November 25, 2022
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we’ve played over the past few days. This time: Pokémon, Bugsnax and cars.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We’ve Been Playing, here’s our archive.
Pokémon Violet, Switch
I’m having a lot of fun with Pokemon Violet. A fully open world Pokémon game is a step towards the perfect vision I and many players have had since my tween days playing Blue. Both major and minor changes have been made in this latest installment; it’s just frustrating that they come with some caveats.
The open-world design provides a sense of freedom that Pokémon fans have longed for. Finally, you can choose the order of gyms and strategize based on your group, or you can just roam the land adding Pokémon to your collection. The downside is an empty world with little to explore except closed doors and dull environments. And I miss the dungeon-themed gyms of the past.
The Let’s Go feature is a welcome change that allows you to quickly level up your party and streamline combat, which no longer takes place in a separate screen, making it all feel more alive. But this also makes Pokémon feel more disposable, with less time to develop a connection. And you want a connection to the new designs, some of the cutest yet conceived.
Then there’s the glorious bookshelf Pokédex; using Spanish words to add character to dialogue; the brilliant music (the slap bass in the battle theme!); and minor tweaks like auto-heal and switch main Pokémon. There’s a happy adventurous spirit that, despite the game’s shortcomings, is inescapable.
Yes, the performance is terrible, but the core gameplay is solid. Pokémon Violet provides comfort food as I travel through Paldea with my cheeky dancing duck and perfectly baked, sugary sweet, glossy coated cinnamon roll dog. I have to stop drooling over him though.
Bugsnax was a launch title for the PlayStation 5 that I immediately ignored for the much more mature Spider-Man: Miles Morales. But with Sony’s foray into games as a subscription model, I decided to download the game on a whim. I wish I did it sooner.
The game is both delightful and terrifying at the same time. On the one hand, the game is remarkably simple and light-hearted: go collect these half-insect, half-snack creatures to feed the newly-immigrated population of humanoid Grumpuses. There’s an immediate sense of unease collecting these talking and moving burgers/fries/strawberries with the intention of popping them into a Grumpuse’s mouth.
But what happened next, I didn’t expect at all. Feeding a Strabby to Filbo Fiddlepie, the self-proclaimed mayor of Snaxburg, turned his hand into a strawberry! “Oh this? Pretty neat, huh? It’s a side effect of eating Bugsnax!” says Filbo nonchalantly, as if it isn’t absolutely terrifying to watch. But it’s that commitment to a rosy and deceptively family-friendly atmosphere that makes Bugsnax so great. I have yet to finish the game, but I sense a deeply sinister ending awaits.
Gameplay-wise, none of the puzzles were terribly hard, but they were challenging enough that you still felt like an achievement when you hit the “aha!” moment. And that makes this game a perfect addition to my rotation of games. When I’m feeling too tired to sweat it out in Call of Duty or invest myself in a narrative-heavy Yakuza game, I can always turn to Bugsnax at the end of the day.
Burnout Paradise, Xbox
I came down somewhere last weekend and my daughter was playing Burnout Paradise. This was one of the first games she ever played – I can still remember her wild giggles as she slammed her car into the railing, sending up endless showers of those beautiful Burnout sparks.
As such, it has been an excellent vehicle for studying her development with games. She is now nine and an absolute Burnout demon. She used to swing back and forth on the road and now she has a wonderful focus and has discovered a lot of shortcuts that would never have occurred to me.
However, what I like most is watching her play and understanding what’s important to her. She doesn’t like doing the races or other events. The city is just a big playground and she explores it, thinks of the buildings, chooses a place where she could live and scribbles a bit on the map with her car. What a match. And what a perfect introduction to games in general.