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What we've been playing

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

27th of August, 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: base-building, measureless caverns, and creatures that get meaner in the dark.

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

Rymdkapsel, PC

I dropped back into Rymdkapsel for a few minutes this week just to remind myself of how it worked. This was a mistake, of course, because I was drawn in for hours.

This might be one of the finest, most compact strategy games ever made. You're building a base across the stars, trying to reach and research a series of Monoliths. The tiles you need for your base come in the form of Tetris pieces, and the gimmick is that you get the pieces in a randomised order, but can choose which room you build with each one. You'll need a variety of rooms for gathering resources, but you'll also need a branching network of corridors so your minions can move between rooms and eventually reach those Monoliths. Then you'll need a room to make more minions, and, oh yes, weapon rooms for when the regular alien attacks occur.

It's wild how engrossing this is - a perfect balance of resource management and minion management, as you move your adorable troops between one task and the next. All while the bar slowly fills up, meaning that you're in for another wave of baddies to fend off. It's the short blanket theory that gives football its peculiar spark, I guess - there's always more that you want to do than you can do competently and safely. Give it a go - but be prepared to lose an afternoon to its dark magic.

Spelunky 2, Switch

A certain kind of game always feels like a work of sorcery on Switch. Not necessarily the games that push the hardware, like Crysis or Doom. But the games that seem so gigantic, the idea of getting them all into a device with that screen you can hold in your hands! It boggles the mind.

So I had a choice last night: spend money on Spelunky or Spelunky 2, both of which have just landed on the Switch. Both are classics, but the arrival of Spelunky 2 has changed the original Spelunky somewhat, making it a kinder thing, a comforting platformer where even the wildest possibilities are somehow comprehensible.

Inevitably I went for Spelunky 2: crueller, deeper, and crucially more mysterious. I've been playing for hours now, and it works a treat: smooth and readable, and glowing on that handheld screen. Spelunky in all its glory, but in the garden, on the bus, perched in the kitchen. How do they do it?

Die After Sunset, PC

Die After Sunset had a free playtest this week, and it's a wonderfully odd proposition. It's a roguelike in which each run sees you dashing around a cheery location fighting off rubbery little baddies who get much meaner and nastier in low-light conditions. All the while the sun is slowing setting - making those low-light conditions more likely - and different missions tick past offering you the chance to earn better loot. And you'll need the loot for a boss battle that arrives at the end.

I have yet to make it to the boss battle, I should add. Die After Sunset, for all its pleasant seaside looks, can actually be a bit overwhelming. That's to its credit - a good roguelike knows when to swamp you and whittle away at your health bar when you're distracted by something else. Less to its credit, movement feels a bit light and skittish at present, and the whole business of having a secondary attack on the left trigger might take a bit of getting used to.

Overall, I was enthused though. And I can't wait to play more when the full game is finally out. Which is probably a good outcome for a free playtest, I reckon?

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