29th 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: dogs, time, and emergent gameplay in the garden.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Resident Evil: Director's Cut, PS5
I know just about every jump scare in the Resident Evil remake, so imagine my surprise when the famous zombie dogs bursting through the east wing windows set piece produced a surprising and undignified squeal from me in Resident Evil: Director’s Cut.
There’s a certain trigger that activates this cheap (but effective) scare in the remake, meaning you can avoid these annoying enemies for as long as possible if you steer clear of traversing the eastern corridor after your first visit. In the original, however, the dogs seem to smash through the windows on your first journey.
This change in the remake, along with many others, helped build tension for players who had experienced the original and knew its set-piece triggers like the back of their itchy-tasty hand (weren’t the dogs supposed to be here? Why haven’t they smashed the windows yet? Oh God, where are they!?).
Yeah it’s got dated tank controls, ridiculous voice acting, and polygonal character designs I probably only like due to nostalgia - but playing Resident Evil: Director’s Cut is now the tenser experience for me. It’s so familiar, and yet I’m now wary of what else I’ve grown used to due to the remake’s set piece and puzzle subversions.
The exact reason the remake added tension is why the original now has me terrified to enter each of the Spencer Mansion’s once-familiar rooms.
Chrono Trigger, PC
Chrono Trigger is timeless - pun intended. From the iconic music, to the evocative pixel art, and the puzzle-like battle system that doesn’t rely on grinding, it still feels like a fresh experience today almost three decades after its release.
In part, that’s also because of all the modern features the game introduced. No random battles! Multiple endings! New game plus! Chrono Trigger was an advanced and experimental release at the time, bridging the gap between the mature storytelling of Final Fantasy 6 and the operatic vision of Final Fantasy 7.
What really stood out to me, though, were its layers. It begins as a simple enough, linear, time-travelling adventure, with likeable characters and a heavy dose of anime exuberance. But gradually the game itself turns into a giant puzzle. The freedom to travel through time brings smart overarching puzzles on a gameplay level, but also a way to explore its themes of generational conflict. The way this interlocks with various game endings means this (relatively) brief JRPG becomes a giant puzzle box to slowly and satisfyingly twist and turn and pry open.
I originally started the game on mobile years back but found the touch screen menus a pain. I’m so glad I eventually came back to it on Steam. With the recent remastered releases of Chrono Cross and Live A Live, Chrono Trigger seemed like essential background JRPG research; now, it’s shot up my favourite games list.
PowerWash Simulator, Xbox
Tom: I can’t remember the last time I was losing sleep because of a game, but I am for PowerWash Simulator. It’s not a difficult game, and you pretty much do the same things again and again over every level. That said, whenever I do start a new mission, I must finish it even if that means playing until silly o’clock, then falling asleep and seeing its patterns in my mind’s eye. It’s compulsive, and I’m now completely caught up in its percentage trackers, five-star completion ratings, and also yes, its in-game story about the mayor’s missing cat and an impending volcano eruption. Why are you playing, Wes?
Wes: Honestly, I’m not sure. I must be enjoying myself, because I am playing it. A lot. But why? PowerWash Simulator gives me the gift of time, time to listen to things, like my beloved Warhammer 40,000 audio books (don’t say anything, Tom), podcasts such as the wonderful Eurogamer Newscast, the radio, and music. Of course there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from cleaning dirt off a virtual playground stegosaurus, but it’s more about the zen of it all. For you, PowerWash Simulator keeps you up at night. For me, it helps send me to sleep. What I’m curious to find out about, Tom, is how you play PowerWash Simulator?
Tom: I am methodical. Very methodical, as you noticed when we tried to get a multiplayer session going last weekend (hopefully the new patch has fixed those crashes)! When starting off I pick something to focus on and try not to get too distracted, though inevitably I do. On the playgrounds and skateparks that might mean finishing the floor first, or just picking a corner and working out from there. On the later levels it has become harder - the helicopter last night was a proper pain - but it helps when backtracking at the end to finish off anything not quite 100% clean. I think it’s faster this way… though if you’re playing to nod off then maybe that isn’t so much of an issue!
Wes: The other night, while absent-mindedly and without method cleaning dirt from a playground floor, I noticed a recognisable shape. Like spotting gods clash in the clouds, I spotted what looked like the stereotypical noir detective looking down at their phone, surely trying to decode some all-encompassying murder mystery. This detective popped up amid the powerwash chaos - that’s emergent gameplay! You don’t get that powerwashing at right angles, Tom.
Tom Phillips and Wesley Yin-Poole