22nd of April, 2022
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: demons, pirates and planes.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Demon Quest 85, Playdate
Playdate's opening season offers a bunch of lovely games, but few have intrigued me as much as Demon Quest 85. It's a beautiful grotty thing, a game about high school students summoning demons, delivered with Mad Magazine cartoon visuals and a wonderful sense of dark humour.
It's a narrative puzzler - the closest thing I can think of is Obra Dinn. You have a book with details about a bunch of demons. To summon them you need to work out what music they like, what offering from your fridge might tempt them, and which three classmates to bring along.
This is the puzzle bit. So one demon might like the sound of trumpets - do you have a jazz record to play? Another likes to settle arguments - do you have friends who are at war about something? When you have the right blend of ingredients, as it were - Demon Quest 85 is essentially a cooking game, I've just realised - the demon appears. You chat. Maybe you solve a few problems. Crucially you might find out details that allow you to fill in the gaps of what other demons might need in order to be summoned.
This is all lovely, but what's really special is the story that slowly emerges. Or rather it's two stories: the squabbling high schoolers with their teenage preoccupations, and the squabbling demons, with their own teenage preoccupations.
I'm about halfway through Demon Quest 85 and I don't want it to end. Really, though, I wish everybody could play it. What kind of demon would I need to summon in order to grant that wish?
The Secret of Monkey Island, PC
Ever since Ron Gilbert announced he was working on a new Monkey Island game, my inner child has been doing all sorts of somersaults in my tummy. In short, I am super excited to revisit the tropical shores of Mêlée once again.
The first two games in the Monkey Island series were such a key part of my childhood, offering a sense of adventure without ever really posing any real threat (something small me appreciated after being launched into Ocarina of Time’s Shadow Temple rather unceremoniously by my older brothers). As such, I decided that now is the time to introduce my own children to the world of Guybrush Threepwood and co. and I downloaded the game from Steam.
Admittedly, my small humans are not as enamoured with it as I was (and still am). They find the effort of pointing and clicking on every small thing more of a chore than anything ("I even have to click to walk over there, Mummy?!"), but they do appreciate the colour and the humour of it all. The first time my daughter met the pirate leaders and chose to call them a "bunch of foul-smelling, grog-swilling pigs" caused much hilarity in our house, and I still hear my children bandying the phrase around when they run round the garden. Just imagine what they are going to be like when we finally get to the insult sword fighting bit...
(Also, as a side note, I have added Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis onto my "To Play" pile. If I am embracing my childhood once more, I really should go all in.)
Flight Control, Steam Deck
I got a Steam Deck last week - yes, it's as brilliant as it looks - and though I know I should be stress testing it with the latest big-budget games that would seem impossible on any other handheld, but there is a surprise game I've become completely enamoured with - Flight Control.
I was obsessed with Flight Control in the late naughties mobile gaming boom - hours spent drawing paths for bi-planes, jets and helicopters to safely land, carefully lining them up so they don't collide mid-flight - and though I've yet to get a score into the hundreds yet, old tactics are slowly returning to me. My current focus is to be a little less heavy on the fast forward at the start while planes are still trickling in - the screen always becomes busy faster than you expect!
It's strange it has taken a system designed to take PC games on the go for me to rediscover a mobile classic. Is it the handheld form factor? The touch screen? Yes to both of these, of course - but most importantly, the Steam Deck has given me the desire to reach deep into the recesses of my Steam library to actually rediscover it.
After Flight Control, I have sorted through my entire Steam library and have uncovered all kinds of other long-forgotten classics I didn't know I had - purchased either over a decade ago or collected from bundles - and I can't wait to spend my summer slowly going through them all. Newer games really will have to wait.