November 18, 2022
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little about some of the games we’ve found ourselves playing over the past few days. This time: pirates, vampires, hedgehogs and fighters.
If you want to catch up on some of the older releases of What We’ve Been Playing, here’s our archive.
Return to Monkey Island, Xbox Series X
Is it possible to feel nostalgic about a game you still play? Return to Monkey Island is such a brilliantly faithful return to LucasArts’ long-lost adventure series that it also feels like an entry I half-remember playing over a decade ago, sprinkled with new surprises.
I mean this in the best possible way, of course. There are all the elements you could hope for – Dominic Armato’s ever cheerful Guybrush Threepwood, Elaine, LeChuck, Stan and Murray. I’m sure Herman Toothrot is lurking somewhere too. There’s the signature anachronistic humor, the warmly tweaked image of Saturday matinee pirates, and the twisted logic required to solve puzzles.
I’m not very far along, just wiping up Melee Island, and I’m stuck right now. It also feels familiar. Of course, there are all the new bits to help – the in-game hint book, for example – but I’ll skip that for now. I need the full nostalgia hit of trying everything, wandering back to Monkey Island’s many locations and letting this gift of a game sink in. After all, who knows how long it will be until the next one?
King of Fighters 98: Ultimate Match Final Edition
Having grown up in the 90s and early 00s, I’ve always been what you’d call an arcade rat, and while browsing through my Steam library I came across this gem – purchased at a random sale – that I thought was lost. Once I dusted it off, I unlocked a lot of core memories – having to relearn pretzel moves and the like – while also remembering that many SNK bosses stole my lunch money in my futile attempt to try and beat them.
If any of you have time, play it.
Resident Evil Village, PC
It’s been a hot while since I last played this, and I mean about a year. When the DLC for it was announced way back in June 2021, I decided I wanted to wait until it was released before jumping back into the game again. It was a stupid decision in retrospect, because of how big the gap was between Village’s original release and when Winters’ Expansion finally came out, but I had my own reasons for it.
I’ve been playing the main campaign in third person mode and it’s a bit of a pain when the camera has to switch back to first person for cutscenes, but other than that I much prefer playing it. I forgot how funny some of Ethan’s dialogue is, even if he’s a bit bland as a character himself. I’m not that far into the story at the moment; I thoroughly enjoy being chased around Castle Dimitrescu by the lady herself and smashing all her pots and windows!
I also tried mercenaries for the first time. I was never a big fan of Mercenaries in the previous Resident Evil games (getting a solid combo with those tank controls in RE5? Not so much) but Village does it for me. It’s fluid and fast-paced, and a completely different experience than the main game. So far I’ve been sticking with Ethan and maxing out the M1911 pistol. It’s great fun unleashing loads of bullets on enemies, something I wouldn’t dream of doing in the campaign (when I’m not using a weapon with unlimited ammo, that is).
I haven’t unlocked Lady Dimitrescu or Heisenberg as playable characters yet, which is next up on my to-do list. I have played through Shadows of Rose. I have thoughts about it, but there were a couple of really cool points that stuck out to me. That bit when the elevator doors open and the camera tilts down so the perspective changes? I really loved that picture. And that final battle? Give me a whole round of it!
Sonic Frontiers, PS5
It’s well known how much time Miyamoto spent perfecting Mario’s movement in Super Mario 64, but Sonic Team never seems to have spent as much time and care on their blue hedgehog. As a result, the 3D outings have always struggled with controls. The blue blur simply cannot be contained.
Sonic Frontiers comes close though – at least in the open zone. Finally, Sonic has been given space to run around freely. No time limits. No limits. Each zone is a sandbox to bounce and boost and charge and race through, collecting rings and tokens, grinding and flipping more than Tony Hawk could ever handle. Never before has it felt so good to be Sonic.
That is, until you reach the levels of cyberspace. Once again, Sonic is confined, forced along a narrow path, speed halted at the slightest touch of a barrier. Getting the perfect ride through repetition and learning is eventually satisfying, but it feels like a fight against the controls more than the environment.
Sonic Frontiers is a mixed bag, then. Its freedom is wonderful, but it comes at the cost of pop-in, an underdeveloped plot, and a confusing structure. And I’m still longing for an open-ended Sonic game with the aesthetic of Sonic CD’s animated intro, instead of the grim realism on display here. Still, Sonic Team should be applauded for continuing to experiment with their mascot – the latest being more right than wrong.
Oh, and do yourself a favor: switch to 60fps mode and turn off the blur effect. It all looks much clearer that way.