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What we've been playing

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

3rd March 2023

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: murders in Bavaria, spooky trains, and fox cubs.

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

Pentiment, PC

Cover image for YouTube videoLet's Play Pentiment XBOX SERIES X Gameplay - IS THIS A MEDIEVAL DISCO ELYSIUM?
Ian pops back to the 16th Century.

I'd make a terrible monk, I'm way too scandalous. Give me half an opportunity to flirt and I'm 100 percent absolutely doing it, regardless of who it's with or whether it's appropriate or not. Flirty Bertie, they call me. Oh I'm talking about in a game by the way! I would never do that in real life, ha ha, awkward laugh.

Anyway, I thought I was nearly done with Pentiment before it pulled another surprise on me, and put me in the shoes of someone else, someone I didn't expect. And part of me really liked it because I'm a big fan of the passing of time in a game, so I can look at the consequences of the choices I made. But a part of me moaned a bit too. "Oh, again?" it asked.

Nevertheless, I think I know where it's headed now and I like where it's going. What I think it's going to do is tell me about the subjective recording of events, of history, and the inherent bias of whoever is recording it - and for whom. And that makes me think. It makes me think about how stories grow into legends over time and with each retelling. And it makes me think about how events are bent a bit to better suit the political whims of the time. Tiny human things that are solidified as ironclad records many years down the line. Interesting, isn't it?

-Bertie

Subway Midnight, PC

Cover image for YouTube videoSUBWAY MIDNIGHT | The Official Trailer
Subway Midnight.

I went into Subway Midnight knowing nothing, which turned out to be the ideal way of approaching it. This is a wonderful, atmospheric game. If you want to know a bit more, read on.

I started off in a subway carriage, a tiny flat cartoon person in a grey, grainy 3D world. I was alone in the carriage and started to move to the far end where doors awaited. I went through. Another carriage. This time, I'm on the ceiling, though, learning how to move with the controls reversed. Another carriage. Black ooze is pouring in. Another carriage. I'm being pursued.

It's ingenious stuff, playful, shocking and filled with a sense of impending doom and wrongness. I lasted about fifteen minutes before my daughter popped her head around the door to tell me the audio was scaring her. Give this game a look, I reckon.

Christian Donlan

Blanc, PC

Cover image for YouTube videoBlanc | Announcement Trailer
Blanc.

Real Brothers vibes from this, obviously. In Blanc the player controls a wolf cub and a fawn simultaneously, one stick for each character. The world is a snowy landscape, felty surfaces of frost and trees outlined in ice. You move forward, controlling each character and getting them past separate hurdles.

What I love about Blanc, and which I didn't get from Brothers, as it happens, is a sense of slow empathy building up, as you move each character with an identical control scheme past obstacles that are not identical. There's something about doing the same jumps and sprints and manoeuvrings on both sides of the screen at slightly different times that slowly builds a sense: yep, we're in this together.

I am terrible at games like this - pat your head and rub your stomach stuff. I struggle for it to click, but it has clicked here. The animation, the sparse beauty of the world, the vulnerability of these two creatures? Blanc is special.

Chris Donlan