November 25, 2022
Good morning! Welcome to our regular column where we write a bit about some of the games we’ve found ourselves playing 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 Been Playing, here’s our archive.
Pokémon Violet, Switch
I’m having a lot of fun with Pokemon Purple. A fully open-world Pokémon game is a step towards the perfect vision that I and many players have had in my two years playing Blue. Major and minor changes have been made in this latest installment; it’s just frustrating that they come with a few caveats.
The open-world design allows for a long-awaited sense of freedom for Pokémon fans. Finally, you can choose the order of Gyms and Strategies to suit your party, or you can just spend time roaming the land adding Pokémon to your collection. The flip side is an empty world with little to discover but locked doors and bland 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 battles, which no longer happen on a separate screen, making it more lively. Yet it also makes Pokémon more disposable, with less time to develop a connection. And you’ll want a connection with some of the most adorable new designs ever.
Then there’s the glorious Pokédex library; the use of Spanish words to add character to the dialogue; the brilliant music (the slap bass in the battle theme!); and small tweaks like auto-healing and changing the main Pokemon. There’s a cheerful adventurous spirit that, despite the game’s flaws, is unmistakable.
Yes, the performance is abysmal, but the core gameplay is solid. Pokémon Violet offers comfort food as I travel through Paldea with my sassy dancing duck and a perfectly cooked, sweet, and shiny cinnamon dog. I have to stop salivating for him, though.
Bugsnax was a launch title for the PlayStation 5 that I immediately passed over for the much more grown-up 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 had done it earlier.
The game is both delicious and terrifying. On the one hand, the game is remarkably simple and light: fetch these half-insect/half-snack creatures to feed the newly immigrated population of human-looking grumps. There’s an immediate discomfort in collecting these talking and moving burgers/fries/strawberries with the intent of dropping them into a Grumpuse’s mouth.
But what happened next was not something I expected at all. Feeding a Strabby to Filbo Fiddlepie, the self-proclaimed mayor of Snaxburg, changed his hand to a strawberry! “Oh that? Pretty cool, huh? It’s a side effect of eating Bugsnax! Filbo said nonchalantly, as if it weren’t absolutely terrifying to witness. But it’s this commitment to a rosy, deceptively family-friendly vibe that makes Bugsnax so great. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I sense a deeply sinister ending awaiting me.
Gameplay-wise, none of the puzzles were terribly difficult, but challenging enough that you still felt like an accomplishment when you got the “aha!” moment. And that’s what makes this game a perfect addition to my gaming rotation. When I feel too tired to sweat through Call of Duty or invest myself in a Yakuza-heavy narrative game, I can always turn to Bugsnax at the end of the day.
Burnout Paradise, Xbox
I went down sometime last weekend and my daughter was playing Burnout Paradise. It was one of the first games she ever played – I still remember her wild laughter as she crashed her car into the railings and sent endless rains of those beautiful Burnout sparks.
As such, it’s been a great way to study his development with games. She’s nine now, and an absolute burnout fiend. She used to go back and forth on the road and now she has a great focus and has discovered loads of shortcuts that would never have occurred to me.
What I like the most is that I watch her play and understand what is important to her. She doesn’t like shopping or any of the events. The city is just one big playground and she explores it by thinking about buildings, choosing a place where she could live and doodling on the map with her car. What a game. And what a perfect introduction to games in general.