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What we've been playing

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

2nd of September, 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: juice, B-Type, and a bit of spelunking.

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

Poinpy, smartphones (with a Netflix account)

Poinpy trailer.

Poinpy is one of the first Netflix games, a surprisingly great selection of smartphone treats that are worryingly easy to miss or forget about, given the streaming giant's slightly odd rollout.

But Poinpy is also the next game from the creator of Downwell. I'd be tempted to say it's Downwell in reverse, but that sells both games short.

Where Downwell was about going, well, down, Poinpy's about going up. You jump, double-jump and wall bounce upwards using swipes, and you can hit the ground with precision at any moment by tapping the screen. This is useful because as you hit the ground any fruit you've eaten while jumping is instantly converted into juice, to feed the angry monster who is following close behind you.

This sounds whimsical, and the simple colours and clean lines and chirpy music certainly aids that reading. But actually Poinpy is wildly stressful. That monster really wants juice! Specific juice made from specific ingredients! And there are timers ticking down as you work! And you have to keep moving! And and and!

Poinpy is a blast, then. Just not always a cheerful blast. I love it.

Chris Donlan

Tetris, Game Boy

We don't need much of an excuse to drop the Tetris Effect trailer.

I picked up my Game Boy for a feature we ran a week or so back, but I haven't really been able to put it down again. I've mainly been playing Tetris, and this week I rediscovered a lost - lost to me anyway - classic. Tetris B-Type.

Over the years, I've mainly played A-Type Tetris, which is the classic marathon game. But B-Type is an absolute stunner in its own right. It's a 25-line game based around high scores, and it allows you to set not just the speed of the drops but the amount of garbage you have to deal with on-screen.

The garbage is where this mode comes alive for me. It's a puzzle in itself, a siren call to put aside best practice and get yourself in serious trouble. I play it now and I'm always tempted to try and clear up the garbage while I get my 25 lines - so my attention is split and doom comes swiftly.

What I really love is the way the garbage looks on the screen, this procedural landscape that brings to mind asteroid fields or the tricky underwater coral ridges a navigator might have to get a boat past.

Tetris really is the game that keeps on giving, I think. B-Type has made it feel fresh and new for me.

Chris Donlan

Spelunky 2, Switch

Il Buco - such a treat.

I watched the wonderful Italian film Il Buco over the weekend. It made a fantastic double-bill with Nope, and it's also just a fascinating thing in and of itself: slowly, and nearly wordlessly, it tells the story of a 1960s spelunking expedition into one of the deepest cave networks in the world.

There's a glorious moment in it that It can't get out of my mind. The cave network itself is accessed through a sort of gash in a field where various animals graze. At one point, people are playing football in the field with an old heavy ball, and the ball goes down the hole. For a while we watch as it rattles around the hole entrance, and then it just drops, drops, drops down into darkness. No neighbour is throwing that ball back.

Inevitably, it made me want to play Spelunky. But which one? In the end there was no choice in it. Spelunky 1 might be the more coherent game, but Spelunky 2 makes me feel like I'm deeper underground.

And the point that feels the most remote is not actually the most remote at all. Tide Pool! There are many levels below it, but this strange, wet landscape filled with the hopping undead and pieces of coral and chunks of gold speaks to me like no other level. I think I was reading Piranesi when I first played it, the Suzanne Clarke novel about a house with a sea trapped inside it. Even if I've jumbled up the memories, the two places are inseparable. Underground seas, with little chance of escape.

Piranesi is a great novel, oppressive and rather sickly in the best way. Il Buco is a great movie. And Spelunky 2 is the surprising point at which the venn diagram overlaps. Not bad for a lazy bank holiday weekend.

Chris Donlan

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