Hump day is here again, so we’re getting you through to the weekend with a round-up of top games to try on for size. Here’s what we’re playing this week.
Joe – Editor & Lead Writer
Life is Strange: True Colours
Playing on Xbox via Game Pass.
Life Is Strange: True Colours has been on my radar for a while now. I’ve patiently waited to catch it on sale, but thanks to the wonders of Game Pass, I’m wandering the dreamy streets of Haven Springs, Colorado as we speak.
The story follows Alex Chen, a young Asian-American woman who reunites with her long-lost brother Gabe after spending the last decade in the Foster care system. Her fresh start in Haven is shaken by Gabe’s untimely death in an alleged accident. Alex uses her unique psychic power of Empathy to uncover the secrets of others, in an attempt to find the truth.
My first impressions are dampened by the jerky framerate. While Square Enix patched in a Performance mode for PS5 and Series X, it’s a little disappointing that we’re stuck with 30fps on the Series S. But hey, I’m willing to give them a pass on this one, as the game is so damn pretty. Whether you’re strolling along the verdant lake shore or basking in the neon hues of the local bar, the world is awash with bright, bold colour. It’s certainly a place you’ll want to pass the time in – it has a cozy, leafy, small-town feel, with plenty of places to explore. I particularly enjoy the attention to detail afforded to it – whether that’s the playable mini-game arcade machines or the fully functioning jukebox with an eclectic mix of tracks.
A lot of the gripes I had with the earlier games (cringe dialogue and poor writing) has pretty much vanished in this iteration. It’s really easy to empathise with Alex – not least because she’s incredibly empathetic by nature. Well, perhaps not by nature, but whatever the source of her superpower, being able to read people’s emotions is an interesting idea and lends itself towards more character driven game-play. While its perhaps not as striking or visceral as Time Travel, I’m much more invested in Alex and her story than I have been with any of the other games in the series.
Tom – Lead Writer
Playing on Xbox via Game Pass
I’ve been having a rough week mentally, with my old friends anxiety and depression creeping back into my life. As is often the case in times like these, my interest in my usual hobbies has waned. I’ve barely felt like picking up a controller these past few days, and even when I have, I’ve found myself bored by every game I try.
Except for one game, that is. I’ve found myself drawn to Tetris Effect, available on all major platforms including Xbox Game Pass. In Tetris Effect, you guide blocks of different shapes into… Hang on, I don’t really need to explain the gameplay of Tetris, do I? Even my mum knows what Tetris is about and, my friends, my mum doesn’t know shit about video games.
What separates Tetris Effect from previous versions of the game is its presentation. As you play through each stage, sound effects begin to play in time with your actions. The screen begins to pulse with colour. Music builds in intensity, and epic vistas play out in the background, just beyond the blocks. It’s trippy, and really quite stunning.
Tetris Effect has been the perfect snackable game, something I can jump into for a few minutes when I need to calm down a bit. The experience is surprisingly soothing, even when dreamy synth-pop gives way to chaotic jazz and the blocks start falling faster and faster.
There’s just something so perfectly satisfying about guiding these shapes into just the right spot, especially when a killer music cue hits with perfect timing; I’m not ashamed to say that the first and final stage make me genuinely emotional every time I play them (I did mention that I’m going through some stuff, I think).
It seems silly to extol the virtues of a years-old version of a decades-old game. But there’s a reason why this game has endured, and why Effect is so highly praised. Tetris is quite possibly the best game ever made, and Tetris Effect is quite possibly the best version of it.