1st of April, 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: foxes, a unique take on running, and spooky stuff.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
For me, Tunic is a game soaked in nostalgia. That's partly for its Zelda references - the green tunic, awaking on a beach in search of a sword, Link's Awakening by way of Souls - but it's also for the instruction manual.
It brings back memories of heading to Electronics Boutique (remember that?) with my parents, choosing a game, and then poring over the manual on the way home, soaking up every detail of its story and artwork.
Tunic turns that into a gameplay mechanic. Manual pages are hidden around the world, not only as a prize for diligent exploration but as a puzzle in themselves. English is used sparingly, tasking you with analysing the pictures and handwritten notes to make sense of the game world.
It's a game where the solution is always (hilariously) right under your nose, be that an obscured pathway you never noticed before or an object in the palm of your hands. And that's most apparent with the manual that's far more than a set of instructions. Tunic's final hours present a game-within-a-game, the adventure itself becoming a giant puzzle.
Is it frustratingly abstruse? Yes. Some of the game's puzzle solutions are a little too obscure, and I'm not ashamed to admit I turned on 'no fail' by the end so the combat wouldn't interrupt all the puzzling. Tunic is so smart it's like a layered trifle of lightbulb moments, each one I accompanied with a Zelda-esque "da na na naaah".
Lumines: Electronic Symphony, Vita
Since I started running a bit, I've been asking myself: where are all the running games? Lots of games involve running, but very few are about running.
I think I can see why: how do you turn everything that's interesting about running into a game? Memories of wrecked joysticks and Daley Thompson aside - and a marathon game I think I remember reading about in Edge way back - I have come up a bit blank.
But then I picked up Lumines: Electronic Symphony, as I often do, and realised that so much about running was present here. The shifting paces from one segment to another, the different places your mind and imagination takes you. The sense - this is a compliment - of endurance that Lumines creates, since this is a puzzle game that doesn't want to finish you off quickly by simply getting faster, a puzzle game you can easily play for the entire charge of a Vita.
Lumines, it turns out, is a running game. And when I run now, I will think of this beautiful game, of its shifting colours, and of that timeline rushing across the screen, urging me onwards.
Super Mario World, Switch
I've returned to Super Mario World for a piece I'm writing. It was once the game I knew best in all the world, but it's reached that point now where I haven't played it for years and memory is faltering a bit and the game returns as a series of half-discoveries.
You get to see things afresh. Last night I reached my first Ghost House and was struck afresh by how brilliant they are. They're a means of saving the game, but they're also these weird multi-exit puzzle mazes where you learn to follow the rules of Mario to very strange places.
What I realise now is that they're a tutorial of sorts: they're encouraging you to look beyond the obvious stuff and uncover a game of trick staircases and false mirrors. And they're wonderfully spooky. Love 'em.
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