29th 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: hexes, inventories, and space bombardment.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Loot Rascals, PC
I've loved Loot Rascals ever since I first saw it. The colour! The wonderfully gormless faces! The HEXES!
It just gets better from there. Loot Rascals is a sort of card-collecting roguelite battler thing, but in truth it's just an explosion of humour and tactical precision. You wander around beating up enemies to get cards from them which in turn makes you better at beating them up. There's a timing element, because different enemies attack first depending on whether it's day or night.
But the cards are where it gets special. You have attack and defence cards, which is simple enough, and you arrange them in rows and columns in your inventory, swapping out old cards when you get better ones and decompiling useless cards for credits to buy stuff. Fine. But you can boost your cards significantly depending on how you arrange them. One card might be boosted if it's in an even column, for example. Another might confer a boost on the card to the left or right. Another might lower your points if it's in the wrong row.
I love games that encourage this kind of endless tinkering - games where the flow of cards means that an arrangement can never be perfect - just perfect for the next few minutes. This is why getting new cards in Loot Rascals always feels like Christmas - whether you're on your first hour of the game or your 100th. Just lovely. (And best of all, I've only described the absolute basics today: there is so much more to learn.)
Inventory Hero, Playdate
One of the many weird things about Playdate is that its best game for dropping into for a few minutes of fun is actually an RPG.
Well, kind of an RPG anyway. Inventory Hero is a sort of endless runner, I guess, that has your hero jogging along and biffing baddies. All you have to do is give them new armour and weapons - they all run down quite quickly - and then keep the potions flowing.
It's more complicated than that. Armour and weapons have different stats, so sometimes it's about knowing when not to equip something new. Then there are bosses which have their own quirks, and garbage items that you need to get rid of to keep space in your inventory free. It can be surprisingly tricky to work out whether to equip something or drop it when you're moving at speed.
So far, perhaps the deadliest enemy in Inventory Hero is rabbits. Get a few of them in your inventory and they breed like, well, rabbits, quickly filling up all slots and making it impossible for you to pick up anything else. Getting rid of them is like playing whack-a-mole. Whack-a-mole in an RPG? Sort of. Inventory Hero is a treat.
Element is a supremely neat RTS of sorts that plays out on a planetary scale. You choose an orbiting body, set up camp, start exploiting resources and keeping an eye on your foe, before choosing the right moment to take them out.
All of this is so much more fun, for some reason, when played out on a globe. When your satellites really do orbit, and when you can follow the trails of rockets as they arc overhead.
It helps that the low-poly art-style is so elegant, and that the game's sense of aggression ramps just so. Last time I played I realised that the UI is playfully based on the periodic table. Neat stuff. And just what I would expect from a game as poised and clever as Element.