Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

What we've been playing

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

16th December 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: a chat about Mario, the pleasures of inventory Tetris, and a Christmas JRPG.

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

Super Mario Odyssey, Switch

Mario Odyssey.Watch on YouTube

Mummy: You have finished Super Mario Odyssey, Congratulations! How does it feel to have finished the game?

Nine-year-old: It feels exciting! Super exciting!

Mummy: What was your favourite bit of the game?

Nine-year-old: Hmm. It’s a difficult choice, but probably the bit where I captured Bowser [by using Cappy, Mario’s partner in Odyssey]. It was just really cool to be able to breathe fire. It was also super funny seeing Bowser with a moustache and a Mario hat.

Mummy: Which was your favourite area in the game?

Nine-year-old: Bowser’s Castle! I liked the architecture here, and the captures you could get in this area. And the boss was a fun fight.

Bowser’s Kingdom actually took me by surprise. I thought it was going to be hectic and fiery, like the Mario Kart courses, but it is actually pretty nice if you remove the baddies. The Seaside Kingdom was another one I liked because after I defeated the boss I got to play beach volleyball.

At first I found Metro Kingdom quite strange. I also found it really strange when I came across a real-life person roaming the Sand Kingdom, which is not fantasy as such but definitely a made up world. I did get used to Metro Kingdom when I was there, though.

Mummy: Other than Bowser, what other bosses stood out for you during your playthrough?

Nine-year-old: The green broodal [Topper]. It was quite a simple fight, but a fun one. I just really like taking out Bowser’s minions.

I also liked the dragon. I was quite scared when I first met it, but when I worked out how to defeat the dragon I felt more confident.

Mummy: What was your favourite Cappy capture in the game?

Nine-year-old: Probably Chargin’ Chuck. I liked being able to charge around and smash through boulders. It made me feel really strong and excited.

Mummy: What was your favourite outfit from the game?

*My son thinks about this one very carefully before deciding*

Nine-year-old: I think it has to be Bowser’s suit and top hat. It comes with its own shell, and it is a really nice suit. Also, the hat comes with boxing gloves.

Mummy: Would you recommend Super Mario Odyssey to others?

Nine-year-old: Definitely!! It is a colourful and vibrant game with good music and the opportunity to really explore all the different kingdoms you visit. Being able to capture other characters with Cappy is amazing - being able to jump as a frog, fly as a Glydon, swim as Cheep Cheep and charge around as a tank is brilliant.

Mummy: If you had to rate Super Mario Odyssey out of 10, what would you give it?

Nine-year-old: I would give it a nine and a quarter. It is a good game but there are things that could make it better.

I wish there were Boos in the game - I didn’t see any. There are also some characters in the game that I would like to be able to capture, but can’t. I would like the chance to capture a Toad from the Mushroom Kingdom. I am not sure what abilities a Toad would have - perhaps you would be able to sneak into secret areas?

Mummy: Now you have finished Odyssey, what’s next?

Nine-year-old: I want to 100 percent the game. I want to go back to the various kingdoms and collect all of the Power Moons. I also want to buy all the outfits.

Mummy: One last, very important question for you - how excited are you for the Super Mario Bros. Movie?

Nine-year-old: Super Duper times infinity!

Mummy: Can Mummy be your date to the cinema?

*My son does more deep thinking*

Nine-year-old: Hmm. Would you pay on my behalf?

Mummy (laughing quite a lot): Yes, Mummy will pay.

Nine-year-old (with a very big smile on his face): In that case, yes you can be my date.

Mummy: Thank you, darling. I appreciate that.

Victoria Kennedy

Save Room, Switch

Watch on YouTube

Inventory Tetris is one of games' brightest ideas, I reckon. Over the years it's provided many lovely ruminative breaks from the action in survival horrors or a game like Diablo. It works for the same reason that people used to take pictures of the contents of their bags on Flickr, perhaps. Organisation, but also the simple pleasure of seeing how your things reflect the person you are - the person you are in the game, anyway.

Save Room, which I have lost a happy hour to this week, is pure inventory Tetris. That's all there is, and it's lovely to see a game so beautifully focused. While a moody score plays, I take guns and ammo and eggs and whatnot from the right side of the screen and make it all fit into a space on the left. Sometimes I have to load a gun. Sometimes I have to eat an egg. That's life, baby. That's life.

I kept worrying that the game would blossom into something more, and lose its lovely narrow-mindedness. That hasn't happened so far. I love the thought process that gets me through each level, a kind of triage by size. Rifles in first, then the difficult shape of the SMG. All the while I keep an eye on the ammo and eggs - will they be able to plug the gaps I'm leaving?

sMore than anything, Save Room is a celebration of the games that lurk within other games, the same way that not stepping on the cracks lurks inside the school run or a trip to Tesco. It's a treat to lose myself in something like this and emerge, however much time later, with a clearer head and a lighter heart.

Chris Donlan

Chained Echoes, Switch

Chained Echoes trailer.Watch on YouTube

Christmas is a time for comfort and nostalgia and - for me - curling up with a good JRPG. This year that’s set to be Chained Echoes, a new game heavily inspired by the classics Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6.

In fact, the game is a love letter to all JRPGs of the past. It’s got sky pirates and anthropomorphised animals; undercover princesses, warring nations and magical technology; a vast fantasy land of dungeons and minigames; and a story that (I suspect, after the ten hours I’ve played so far) transcends time. It’s got the past in its systems too: crystals slotting into armours and weapons like materia and abilities learned through spending experience, all tying together for some satisfying character tinkering.

More than spot the reference, though, Chained Echoes has some great ideas of its own. Its Overdrive system adds a twist to battle (as every good JRPG should have), forcing players to balance attack and defence or risk overheating. Its well-written (and often surprisingly dark) story plays with conventions right from its awakening-from-a-dream opening. And it’s all presented through some crisp and clean pixel art with gorgeous vistas, plus suitably adventurous music.

And all of this from solo developer Matthias Linda, a seven year in the making passion project. This is a JRPG by a JRPG nerd for fellow JRPG nerds, and I can’t wait to don some sky armour and tuck in to more over the Christmas break.

Ed Nightingale

Read this next