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  • A warrior on a horse circles a giant hooded monster with tendrils pouring out from beneath their veil in an Elden Ring screenshot.

    Elden Ring, there you are. I see you. I see the vaseboys and the big dragon that calls down lightning bolts from the sky. I see the horse which looks more like a goat. But you know what else I see? A floor with a face. A literal face on the floor. And I have not heard a peep from anyone or anything about it. This is the most exciting thing for me, the prospect of interacting with this face-floor. Let me explain why.

  • A horrible four-armed zombie in a Back 4 Blood screenshot.

    There was a moment over the weekend where Alice0 pointed out that a lot of people are remaking Left 4 Dead - apart from Valve. I have mentioned this before, but playing L4D2 accounted for about 60% of my time at university. I have a tattoo of the safe house symbol on my ribs (it is terrible).

    The Left 4 Dead formula is simple on paper - small team of co-op players vs monster horde, getting from point A to point B with potential incidental side objectives on the way - but is tough to nail. You need to get the mix right. And this year's E3 has revealed a lot of people are rolling up their sleeves to have a go. Let's have a look.

  • Artwork showing the three siblings of Greak: Memories Of Azur fighting two demons in a backlit dungeon setting

    As the E3 2021 mega machine whirs into action, the season of new game announcements is upon us - and as a lover of lovely, hand-painted action platformers in the vein of Ori And The Blind Forest and Hollow Knight, the next twelve months is looking like it could be pretty special for folks such as myself. We haven't even hit the main E3 press conferences yet and already I've seen five games catch my eye. So, if you too are a fan of fluid action sidescrollers and want more of that Ori and Hollow Knight-style goodness piped into your hype brain, here are my top picks so far. Get those wishlists at the ready.

  • Ian Hitman stands in a pool in front of a swanky pool bar. He's wearing shorts and a white shirt, and looks like he might be on a normal holiday, almost.

    I haven't played a video game in over a week. I'm sorry to say that there's no exciting reason behind this lack of button-pressing. I've not gone rogue and DDOSed your dad's start-up, or clotheslined a wine rack, or drop-kicked a cop car for a giggle. I simply went on holiday and I didn't think about games. It was nice.

  • Image for Bloody hell, Psychonauts is still a bit good, isn't it?

    Double Fine's most treasured son (apart from Jack Black, who is not a real man and was obviously designed by a committee of wacky game developers some time in the late 90s) is undoubtedly Raz, protagonist of their 2005 cult hit Psychonauts.

    Psychonauts is classic Double Fine. It's a 3D platformer with some puzzley bits that sees Raz training to be a psychonaut at a secret government facility disguised as a children's summer camp by having adventures that take place inside people's subconscious brains. This premise, you will note, is a cracker, even if not that many people thought so at the time. It's become more popular in recent years, though, and every so often I go back and give it a look, most recently being this weekend. So let me be the latest in a long line of people to say, "Blimey, it's still a bit good, isn't it?"

  • Ethan Winters guarding with his hands up in Resident Evil Village

    You've gotta feel for Ethan Winters. We've seen plenty of video game protagonists get mawled, maimed and decapitated over the years, but I don't think any of them have had quite so much trauma directed to one, single body part as the hero of Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil Village. I wrote about the horror of Ethan's franken-hand in Resi 7 a couple of weeks ago, but anyone who's played Village in the last month will know that barely scratches the surface of what ends up happening to him. Village seriously has it out for Ethan's hands, and brrr... just thinking about it gives me the shivers.

  • Image for This book's interactive Itch teaser made me rethink what I'd already read

    As you may know, I am often intrigued by the potential intersection of books and games. There are visual novels, of course, which are sort-of-but-not-really a game version of a book, and then there is the litRPG genre of books, which is an attempt to write playing a game as a book and I do not understand it. But just over a month ago a book called Sixteen Horses came out, and it was teased with an Itch game.

    The teaser is an interactive adaptation of the first chapter of the book, co-developed by the author Greg Buchanan and game dev G.C. Baccaris, and featuring the work of artist Trevor Henderson. Here's the thing: I had already bought and finished the book before I knew the teaser existed, or that Buchanan was a game writer who has worked on No Man's Sky and Metro Exodus.

  • A painting of Donna Beneviento and her doll Angie from Resident Evil Village

    Despite being a self-professed wimp when it comes to horror games, it takes a fair amount to properly rattle me when I'm actually playing them. I tend to get more stressed than frightened when playing games like Resident Evil, and the only time I've ever been properly scared and actually screamed in my seat was when I was playing P.T, Kojima's short teaser game on PS4 for the now cancelled Silent Hills. I had the lights on, Matthew by my side, and yet when we turned a corner in that creepy, looping corridor house, a ghost suddenly rushed us out of nowhere. Both of us yelled in terror at the sight of it, and it took ages for us to calm down and work up the courage to carry on.

    It's not like I've been chasing that feeling in the intervening years (I am, after all, an officially certified wimp), but playing Resident Evil Village's House Beneviento section this week put me right back in that tiny London flat where we both screamed ourselves silly. It's proper nightmare fuel that place, and of course I had the good foresight to play it just before I was about to go to bed. Well done, Katharine, bravo.

  • Image for Help, I can't stop murdering creeps in Grindstone

    I had great plans to play LOADS of games over Christmas. It was going to be a time of button-mashing, backlog clearing and more. But then Capybara Games' brilliant puzzle-battler Grindstone came out on Switch and everything went to pot.

  • Image for The best video game worlds are those you can't explore

    Every now and again, I think about Dishonored 2 and how good it is. I don't play it, I just observe it in my head like a photo album. I flick through my memories and shake my head in disbelief at how ingenious its levels are. I also take a moment to remember Karnaca, this beautiful port city nestled in the mountains and surrounded by forest.

    I just wish I could explore more of Karnaca. I want to break free of the game's constraints and just wander into the hills, or potter around the mountains. This isn't a criticism, it's more of a compliment I think. That Arkane crafted a world I hunger for, but I probably won't ever get to explore fully. All I can do is bash my character against invisible walls and wail in agony.

  • Image for Biomutant has the best swimming animation ever

    All right, so the embargo is up for Biomutant reviews, an action RPG where you play a strange little squirrel-rat-fox-raccoon mutant... thing in a post-human, post-apocalyptic world that is slowly dying.

    I had some problems with Biomutant, which is a fun game trying to do too much, to the detriment of the things that it does well. But one thing that this does not extend to is the animation for swimming, which is the funniest and best animation in my recent memory for a couple of reasons.

  • Stuart Turton's books The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle and The Devil In The Dark Water

    I've been thinking a lot about video game recommendations recently. Specifically, things like, "What game would you recommend to someone who's never played a video game before?" and, "What kind of games would you recommend to people who read a lot but don't necessarily play games very much?" My answer to both questions would probably be What Remains Of Edith Finch in the first instance, mostly because it has a really good story and its controls aren't too intimidating. But this week I realised I rarely think about the inverse of that last question: "What books would you recommend to people who play lots of video games but don't have much time for reading?"

    Happily, I now have two solid answers, and they both come from the highly talented Stuart Turton: "The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle" for fans of Outer Wilds, The Sexy Brutale and Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries, and The Devil In The Dark Water for The Return Of The Obra Dinn likers.

  • A screenshot of Before Your Eyes showing the Ferryman, a dishevelled humanoid dog dressed as a sailor.

    Supporters only: Hayfever enhanced my experience with Before Your Eyes

    The only good thing to come out of forgetting my eyedrops

    I developed this new allergic reaction this year, namely that my eyes feel like they're being blowtorched if I don't plop some miracle liquid into them regularly. They water and itch and I spend a lot of time blinking, which sort of feels like how a rusty shop grate sounds as it lowers.

    I realised quite quickly into my playthrough of Before Your Eyes that I'd forgotten to administer the holy water. And in a game where time skips forward as you blink in real life, I thought I'd royally messed things up. But it turns out that having an allergy actually enhanced the experience.

  • Commander Shepard stands facing the camera on the deck of the Normandy in Mass Effect, banks of cool orange computers behind her.

    I wish there was a directory to look up developers that did specific things in games that I love. I know LinkedIn will list people's jobs like Storyboard Artist or Narrative Designer, but one thing I've actually learned in this job is that these titles can mean wildly different things at different companies. And they're not specific enough for my needs: I want one that goes "person who did the animation for the opening credits on Episode 4 of Tales From The Borderlands" or "absolute hero who wrote the character barks for Warcraft III".

    I have been playing the Mass Effect Legendary Edition recently because I am only human. And for whatever reason it has made me really want to find and congratulate "person who did all the diegetic computer noises in Mass Effect".

  • Image for Joke's on you, I actually like the second half of Resident Evil 7

    It might be my secret super power, but I seem to be unusually good at avoiding spoilers. I just don't see 'em. Indeed, despite the fact that Resident Evil 7 came out four years ago now, the only thing I really knew about it before I started playing was a) it was set in the horrible Baker mansion, and b) the second half is a lot more action-focused than the first, which a lot of people don't seem to like. Until now, I never really understood why that was. In fairness, I still don't really get it if I'm being honest, because having finally waded through the end of Resident Evil 7 earlier this week, I'm here to tell you that I actually liked the second half of Resi 7, and I don't care who knows it. Time to rock some boats.

  • Image for I salute the artists on Glass Masquerade 2 going all in on scary-meets-horny

    As you may or may not be aware, I spent all of last week in a small house in a converted seedbarn. There were a non-zero number of rooms with black mold. There were also no activities to engage in, and I couldn't carry my PC tower down there, so I just had my MacBook. My games that week mostly consisted of watching the overfed young blackbird I named The Idiot Child (who fledged but didn't want to leave and kept trying to get back into his nest; I assume he thought if he managed it his parents would just shrug and keep bringing him food forever).

    Luckily, my laptop can also run Glass Masquerade 2: Illusions. This is a jigsaw game inspired by stained glass windows, and I love it because those stained glass windows are from the most ridiculous church ever dreamed of. I played a billion hours of it last week.

    I will preface this by saying that Glass Masquerade 2 is a genuinely good puzzle game. There are different difficulty levels, so you can have the game automatically show you where to place some edgy bits if you need help getting started. At the same time, the shapes you end up placing are very unlike standard jigsaw puzzle pieces, so it's a fun little challenge no matter what difficulty you choose.

  • Image for I'm slowly becoming obsessed with video game book shelves

    As someone who likes to read a lot when they're not playing games, I'm always intrigued by what video game characters have on their bookshelves. Usually, it's a pretty fruitless endeavour. Occasionally there'll be individual books we can pore over as in-game items, but more often than not, any actual bookshelves in games tend to just be awash with a mass of wordless spines with colourful decorations on them, as artists, understandably, probably don't have time to come up with an entire library of unique book titles. But I always take a look regardless, because you never know when someone might surprise you - and a couple of games I've played recently have really good ones.

  • Image for I'm a sucker for a good menu noise

    After I lived and breathed NieR Replicant for review, I looked back on my play time with a mixture of fondness and pain. The payoff of the fifth and final ending was worth the effort, but good lord was it a test of resolve. It was brilliance nestled in multiple layers of gift wrap, and I was happy to call it a day once I'd seen the final (x5) credits.

    But one thing I haven't stopped thinking about is the menu sounds. NieR Replicant has excellent noises for its start menu and inventory management, both of which aided that sense of being transported to another world of monsters and emotion.

  • Artwork of the Baker Family from Resident Evil 7, showing a zombie family sitting round a dining room table with plates of gore and mouldy food stuffs.

    I had very good intentions when I started playing Resident Evil 7 for the first time earlier this year. "Resident Evil Village doesn't come out for months," I said to myself. "It's a 10-hour game, that's plenty of time to get this finished." Reader, I have not finished Resident Evil 7. After finally beating old Mr Baker down in that claustrophobic basement with the swinging meat sacks, I put down my controller and walked away. It had been a particularly stressful evening of dying, chainsawing and more dying, and I needed a break. I had intended to go back, but recently when I've had a spare hour or two to decompress with a game, I've more often than not gravitated towards a quick round of lovely chill Dorfromantik than put myself through the remaining horrors of the Baker estate.

    I did, however, finally go back to Resi 7 last night, and golly, as much as I hate the horrible rotting corpses of the Bakers three, I had forgotten about the sheer horror of Ethan Winters' mangled hand. Look away now if you don't want to lose your lunch.

  • Image for I think games should adopt anime openers

    Booting up a video game in 2021 is a boring affair isn't it? An obligatory slideshow of publishers and developers, followed by a "press any button to start" prompt. A big logo, a sultry tune, perhaps. That's your lot.

    Last night I tuned into the latest season of My Hero Academia, an anime that I've followed for several years now. I was excited to see my favourite characters again, but also for a new opener. And its explosion of noise and colour didn't disappoint, so much so, that it got me thinking: I wish this was a thing in video games.

  • Artwork celebrating Okami's 15th anniversary showing Amaterasu and Issun looking out on a mountain scene

    Okami celebrated its 15th anniversary this week, and it got me thinking back to a series of articles I wrote about ten years ago (lawd) about the game's underlying myths and folktales, back when I was all young and pretentious and used phrases like "literary allusion" in posts with a straight face. I know better now (hopefully), but I still look back on that series fondly, and I'd like to share some of those stories here today in honour of the birthday of our favourite sun goddess. You might be surprised just how many characters are drawn from Japanese mythology, because lemme tell ya, Okami pretty much did the whole Wolf Among Us fairytale-characters-all-living-together schtick waaaay before old Bigby was even a speck in Telltale's eye.

  • Image for Mass Effect Andromeda would be way better if it had more trees

    Recently I have been hoofing through Mass Effect Andromeda in my spare time. Like, properly hoofing - 10 hours at a time, like I'm back to being an adolescent with nothing to do except play video games and eat huge quantities of the short-lived early-noughties crisp spinoff Wotsits Wafflers. If anyone knows where I can source Wafflers, please get in touch.

    Much like the Wafflers, Andromeda is probably not quite as good as I remember, but I still don't think it's bad. And actually, looking at it with fresh eyes, there's a lot in there that shows how really nearly almost great it is. In fact, I think it would have been much improved with the addition of more trees.

  • A group shot of the main characters from Desperados 3 sitting at an old outpost

    Whenever I have a chunk of holiday sitting in front of me, the possibilities seem endless. Maybe I'll finally play Cyberpunk 2077 now it's been properly patched, I think. But maybe I should also finally finish Nier: Automata in preparation for when Replicant comes out at the end of the month. There are also those dozen odd indie games I've got piled up, too. Narita Boy, the final bit of Record Of Lodoss War: Deelit In Wonder Labyrinth, Signs Of The Sojourner and goodness knows what else. "I could probably do a bit of each!" I say optimistically. In the end, though, my grand plans for playing loads of games never really materialises. I might be able to manage it if I literally play games every second I'm awake from morning til night, but that's not very relaxing now, is it?

    In the end, after an impromptu viewing of the 90s western film Tombstone, I decided to opt for the very manageable mission chunks of Desperados 3 as my big Easter holiday project, which is the latest rootin' tootin' real-time tactics game from the Shadow Tactics devs, Mimimi Productions. I'd played the opening few missions back when it came out last summer, but its long, sprawling maps gradually demanded more time and dedication than I was able to give them. I like to do entire missions in one go, you see, and do them stealthily, which often takes even longer because I'm pretty bad at being sneaky - as my five hours doing a complete ghost run of Dishonored 2's Clockwork Mansion level will attest. Now, though, I had entire afternoons to luxuriate in its detailed, densely packed playgrounds of trigger happy cowboys, and goodness, what an astonishingly satisfying and generous game it is.

  • Nioh 2 character showing half their normal form and half of their yokai spirit

    I played brutal action-RPG Nioh 2 religiously for weeks. If I had a controller in my hand, more often than not, I'd be fighting a horrid demon for the umpteenth time. Then I just stopped for no real reason - other than maybe because other games came out and I wanted a break? I don't know.

    But what I do know is that I'm genuinely scared to boot Nioh 2 up again. My mouse has glanced over it numerous times, but I've bailed at the last second. I get this overwhelming feeling of, "I am totally disconnected from this world", and I think I've finally identified what it's called.

  • Image for I want more games to redefine what 'survival' means

    I think we can generally agree that one of the main functions of video games is wish fulfillment. They let you believe you might not only be a powerful and competent person, but also the most powerful and competent person in the universe (and if that is not the case, why do Bethesda games even exist?). And, that being the case, survival games occupy a strange twilight world for me. I really wish I was good at them, because I really like the idea of most survival games.

    I can barely survive my actual life when that includes sitting in a nice warm flat eating roasted, salted cashews from a bag that was sealed by a huge and complex robot the size of a warehouse, that was created specifically for the bagging and sealing of roasted, salted cashews. So pretending that I would, if I got stranded on an island or survived an apocalypse, be at all capable of doing anything other than lie down and wait for death to come to me is pure power fantasy. Except, I am very bad at most survival games.

  • The Lich from video game Loop Hero levitating in the air

    I went into Loop Hero with only two expectations: I'm probably going to like this given the rave reviews it received, and if there's a hint of idle game here I'm all for it. I'd hoped it would be the sort of game I could leave to its own devices, you know, set some foundations, press play, and collect my rewards a few hours later.

    Nope, this wasn't Loop Hero at all. I had to place things, and make difficult decisions, and keep tabs on stuff. Too demanding for me - just way too much. Not idle enough.

  • Narita Boy stands before The Mediator, a huge digital man

    Take one look at Studio Koba's retro platformer Narita Boy and you could easily mistake it for a new kind of Tron game. It's awash with neon blues and rainbow-coloured light refractions, and the edges of the screen even flicker and bend like you're playing it on a CRT television. But this is no mere nostalgic landgrab for those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s. Narita Boy's retro roots run deep. It's a game that's as much about old tech as it is indebted to it, and anyone who's ever tinkered about with their PC and still reminisces about the 2D action side-scrollers of their youth will find a lot to love here.

  • Image for Spacebase Startopia does this one weird trick that all base building games should copy

    Alright, so it's not that weird, when you sit down and listen to me explain it to you. But it's also something that I've never seen before. Maybe I'm a fool of the highest order, and loads of games have been doing it for years. If so, please cite those games in the comments.

    In Spacebase Startopia (a spirtual sequel to 2001's Startopia) you become the administrator of a big donut-shaped space station. A large part of your job (in fact, the largest part) is building rooms that provide different services, and thus fill the different needs of your alien vistors. There's a berth for sleeping and eating, and a disco for dancing and possibly dropping space Es - although this is not represented in the game, I just assume nobody could dance like those aliens do without chemical help of some kind.

  • Sora, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse joining swords as the three musketeers

    Supporters only: Kingdom Hearts should have been my GOAT

    Listen, I was really into Squall as a teenager, okay...

    I was 14-years-old when Kingdom Hearts first came out in the UK. I was big into Disney and I'd just come off a pretty intense Final Fantasy streak where I'd played VIII, a bit of VII, IX and then the rest of VII again in fairly quick succession. I almost couldn't believe my luck. Far from being some kind of crazed fever dream I'd imagined while doodling in my notebook at school, this game was 100% real. It combined two of my most favourite things in the whole wide world, in what was rapidly becoming my new favourite genre of games. It should have been a match made in heaven. Then disaster struck, and its name was Phil.