18th of February, 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: weirdly, all of today's games are about words - uncovering them, working out what they really mean, abusing them for nefarious ends. Words, words, words, to quote the prince.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Wordle and Co, PC and smartphone
Social media has lately been taken over by sets of grey, green, and yellow blocks accompanied by the word, "Wordle" and some fraction out of 6. If you've somehow not yet seen this trending game yet, Wordle is a word puzzle where you try to guess a 5-letter word in 6 guesses or fewer. Each letter of the word is placed on a designated tile on the screen. After each guess, the tiles will change color to show how close you are to guessing the correct word - green will indicate that you've placed the correct letter in the correct position, yellow indicates that it's the correct letter but wrong placement, and the grey color indicates that the letter is not part of the word at all.
The mechanics are so simple that it's no surprise plenty variations of this game have popped up on the internet. They may be riding on Wordle's viral success, but plenty of them are just as enjoyable as Josh Wardle's game (or should I say New York Times' game now?)
So far, my collection of Wordle dailies consist of 5 other versions:
Saltong: a Filipino version of Wordle.
Korean Wordle: a way to polish my Korean vocabulary.
Nerdle: guess the mathematical equation of the day.
Hogwartle: Harry Potter Wordle.
Worldle: guess the country based on its silhouette map.
The most frustrating one I've encountered yet is Letterle, where you guess a single letter. It took me 26 guesses. Never again.
Felisha Dela Cruz
Telling Lies, Xbox
Where does the intended narrative layer of a scripted video game end, and where does your experience of it begin? It's something I've been thinking about since playing Telling Lies, which became available via Xbox Game Pass last week.
Another found footage live-action detective game from Her Story developer Sam Barlow, Telling Lies again has you piecing together a mystery based on database codewords. You begin with very little - clips of a man talking to a woman online - and from there begin to unwrap the true story, codeword by codeword, character by character, thread by thread.
Framing it all is the fact you are actually playing as someone tapping all of these searches into a database. Their image is always vaguely visible on screen - the ghost of an image, heightening the game's voyeuristic tone. And Telling Lies is voyeuristic, sometimes uncomfortably so, as its one-sided video conversations play out with often frustrating pauses where you are just left staring at its actors faces for minutes at a time, as they react to words on the other side of a computer screen.
In the silence, Telling Lies leaves you to wonder about similar technology being used in the real world. In its jumble of characters and narrative threads are believable people simply working through their personal issues - very much unrelated to the main case at hand. It's a compelling yet unsettling experience.
One thing I was not expecting for 2022 was to get quite so involved in the weird genre of Youtube cruise ship reviews. But my wife started watching them, and then I got involved, and before you know it I can tell you the name of the generic restaurant on a Royal Caribbean - it's Windjammers, and your mileage may vary - and I know that a Quantum Class ship is, contrary to the name, very big and not very small.
Still not ready to go on an actual cruise ship, though. Instead, I've settled for Overboard!, Inkle's award-winner about a murderous lady crossing the Atlantic and trying to stay one step ahead of the consequences of her deadly actions.
Overboard! is great. Not only does it feature the absolute best performance of the word "Bollocks!" when she's caught, it's a neat time loop puzzler, which sees you replaying the same cursed day again and again, knocking about the ship and trying to make a perfect case for your innocence.
It's great to be evil, basically, picking your way through the day, working out when is the perfect time to destroy evidence or plant a suspicious item on a potential victim. Learning the workings of the ship and the schedules of its occupants reminds me a little of the early Dead Rising games, but a lot of Stuart Turton's brilliant novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Evelyn would give a good performance of a word like "Bollocks!" And she'd probably quite like cruise ships, I reckon.