10th June 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: Seasons, kitchens, and zoos.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons, 3DS
Last week, I hopped aboard a plane for my first overseas press trip since the 'Before Times'. Now, I'm quite a nervous flyer as it is but I especially hate long flights as they make it really hard for me to forget that I'm rocketing through the air in a jet-propelled germ tube.
Over the years though, I've managed to figure out that the best way to 'lose time', other than sleeping (which for me is impossible on a plane) is to play a puzzle game rather than a standard action/adventure game. Baba Is You, for instance, made a six hour flight to New York a few years back practically zip by. Similarly there was Pullblox, which got me through the four hour flight to a holiday in Greece in what felt like a couple of hours.
Some people can do this with films but, as I already know the approximate length of the movie I'm watching, these actually make the journey drag for me as I'm conscious of the passage of time in a way that I'm not with puzzle games. I guess it's something to do with the extra focussing I need to do on the puzzles; as soon as I get stuck on a real head-scratcher, the real world and the rules of time go out of the window. By the time I've worked out the solution to a particularly taxing problem, 30 minutes or so could have gone by without me even realising. Then add multiple puzzles and the next thing I know, we're starting our descent.
For last week's trip the puzzle game was actually The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and, while it isn't really a traditional, straight up puzzle game, it did offer me quite a few moments in which I was blissfully unaware of time, mainly thanks to some hard-to-find dungeons and a couple of accidentally-missed items.
I'd actually never played Seasons or its partner game Ages before, which is weird considering the original Link's Awakening is one of my favourites in the series, so I decided to grab the pair from the 3DS store as soon as I heard that it was shutting down. Graphically, aside from the extra colours, they're very similar in style to Link's Awakening and, aside from the seasonal twist in Seasons, the gameplay felt very familiar as well. This has meant that playing these lost chapters of Link's adventures has been a rather nostalgic experience for me, as well as a journey of discovery.
Both games run nicely on the 3DS' emulated Virtual Console too, although they're definitely showing their age now. For example, the need to regularly swap items is a real pain in the Darknuts thanks to the lack of face buttons on the old console. As these games are emulated they don't utilise the extra buttons available on the 3DS so at points you can spend more time in your menus selecting the items that you need to use than you do actually using them.
Thankfully, the fact that you can utilise save states balances out the creakiness of Seasons' gameplay as it can cut down on all the backtracking you need to do when you die. Which, if you play it like me and constantly forget that there's no dedicated sword button, is a lot...
Overcooked! 2, Xbox Series S (Game Pass)
I think I stormed off twice and I'm pretty sure there were arguments every time we played, and I tell you, at times like that, Overcooked is not the harmonious co-op dream. I felt less like kissing my significant other than cooking them.
But it's a game about communication, isn't it? If you can't communicate, and try to do it all in your head without talking and figuring it out together, it's not going to work, which is quite a deep message about relationships really. And if you argue, you're never going to get those cakes baked or that pasta plated, and then Gordon Ramsey is going to get really upset and probably slap the back of his hand a few times and swear.
But get it right and talk to each other nicely, and the magic of Overcooked will emerge. For me, this is the magic of finding order in chaos. It swirls all around you as you try to make sense of it on the fly. And when you do, when it clicks and you collectively lose yourself in a moment of intense, productive concentration, you've hit the jackpot.
Let's Build a Zoo, PC
Why is naming always so hard? It was a struggle to name my Animal Crossing island and it was just the same here naming a zoo. In a rush I ended up with 'Pet Me Zoo', which is ironic when you can't actually pet the animals.
I wish I could, though. Seeing those cute little pixelated bunnies bouncing around on a trampoline made me want to reach into the screen and squeeze them; less so when they started mating so much their pen was quickly overrun.
What Let's Build A Zoo does so well is explore the ethics of zookeeping. Animals can be bred, but most new species are saved from an animal shelter. When those bunnies kept breeding, I had the option to either euthanise or donate elsewhere. And while this is a sim game about making as much money as possible, you're encouraged to entertain the animals, provide a healthy diet, and definitely not buy anything on the black market. You must balance the happiness of visitors and your shady investors, the environmental impact of business and consumerism. Your morality score also leads to bonuses: sure, there's an evil route, but more satisfying is recycling materials, providing clean energy, and growing sustainable crops on your own farm.
This did fail somewhat once I unlocked the splicing centre that allows you to create your own species. So hideous was the snake-rabbit I accidentally created, I immediately killed and cremated it, never to be seen again. That's where the Dinosaur Island DLC comes into play though, which I'm yet to explore. Jurassic Park but with cute spliced dinos? Count me in.
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