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What we've been playing

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

19th May, 2023

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: Zelda, Spyro, and more Zelda.

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

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Switch

10 Things We Wish We Knew Before Starting The Legend of Zelda Tears of the KingdomWatch on YouTube

It was a slow start for me. I've always appreciated how each Zelda is unique and surprising, yet Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom felt too familiar to me in its opening hours, its tutorial area following the same formula as Breath of the Wild. Building just didn't gel with me either, thanks to fiddly controls and my own disinterest in being creative, and the vague plot lacked some dramatic impetus.

Yet the more I play Tears of the Kingdom, the more I'm growing to appreciate its own unique intricacies, its layers. And I mean layers literally and figuratively - the game's sense of verticality, from melancholic autumnal islands in the sky to the creepy underground, is magnificent. But this Hyrule is more populated, more dense with secrets, more lived in. I'm particularly fond of the side quests: helping the Mario-esque band leader recruit new members and hearing the instrumental layers build each time they perform, or hunting secrets as an investigative reporter only to read about those discoveries in newspapers later on. Journalism, music, and Zelda - it's like this game was made just for me!

I do miss the purity of Breath of the Wild. I miss its infinite bombs. I miss that sense of mournful open air. But Tears of the Kingdom absolutely retains its sense of adventure and discovery, as I find myself repeatedly distracted from the main quest for hours on end. It's taken something familiar and twisted, flipped, and distorted it into something new. That's the real Ultrahand trick.

Ed Nightingale

Spyro: Season of Ice, GBA

Spyro: Season of Ice is one of the first games I had for my Game Boy Advance SP, and to this day it's one I play constantly. Could it be that I adore it because of nostalgia? Yes, possibly - but I firmly believe it's still a highly entertaining game 22 years later. (Has it been that long? OK, that was a realisation I wasn't ready for ...) Anyway, with the recent periodic appearances the sunshine has made in the UK, I've found myself taking the Game Boy out into the garden to help guide the brave little purple dragon and his dragonfly companion on their quest to free the Fairies from being imprisoned in ice.

Travelling from realm to realm throughout the game keeps it from feeling, for lack of a better word, stale. Within each realm there are multiple levels to explore. Granted they are by no means huge realms, nor ones that are particularly complex to play by modern standards, but they are still thrilling. There are a huge variety of environments to explore, from the heat of Lava Prairie to the calming scenery in Twilight Bulb City. The four Fairy Worlds you venture to are filled with exciting places for you poke around in, and they are filled with plenty of Rhynocs for Spyro to headbutt into oblivion.

One realm that is my particular favourite is the Mermaid Coast in the Autumn Fairy World. In such a small area, there's plenty to find and the general feeling of the level is sheer joy. Whether it's running between the Lighthouses to put Spyro's flames to good use or charging through the sandcastles for kicks (my apologies to whoever built them in this realm), to this day Mermaid Coast never fails to put a smile on my face.

I could talk about Spyro: Season of Ice, or any Spyro Game Boy game for hours upon hours so I need to wrap this up here or this could be a very long feature!

Marie Pritchard

Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Switch

Hidden quests in Tears of the Kingdom.Watch on YouTube

This featurette contains a minor spoiler for Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

I can't stop cooking in Tears of the Kingdom. This is not because of the dishes produced, although some of them do look rather tempting. No, the reason I can't stop cooking is because of the way Link hums when he is waiting for his ingredients to blend together into one warming pot.

At first, I didn't think too much about the hum specifically. I just enjoyed the fact that Link, a young hero once again burdened with finding Princess Zelda and saving the kingdom, was able to find some serenity over a cooking pot. It is incredibly calming, and a very human reaction from The Legend of Zelda's stoic protagonist. It's a little glimmer into the personality that hides behind the silence. I remember enjoying these moments in Breath of the Wild, as well, for much the same reason.

But then, I listened closer to these Tears of the Kingdom tunes and realised some of the melodies Link was humming were themes from other Zelda titles. The Ballad of the Wind Fish, Zelda's Lullaby, Saria's Song (or, how I still sing it in my head after all these years: down, right, left, down, right, left). What a charming little Easter egg Nintendo has added.

I haven't progressed very far in Tears of the Kingdom's main story yet, and that doesn't matter. I am just savouring the warm glow that comes from returning to a beloved series, and discovering that it can still surprise me in the most wonderful and unexpected ways.

I am sure I will eventually get around to fighting Ganondorf, and 'complete' Tears of the Kingdom. But, for now, I am more than happy to enjoy the slower pace that Hyrule can offer, and that includes humming along with Link over a simmering pot of sauteed peppers.

Victoria Kennedy

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