This is the first installment of a new regular feature, in which I ask the Hide & Seek team to talk a little about something they’ve been playing in the past month. Just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend, here are April’s anecdotes:
I finally played Fire Hazard‘s Heist last month. It’s a real-world game where you plan and execute a robbery in an old police station. Each group gets a map of the location, a bundle of walkie-talkies, hints, torches, and then you’re set loose; there’s two diligent but slightly dim guards to avoid, padlocks to undo, motion-sensors to avoid or sabotage.
It’s pretty great! Then again, I might be biased: my team put me in charge of our stun gun, so I did get to lurk at the end of a corridor and then shoot a guard unconscious.
The guards are able to adjust the difficulty really smoothly depending on how well the robbery was going, so it’s always a challenge but never quite insurmountable. And the framing is just lovely: you meet your fellow team-members in a pub and start plotting, while a “guard” on his break hangs around nearby, and then you have to tail him back to the police station without being spotted. It makes for a gorgeous gradual transition into the game world.
Along with most of the world, I’ve been playing Tiny Wings. Currently, my best score is 108308. My initial love for the simple game has soured somewhat as I have hit a wall of constantly restarting the game once I don’t land perfectly which can result in me playing the first 8 seconds over and over again for 20 minutes without me realising it.
I also stumbled across Sugar, Sugar the other day and wasn’t able to stop until I had reached Level 30. Insert sugar based puns here about the game being sweet/addictive/a bit sickly after a while.
I’ve been playing Mass Effect 2, and enjoying a) being able to play as a woman and b) play as a woman who looks and sounds capable of the things the plot and backstory ask of her, not just a meat puppet for the player. I still progress the story by making her get into firefights with undifferentiated aliens and shooting them in the face, but I don’t ask her to remain untouched while doing so.
The structural decision to display dialogue options as hints about what is to come rather than the actual line you’re choosing creates interesting feelings of actual jeopardy at key points – what you choose to say will affect the future of your game and the effectiveness of your troops. It adds to the feeling of stepping into the shoes of someone who is used to command, which is interesting.
The only thing I’m playing right now is Dungeon Raid, for the following reasons:
- as a Dad, I don’t get much time to play, so quick-burst interstitial moments of iOS fun are my main game experience at the moment;
- everyone in the Hide&Seek office is playing Dungeon Raid, and
- I’m hopelessly addicted to it.
It’s a strange attraction, as I’m not entirely sure I like the game. I can’t work out whether it’s balanced in a way which I think is fair, and/or suited to the way I play things – but every spare moment I get for playing, I’m playing it, so there’s certainly something about the game which I find compelling.
Something I’ve noted is that I need to stay calm when playing it. There are special monsters and bosses which you have to take out, and frequently I end up getting killed because I’ve been focusing too closely on slaying those beasts when I ought to have been watching out for other things. There’s something very interesting about the puzzle / RPG mechanic there – I get into the slaying, rather then remembering this is a game of logic and strategy.
In some ways, it feels like the perfect iOS game – it’s utter simplicity to play, and yet has abundant depth.
We’ve been playing something we call Recipe Roulette at home:
- Me or the missus choose one of the (frankly bloody huge and very dusty) collection of cookbooks adorning various shelving units in our flat.
- the other one flicks through the pages and randomly lands on a recipe (can also use a pointy thing and the index/contents pages). We must make it UNLESS there is something truly dreadful that will either kill us or we absolutely won’t eat.
- then we score it using a range of categories and a 1-10 system (1 bad and 10 good – was it nice, easy to make, ingredients difficult to source etc)
- if it turns out to be a success, we’ll add it to our ‘Happy Food Book’ and might even let friends and family know
This week I went back to Gradius V, because I had fever dreams about it when the weather hotted up. There’s something about how heated its colour-schemes seem, with the molten red planets and boiling skies. And pinky spongey lung bits, of course. It was interesting going back to it now that the upgrade pattern isn’t totally ingrained any more. It’s really interesting that the upgrade path is both a strategic and twitch challenge – it’s so frustrating when you accidentally collect one too many power-ups. And the Options dynamic is still fascinating – being able to effectively bank power-ups between deaths is really interesting.
And it’s still just one of the most supremely spatial games I’ve every played – managing the movement of your ship relative to enemies and bullets relative to where your bullets are hitting while managing the spatial distribution of your options while whatever terrifying boss that you’re in rotates and moves and morphs, is extraordinary brain food.
I recently wrapped up a run through Crysis 2. It’s very, very pretty: colourful, detailed, well art-directed. If anything, though, it reminded me not of other FPSes, but of Batman: Arkham Asylum: both are games that are emphatically not about stealth; rather, they’re about being skilled predators.
You barrel from combat arena to combat arena, creeping around in the suit’s invisible “Cloak” mode, taking out guards unseen. What’s empowering is that when your stealthy attack inevitably goes wrong, you’re not rendered useless: you simply switch into “Armor” mode, and make it clear that you – the Nanosuit/player mechanics – are just as threatening when visible as when not. There’s lots of scope to improvise and adlib within the combat arenas, plotting routes through, sliding under trailers, ducking in and out of cover, and though sloppy play will see you killed swiftly, you soon learn to skillfully adapt to the environment and your foes.
At its end, the game hints that it really wants to be replayed – and so I’m returning to it on much harder difficulty settings. It’s a lot more interesting now: I’m both much more dangerous, thanks to keeping my upgrades from the last playthrough, but also much more vulnerable. And so I have to improvise some new plans. Fun.