This edition of the Play Roundup really is out of this world... oh man, that is first class comedy, it really is. Oh, keep reading, then it will make sense - then just remember how funny this intro is, please 🙏
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. So it came as something as a surprise to me, when I finally played The Outer Wilds, to discover that I am really bad at surviving in space. The game takes place in a creative and impressive simulation of a small solar system. You're given a ship, the initial threads of a mystery to go and explore, and left to figure out your own journey. And as it turns out, interplanetary travel is horrifying. I crash into the sun. Or into the surface of a planet when trying to land. I get sucked into black holes and spat out somewhere far beyond the usual void I call home. I get lost when the rotation of the moon plunges me into complete darkness, and when I use my jetpack to try and get my bearings, I boost too hard and end up drifting in space, watching the stars twinkle in the distance as my oxygen slowly runs out and I suffocate.
Luckily, death is part of Outer Wilds by design, and every stupid mistake I make gives me a chance to make further progress and unravel the story. I still have no idea what I'm doing, but inch by inch, the secrets of the Universe will be mine. Just bear with me while I boil myself alive in a violent supernova, a few times, on the way.
This is my first update since coming back from my mammoth of a Christmas break! Two games caught me over the festive period. The first one was Stormworks: Build and Rescue, a game where you construct vehicles from boats to helicopters to jets to help you rescue stranded people from across the world. Its a great game though after tens of hours of playing there were a few bugs and quirks that made us put it down until its further along in early access.
Secondly, like Adam I also went back to my childhood, and started playing November's hit release, Age Of Empires 2 Definitive Edition. Unlike the 2013 HD Remaster, it feels like a proper ground up remake, as well as 3 new civilizations and new campaigns, its managed to reignite the competitive RTS spark inside of me, even if I've had several games go over the two hour mark.
This week we had a play with Yap, an experimental chat platform that offers history-less, ephemeral messaging with up to 6 participants. From their website:
yap is an ephemeral, real-time chat room with up to six participants. your messages appear and disappear as quickly as you type them, which means unless you pay attention to what everyone says (for once), you’ll miss it. after creating a room, you can embed a piece of media (a video, a website, or something else) for your group to discuss or just shoot the sh*t
Whilst the interface layout and requirement for 100% attention didn't really gel with us on our test, I was on board with the problem yap attempts to address. Is this a sign that audiences are fatigued of social media, influencers, mass conversations and the associated privacy-invading tracking? Perhaps there is an appetite for more restricted, higher-privacy spaces to have focused dialogue with a tighter-knit, more niche audience of friends and peers. Certainly something for games businesses to be mindful of when considering their audience experiences.
BIG NEWS! I've played another game other than Rocket League (which I obviously did play). As I mentioned last week, for Christmas I bought my sister Dr Kawashima's Brain Training for the Nintendo Switch. It's a game that has a large collection of challenges which it uses to calculate your brain age with the aim of getting it younger by doing the challenges. Personally my brain age started at 60, my sisters was 80 (she's 21 so frankly embarrassing) and through the daily challenges I've got mine slightly lower to 53 and she has knock over 30 years off hers! The games are fine and really highlighted how poor we are at simple mental arithmetic. One of my strengths was short term memory, which was surprising to me. All in all the game is really fun and packed full of knowledge about how the human brain works. Feels like we're just scratching the surface of the game as the more challenges you do the more new challenges get unlocked. We're using a stylus to play the game, which has really exposed how poor my handwriting is 😂
Continuing the space theme, this week I've been revisiting an early access game I've not touched in a while: Stationeers by Rocketworkz. Listing another of my favourite games Space Station 13 as it's inspiration, Stationeers is an ambitious game which has the player surviving as an astronaut-engineer in hostile space-based environments, building a base and having to manage atmospheric and temperature related issues.
It's impenetrably obtuse at times but I have a soft spot for games with complex interactive systems and this is one that definitely keeps me up into the small hours working on my latest bit of clever automated logic or piping. Plus space is awesome.
It was my birthday this week. Happy birthday to me 🎉
Occasionally things don't quite go according to plan, and the world of games is by no means immune to the odd faux pas here and there. This week, US retailer Target had the you know what hit the proverbial fan when they accidentally uploaded two Switch games— Yoshi’s Crafted World and What Remains of Edith Finch—on sale for only $1, when the games are normally priced at $60 and $20, respectively. Naturally the internet made hay while the sun was shining and absolutely rinsed this opportunity - because come on, who doesn't want a Yoshi game for a buck?
It's also been a bad start to the year for 2K and WWE 2K20, with an update now making the game almost unplayable with the majority of game modes just crashing. It's being described as Y2K style bug (not to be confused with Y2J Chris Jericho - yes, I'm a nerd who likes wrestling, don't judge me 🙈), which the internet is cleverly dubbing Y2k20 👏. Although it seems as thought the issue has now been resolved, this is another set back for 2K and their WWE game franchise which has been going down hill for a number of years, with games littered with bugs and glitches, terrible graphics (in comparison to other 2K franchises) and becoming almost instant internet memes. It's getting to the point where either, WWE needs to allocate more budget, 2K to perform better, or look for a new partnership, because right now it isn't working. Give me WWF No Mercy on the N64 anyday!
(Don't forget to remember the intro to this round up and recognise how funny it was 😉)
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