at their own pace by gradually making connections.

It's just difficult to focus on the story as the stress builds and yet another room awaits completion. Why are there never enough hangers?

Ed Nightingale

Into the Pit, Xbox

You know when you want to watch something but you're not sure what that something actually is and so instead you spend 30 minutes just mindlessly scrolling through countless Netflix thumbnails? Well, as much as I love it, that's kind of where I am with the Xbox Game Pass at the moment. The sheer amount of choice on offer makes it really hard for me to stick with a game. I'm constantly downloading them, dipping my toe in and then noping out after 10 minutes when said game hasn't instantly scratched that strangely unspecific itch of mine.

I've gone on a driving holiday to Mexico and done donuts on the grounds of ancient temples in Forza Horizon 5. I've made my way through two loops of The Forgotten City and I've bumbled around the janky town of Rainy Woods in Swery's The Good Life, to name but a few, but so far nothing has had me coming back to it as much as Into the Pit.

Into the Pit is a bite-sized, first-person roguelike with this gorgeously colourful yet gothic visual style that's weirdly both retro-inspired and highly detailed at the same time. Each procedurally generated level is tiny and this, combined with speed of the combat, means you can complete each one within a couple of minutes max. Zipping around these small arenas firing magical blasts from your fingertips as dark music pulses loudly through my headphones gives the game an almost Devil Daggers vibe, and this intensity brings with it a welcome shot of adrenaline that keeps me from exiting back to the dashboard.

It's not a perfect game by all means, and I feel like spending an extended amount of time with it will see me uncovering all its secrets pretty quickly. But, in those moments when I can't decide what to play and just need something to stop my endless scrolling, I always seem to find myself diving back Into the Pit.

Ian Higton

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