23rd 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: trombones, pirates, and outer space.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
Trombombone Champ, PC
I haven't laughed so hard at a game in a long time. Trombone Champ is hilarious. It's everything the legendary melodica cover of the Jurassic Park theme tune is and more. And it's hard enough trying to play it without struggling to breathe while laughing. This is rhythm action comedy at its finest.
Why it's never been done before, I don't know. It's a startlingly brilliant idea - one of those ideas that stops you in your tracks. Take one of the most notoriously difficult instruments to play in tune, the trombone - a brass instrument without defined keys but just one long sliding arm you have to learn the position of notes on - and make a Guitar Hero-style game out of it.
You control the trombone arm with your mouse, sliding it up and down to move the pitch up and down, and then you press the mouse button, or pretty much any button on the keyboard, to sound the note. You have to keep an eye on your breath - you can't just hold the 'play' button down and honk endlessly because you'll run out of breath and have to pause to recuperate - but otherwise that's all there is to controlling it.
It's the nuance of it that makes it fun, though, makes it imprecise - makes landing those notes in the thick of a lively rendition really hard. The mouse-powered arm moves around a bit like it's sliding on soap, with enough of a delay to build some natural error in, so even though you know instinctively how to move a mouse around, it feels hard to do, particularly when you move at speed. Landing a note spot-on is very hard to do.
But it's all intentional because this is where Trombone Champ has its fun. This is a game built around the mistakes, around laughing at them. That's why it's a big fat trombone honk you're hearing, not some clunky reprimand like in Guitar Hero, which blocks and ruins the music. If anything, the slightly out of tune honk embellishes it, and the closer your attempt is to the actual note, the stronger the comedy - it's the equivalent of being accidentally funny versus trying to be.
Trombone Champ has really perked me up, and that's a wonderful quality for a game to have. It's full of energy - I have never heard such a pumped up version of Auld Lang Syne before - and humour (there are some great trombone gags on loading screens). The only drawback being that perhaps it's too intense to play for long - I suppose it's a bit like an espresso.
It's a charming package. A game of enthusiasm and, I think, underneath it, real love for the instrument it's lampooning. It'll liven up any time you can give it. Honk!
Return to Monkey Island, Switch
If you have read any of my stories over on the news side of Eurogamer recently, you will be aware that I have been incredibly excited about the release of Return to Monkey Island. Well, after what was admittedly not all that long a wait, but one that has felt like an eternity to me, I finally got my hands on it (along with the totally useless horse armour that came with it thanks to my enthusiastic pre-ordering).
I won’t give any story spoilers away here, but I will say I am delighted that the game has not disappointed. It all evokes such a strong sense of nostalgia, while still offering up something totally new. I really love everything, from the way the game begins with a nod to the finale of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, to its new characters that fit so seamlessly into the world of Guybrush Threepwood and co.
This is not to say it is predictable, however. If I thought I could have guessed where Monkey Island vets Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman were going with this new beginning, well, I would have been wrong. As with so many of the series’ puzzles along the way, right from the get-go Return totally subverted my expectations.
Meanwhile, while there has been some debate over the new art style we see in Return, I personally feel it really suits the overall tone of the game. It is bright and joyous, and has helped make the moments I have spent curled up with my Nintendo Switch a gleeful escape from the bitterly cold and grey weather we are currently having up here in Scotland.
Perhaps the biggest cherry on top for me though, is that Return to Monkey Island has also captured the imagination of my nine-year-old son. Without getting too emotional here, I can’t tell you how special it is to be sharing this experience with him. I really hope that when he is in his 30s, he will look back and smile thinking about the time he spent on Monkey Island. Oh, and also, the music is truly brilliant!
I am far from being an expert at Warframe, but I do have almost 750 hours of experience, and it will always have space allocated to it on my SSD. Between the times where I play religiously everyday, and sporadically throughout each year since I started, the game for me just keeps getting better. I am heavily invested into the lore of the game, and I advise anyone to try the main story quest line (and even the side quest lines) if you enjoy a single player experience that just keeps giving. That's not to detract from the multiplayer aspects the game has to offer as well, but I will talk about that in a bit.
I do not want to spoil the story for anyone who has not had the chance to experience it yet, but Digital Extremes always seem to one-up themself, every main quest update. The story can be dark, can be lighthearted at times, and can bring an element of sadness, but it does not fail to deliver unique experiences, and twists and turns that you are not expecting at all.
Unlike other games Warframe drip-feeds new systems into the game slowly throughout the main story rather than dumping them all on you at once, but once they are unlocked they are relatively evergreen, always as part of your arsenal to use going forward, something other games rarely seem to get right. There are factions of reputation dotted throughout the galaxy that you meet, or do quests/bounties for that unlock further systems, locations, quests or expanded weaponry. That coupled with the diverse selection of warframes and weapons available to the player to suit every play style imaginable, warframe has content for everyone. With hourly/daily/weekly/monthly events and activities, a non premium battle pass, free updates, gifts for players and much more. I sometimes find it hard to believe this game is free (yes you can buy warframes/weapons/cosmetics but I have never found the need to). With the ability to trade and sell parts you get with players for premium currency, you can always grind your way to anything you want.
The game can be at times very grindy if you are targeting certain items or warframes, and that's where the multiplayer aspect for me comes into play. If you have a group of friends to play with on a regular basis, using voice comms and having a generally good time, the grinds do not feel as long as they are, and you are always gaining materials and currencies that you can put towards crafts no matter what activity you are doing.
Warframe caters from the hardcore to the casual alike, with so many different things you can do and work towards, it has come so far from its original form to what it is today, with so much customization and new experiences added and refined over the years. Whether you are a new player or someone who has not played for a long time, it is worth downloading and jumping in and seeing what Digital Extremes have created.
"See you again, eh, Tenno."