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What we've been playing - caverns, knowledge and doors

A few of the things that have us hooked this week.

An illustration of a doorway inside a house, which is open and shows the rooms beyond all with open doorways, one inside another. In the middle of them all is the shape of a boy, who's clearly been opening them.
Image credit: Dogubomb

14th June 2024

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've been playing over the past few days. This week it’s caverns, knowledge and doors.

What have you been playing?

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

Spelunky 2, PC

Here's a gameplay trailer for Spelunky 2!Watch on YouTube

I’m back in Spelunky 2 and trying to spend more time in each individual area. I had an uncanny week in Tidepool and was left with a sense of spooky melancholy. Now, working backwards, I’m in Volcana, which may be my favourite area in the whole game.

Volcana feels a lot easier than other areas, but since this is Spelunky there’s still a lot that can go wrong, and a lot that can lead to things that can really go wrong. You fall off a ledge, and it triggers one of those wrecking ball things and then you land, stunned, on a moving walkway that tips you into lava. It’s fun.

When I first played Spelunky 2, Volcana was the first area where the game started to feel like home. I still don’t love the opening area that much, and the game’s equivalent of Jungle is not a space you’re meant to feel comfortable in. Volcana’s deadly, but it’s engagingly deadly. Dying here by complex accident feels just right.

-Chris Donlan

Elden Ring, PS5

Here's the Shadow of Erdtree trailer!Watch on YouTube

It’s happened again. It’s got me. The Two Fingers won’t let go.

It started with the Elden Ring concert I attended recently. It wasn’t just a recap of the key story beats and bosses, it was a showcase of all the various weapon types and spells - many of which I’d not experimented with myself. I spied a cool looking twinblade and had to try it. And so began another playthrough of the game, when I’d only intended a brief dabble. I’ve settled on Eleanora’s Poleblade, a twinblade that does bleed and fire damage as I spin and flip around like Darth Maul. Compared to my previous playthrough where I chose a pure intelligence magic build flicking pebbles at enemies, the twinblade absolutely melts through everything. I can’t wait to see what Malenia makes of it, but for now it feels incredible.

But this time I’m also armed with something far more potent: knowledge. I know the areas and what to expect. I know the order of bosses. I know the most important items to sweep up. I’m not speedrunning exactly, but certainly racing through the game in a fraction of the time, playing with swift aggression in a whirl of blades. I’ve never felt so confident in a Souls game, boisterously charging into danger. So far, this brazen attitude is working for me and making for an entirely different experience, one that’s cathartic as hell. Will this strategy still work in the Shadow of the Erdtree expansion? Come back to me in a few weeks.


Blue Prince, PC

An attic lit by a round window in Blue Prince.
Blue Prince. | Image credit: Dogubomb / Raw Fury

My stepmother’s side of the family is a little posher than mine, and back in the 1960s her sister bought half a fairly large country house at a surprisingly good price. It was a bit rundown and it was hard to get to, but it was proper Poirot material. Anyway, they had half the house and their neighbours had the other half, and it had been divided up pretty randomly. Our side ended up with the attics and the dining room, their side got a ballroom! The thing is, they split the cellars, which were expansive. They both had roughly half. But over time they both realised there was this single room that nobody had access to - a room that had to exist, because of the space it accounted for, but no doors, no windows, no grates.

ANYWAY. Thought of this recently when playing the Blue Prince demo. Blue Prince hangs on the fantasy that a relative has left you a massive country house made of 45 rooms, and you get to keep it if you can find the secret 46th room. You explore, one room at a time, and when you get to a door, you choose which room, from a random selection, you want to build on the other side. Bedroom? Hallway? Private observatory?

It’s one of those games where you’re always running out of things. You need footsteps to keep building, and certain rooms grant them in large quantities. Then there are keys and gems and room-based puzzles to think about if you want to keep going. But by far the item in most immediate demand is doors: if you create rooms that don’t add to your total number of doors, you’re going to get to a point where you can’t build anymore. You want to salt the building with junction rooms with four available doors as you go, and you want to avoid rooms that have entries but no new exits.

Post-COVID it’s very hard to play Blue Prince without thinking of R, that magical number which, I think, had to do with how many people an infected person would then infect. You want R to be lower than one, but in Blue Prince, you want D, the number of new doors in any new room, to be higher than one, so your exploration can continue. A surprising number of games make me think about R - the card game Bandido is another. But when I’m not thinking about R and playing Blue Prince I’m thinking of my step-aunt’s mysterious shared cellar. And I’m wishing that some unknown relative would leave me a massive, weird old house in the country.

-Chris Donlan

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