What we've been playing
A few of the games that have us hooked at the moment.
24th of 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: turtles, mountains, and funny mouths.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge, Xbox
I’ve been playing the wonderful Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge with my wife and two young children this week, and it’s an absolute blast. Immediately accessible for kids who may struggle to use both thumbsticks on a controller, Shredder's Revenge has been a revelation in the Yin-Poole household, where we’ve got four controllers wirelessly holding hands with the Xbox Series S under the telly. It’s chaos with so many characters on-screen at once, but we somehow keep track. My daughter, who is very much not into video games, loves April. My son, who is very much into video games, loves “Splinter the rat”, as he always calls him. My wife flits about between the turtles, usually favouring Raphael, aka the rude one. I’m not sure what to make of that.
Shredder's Revenge offers blistering, button-mashing brawling on a single-screen, and fun couch co-op for all in a family made up of people with various ages and skill levels. The developers at Tribute Games have done a fantastic job tapping into this dad’s nostalgia for the original Turtles arcade game, while appealing to the next generation.
But I must also give a special shoutout to the engineers at Microsoft who made it so easy to set up a four-player co-op session on the Xbox Series S. As a parent, I find excuses such as “I don’t have the right cable”, and “this controller doesn’t work with this console” often fall on deaf little ears. As my kids bounced up and down excitedly waiting to get Turtles going on the telly, I braced myself for some tech snafu that would prevent me from getting my dusty Xbox controllers to play ball with the Series S. I was delighted - and relieved! - to find the controllers I’d dug out of storage, that I’d last used on previous generations of Xbox, all just worked with Microsoft’s latest console after the insertion of a single cable and the press of one button on each device. And then we were straight into turtle land, smashing Foot Clan robots to bits.
Phew! It’s nice when things just work, isn’t it?
A Short Hike, Switch
It's probably too obvious a point to make, but A Short Hike really is an awful lot like Crackdown. I play them for the same things - the pleasure of discovery, of exploration and landscape, and the delight in climbing something really tall. And crucially I play them in the same way. That is to say, I don't play them every week, but I'm always willing to leap back in for twenty minutes here and there.
And this is the magic of them, I think. I have A Short Hike on several platforms now and at several levels of progress. But in truth, the game's magic is that it resists any form of completism. Because I dive back in often with months off, I have no memory of what I've done and what I haven't, and also of what I've seen and what I've never seen before. Was the stickball game added in a patch? Or was it there at the start? I play it for a few seconds and realise that I've played it before - but when? This is richness indeed.
This morning I went for a dive around the the island and swore that a bunch of trees, backs bent like old men, were entirely new to me. Then, on a nearby ledge I found an open treasure chest, so all of this was, in some way, land that I had already travelled. I play A Short Hike now, and memory and the absence of memory constantly jostles up alongside itself. It makes the game familiar, but forever fresh. You know, like Crackdown.
The Quarry, PlayStation 5
I love how Supermassive bottled the 'watching a horror film with other people' feeling and turned it into a series of games. The Quarry is its latest, about a bunch of American teens at summer camp in the woods, where something possibly supernatural and scary lives, though of course the teens are more interested in sleeping with each other and having a good time - for now.
The Quarry isn't in the Dark Pictures series that Supermassive usually groups these games in, but it's exactly the same thing. In fact, the formula is so obvious now it's like an established sub-genre all of its own. But I don't really mind? I quite like all the elements of the template and how you do things like get clues about future moments, which are important if you want to keep all the characters alive. There's even this lady who reads the tarot cards you collect in between chapters now.
There's a cool-sounding new Movie mode too, which I haven't noticed in Supermassive's other games before. It allows you to auto-play the game as if watching a film but set different variables for character's behaviour and watch the outcome, which is neat.
My gripe with The Quarry so far, and I'm not very far in - an hour or so - is that it's a bit slow, a bit boring. I actually fell asleep at one point, though I was tired and that wasn't The Quarry's fault. And yes, I know it's setting a scene and building the tension, and there have been some scary moments - the prologue is good - but it isn't as tense as I remember Until Dawn being, for example.
Also the mouths are weird.