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What we've been playing

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

18th November 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: pirates, vampires, hedgehogs, and fighters.

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

Return to Monkey Island, Xbox Series X

Is it possible to feel nostalgic for a game you're still playing? Return to Monkey Island is such a brilliantly faithful return for LucasArts' long-lost adventure franchise that it also feels like an entry I half-remember playing over a decade ago, sprinkled with fresh surprises.

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I mean this in the best possible way, of course. There's all the elements you'd hope for - Dominic Armato's ever-cheerful Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine, LeChuck, Stan and Murray. I'm sure Herman Toothrot is lurking around somewhere too. There's the signature anachronistic humour, the warmly-tweaked take on Saturday matinee pirates, and the twisted logic required to solve puzzles.

I'm not hugely far through, just mopping up Melee Island, and I'm currently stuck. That feels familiar too. Of course there's all the new bits and pieces to help - the in-game hint book, for example - but I'm skipping that for now. I need the full nostalgia hit of trying everything, wandering Return to Monkey Island's many locations, and letting this gift of a game sink in. After all, who knows how long it will be until the next?

Tom Phillips

King of Fighters 98: Ultimate Match Final Edition

Having grown up in the 90s and early 00s, I've always been what you would call an arcade rat, and while browsing through my Steam Library I came across this gem - bought in a random sale - that I thought was lost to time. Upon dusting it off, I unlocked a lot of core memories - having to re-learn pretzel motions and the like - while also remembering that a lot of SNK Bosses stole my lunch money in my futile attempt to try and beat them.

If any of you have the time, play it.

Paolo Balmes

Resident Evil Village, PC

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It's been a hot while since I last played this, and I mean something like a year. When DLC for it was announced way, way back in June 2021, I decided I wanted to wait until it was released before jumping back into the game again. It was a silly decision in retrospect, because of how large the gap was between Village's original release and when the Winters' Expansion finally came out, but I had my own reasons for it.

I've been playing the main campaign in third-person mode and it's a bit jarring when the camera has to shift back into first-person for cutscenes, but apart from that I much prefer playing it. I forgot how funny some of Ethan's dialogue is, even if he is a bit bland as a character himself. I'm not that far into the story at the moment; I'm very much enjoying being chased around Castle Dimitrescu by the lady herself and smashing all of her pots and windows!

I also tried out Mercenaries for the first time. I was never a huge fan of Mercenaries in the previous Resident Evil games (getting a solid combo with those tank controls in RE5? No way) but Village nails it for me. It's fluid and fast-paced, and a completely different experience to the main game. So far I've been maining Ethan and maxing out the M1911 pistol. It's great fun unloading a ton of bullets into enemies, something which I wouldn't dream of doing in the campaign (when I'm not using a weapon with unlimited ammo, that is).

I haven't unlocked Lady Dimitrescu or Heisenberg as playable characters yet, which is next up on my to-do list. I have played through Shadows of Rose. I have Thoughts about it, but there were a couple of really cool points that stuck with me. That bit when the lift doors open and the camera tilts down so the perspective changes? I really loved that shot. And that ending fight? Give me a whole game of that!

Liv Ngan

Sonic Frontiers, PS5

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It's well known how much time Miyamoto spent perfecting Mario's movement in Super Mario 64, but Sonic Team never seem to have spent the same amount of time and care on its blue hedgehog. As a result, the 3D outings have always struggled with controls. The blue blur just cannot be contained.

Sonic Frontiers does come close, though - at least, in the open zone. Finally Sonic has been given the space to speed around freely. No time limits. No restrictions. Each zone is a sandbox to bounce and boost and charge and race through, collecting rings and tokens, grinding and flipping more than Tony Hawk could ever manage. Never before has being Sonic felt this good.

That is, until you hit the cyberspace levels. Once more Sonic is restricted, forced along a narrow path, momentum stalled at the slightest touch of a barrier. Getting the perfect run through repetition and learning is eventually satisfying, but it feels like a fight against the controls more than the environment.

Sonic Frontiers is a mixed bag, then. Its freedom is wonderful, but it comes at the expense of pop-in, an under-developed plot, and a confusing structure. And I still long for an open Sonic game with the aesthetic of Sonic CD's animated intro, instead of the dismal realism on display here. Yet Sonic Team should be applauded for continuing to experiment with its mascot - this latest is more right than wrong.

Oh, and do yourself a favour: switch to 60fps mode and turn off the blur effect. It all looks far clearer that way.

Ed Nightingale

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