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What we've been playing

A few of the games that have us hooked at the moment.

22nd of July, 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: Klonoa, shmups, and Mario at his oddest.

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, Switch

It's the Klonoa trailer.

My first memories of playing Klonoa: Door to Phantomile take place in the early 2000s, when I had a pirated version of the game in Japanese with no manual, and no knowledge of the Japanese language. Despite this, I often booted it up to see if I could figure out how to play through trial and error because I loved the charming music. Spoiler alert – I did not figure it out. I never even made it past the first level, never to discover the rest of that beautiful soundtrack...

I've been working my way through Klonoa Phantasy Reverie Series on Switch (in English this time!) and it's been joyful discovering what I missed out on previously. Platformers were the staple of my childhood and playing Door to Phantomile brings that feeling of nostalgic glee back to me. The game is simple if you just want to make it to the end of each level, but the true challenge lies in collecting all the Dream Stones. Exploration is delicately hand-crafted to test your skills, leaving no room for error. It can be frustrating at times, but it more than makes up for that with how satisfying it feels when you manage to nail that triple jump and soar through the trail of gems.

I’ve seen the end of Door to Phantomile and beaten the final boss, but the completionist in me demands that I collect all 1950 Dream Jewels in the game before starting Lunatea’s Veil. Klonoa had better get ready to flap those ears of his, because I’ll need all the hops I can get to complete that Extra Vision.

Liv Ngan

Raging Blasters, Switch

Raging Blasters trailer.

Is the Switch the best console for the humble shmup since Sega’s legendary Saturn? Five year into its life, with an incredible back catalogue featuring the great and good of the genre and an influx of new and exciting takes on the classics and the answer is pretty clear to me. Raging Blasters, which finally arrived on the European eShop, strengthens the case further; riffing off the Star Soldier series, it’s a vertical shooter that jumps around in the hands like a magic bean, retaining the twitchiness that made Compile’s PC Engine originals such a joy. It’s a shmup told with simplicity and speed - and outrageous speed, at that - complete with a scoring system that’s suitably straightforward. A simple pleasure of the highest order, this.

Martin Robinson

Bowser's Fury, Switch

Bowser's Fury trailer.

Bowser's Fury is my favourite Mario game in an age. There's something truly special about it, and I think that's probably because it's so weird. It's an experiment, a sort of taster of what an open-world Mario would look like, but with levels and surprises gently fighting against the bigger picture.

I have been playing it in chunks for a couple of years now, diving in, gorging, forgetting all about it and then picking it up again, only to lose a few more hours to it.

Today's session was the perfect summary of everything I love about it. I fired it up, wandered around a nearby island and picked up a few Cat Shines, or whatever they're called, and then got distracted by a treasure hunt, and then distracted within the treasure hunt by a hard-to-reach ledge, and then distracted while aiming for that by the desire to track down a cat power-up. Then night fell and Bowser turned up and I remembered that, really, I have properly lost any real sense of what's going on here.

But it doesn't matter. Because next time I pick the game up the distractions will be waiting for me afresh. Truly, a Mario game to lose yourself within. Do check it out.

Chris Donlan

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