6th of May, 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: tomb raiders, diving headers and power washers.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Lara Croft GO, iOS
I had a brilliant time this week thinking back to the trio of Tomb Raider games Crystal Dynamics made back when Eidos was still in the frame.
And this lead me, inevitably, back to another of my favourite Tomb Raiders - a bit of a wilful curio. I'm talking about Lara Croft GO, which I think has landed on PCs, but which was originally designed for smartphones.
GO was a promising mini-series Square-Enix had cooking for a while - there are brilliant iterations for Hitman and Deus Ex as well as Tomb Raider. It takes action games and turns them into turn-based puzzles, basically. In Lara Croft, this means you move along set routes and have to defeat enemies and collect treasure and avoid being killed by traps.
It all depends on timing - knowing in what conditions a snake will bite and in which conditions you can shoot it first, for example. At the time I thought GO was a perfect distillation of a lot of things that make Tomb Raider special: the loneliness, the sense of being somewhere very hard to get to with nothing but deadly wildlife to talk to.
Now, though, I see there's something more. Lara Croft in the Core games - and in the first Crystal Dynamics trilogy - had a very specific, dependable moveset. It was a bit weird at times, but you could get used to it and internalise it. You came to learn how she would react in certain situations - the example I always use is what she would do when she reached the end of a slope. And then the best levels tasked you to really master these strange movement rules to reach improbable parts of the level.
GO has all of this. Not the same moves, but the idea that Lara Croft's movement is a thing of rules - of actions and reactions. To play the game well is to understand the rules that govern how everything in the game operates. Maybe that's why it feels so much like Tomb Raider.
Nintendo Switch Sports, Switch
Nintendo can’t do online gaming, or so the myth goes. Like all these things, it comes from a kernel of truth - the paucity of features when playing online with the Nintendo Switch will always be amusing, the reliance on Switch Online app for the most basic features will always be frustrating - but a night with Nintendo Switch Sports was a reminder that Nintendo actually does online pretty damn well. It’s just that it does it all in its own sometimes charming, sometimes baffling way.
There’s a simplicity to the lobbies, and the pre-match line-ups punctuated by cute little emojis that look like they’ve come from the hazard warnings that used to be on the back pages of 90s games manuals - or, even better, the moment when you’re waiting for a game of football to kick off when everyone decides to perform diving headers in unison. It’s simple and stripped back, but the sparse elements that are there push you towards playfulness, and a certain politeness that makes an evening in Switch Sports’ company an absolute delight. Nintendo’s take on online is certainly unique, but when it clicks into place it can be utterly enthralling.
PowerWash Simulator, PC
Does anyone really like cleaning? The monotony of scrubbing, the effort of wiping over every surface. Wouldn’t you rather be playing a video game?
But PowerWash Simulator makes a game of the mundane. It turns a tiresome chore into a digital playground of cleanliness. I can’t stop playing.
Like a first-person shooter, you simply point and click to spray - water, not bullets. Over the course of the game’s campaign (and yes, there is a kind of story) you’ll encounter vehicles and environments covered in an impossible amount of dirt. Everything is such a consistent shade you’d think it was meant to be that way. Until you start squirting.
Suddenly, pristine objects emerge from the mud in sharp lines as you slowly move your jet up and down…up and down...up and down. There’s no music, just the soft splashing of water. It’s like ASMR. Different nozzles are available, from a wide spray to an intense, focused point. It’s akin to a stationary set, except you’re erasing not colouring in. And there’s a meticulousness to it all as you have to crawl and leap around every detailed surface to wash off every speck of dirt; you can press a button to reveal what’s unwashed but that almost feels like cheating. It’s meditative and immensely satisfying.
And if cleaning each environment seems like too much work, there’s always co-op. I’ve been playing with my partner and we’ve had plenty of fun spraying together. Just like with real cleaning, many hands make light work.