This is always a perilous time of year for gamers. The siren song of Black Friday sales rings in our ears, compelling us to hand over our cash. But we’ve made it through the weekend without defaulting on our mortgages, and we’ve even come away with a few new games for our collection. Here’s what we’re playing this week.
Tom – Lead Writer
Playing on Nintendo Switch
I visited my parents in Kent this weekend, a not-inconsiderable train journey from my home in Manchester. If you live in the UK then you probably have a good idea of how smoothly and quickly it went. With hours of travel to fill, I loaded up my Switch with a couple of new games. I expected to have more to say about Pokémon Violet this week, but truthfully, I’ve barely touched it. Instead, I’ve been spending all my gaming time on Neon White.
Neon White is a fast-paced first person shooter, with an emphasis on ‘fast’. The idea is to clear levels as quickly as possible, with some running as short as 20 seconds if you speedrun them perfectly. I’ve become obsessed running levels over and over again, optimising my route to shave off a few milliseconds and earn a coveted Ace medal. The game comes in such perfect bite-sized chunks that it quickly becomes highly addictive; it’s always easy to justifying playing just one more level, but that one level always quickly turns into five or ten.
It seems like a miracle that Neon White runs as smoothly as it does on Switch. Having said that, the ‘instant’ level restarts when you die are just a hair longer than I’d like them to be. The wait is never actively annoying, but it does border on it. High-speed precision aiming is also difficult on the Switch’s teeny analogue sticks. Still, these are minor quibbles. Don’t let my nitpicking distract from the truth of the matter, which is that Neon White is easily the most fun I’ve had with a game this year.
God of War Ragnarök
Playing on PlayStation 5
I finished the main quest line of God of War Ragnarök last week. This is the final game in the Norse era of the series, and while I was a bit surprised by how open the ending is, I was satisfied nonetheless. I won’t give too much away, but I will say that anyone who has a hard time with ‘dad stuff’ in media may well shed a tear. It’s a testament to the fantastic writing and amazing performances that the narrative almost overshadows the ‘game part’ of Ragnarök, which is extremely enjoyable.
Ragnarök does a great job of encouraging you to keep playing even after the credits have rolled. Again, not to spoil anything, but any side quests you’ve left dangling are placed in a new context. There are even brand new side quests and character moments that can only be experienced after the end of the main story, something I wish more open world games did.
I’m tempted to go for 100% completion and earn the platinum trophy, but it’s a bit of a daunting task. Some of my gripes from 2018’s God of War are still present here: it’s still cumbersome to get from location to location quickly, and the map and compass aren’t hugely helpful. That’s not enough to completely dissuade me from finding every collectible, but it does make it a more frustrating prospect.
Joe – Writer & Lead Editor
Playing on PC via Steam
In my downtime from running around the nine realms trying to get the God of War Ragnarök Platinum, I’ve spent some time running a futuristic gas station in Iceland and mining a deadly alien planet. Unintentionally, both of these games are from the same publisher, Raw Fury, whose back catalogue contains many of my recent favourites including Norco and Sable.
Flat Eye isn’t quite as memorable as those, but it certainly offers a unique perspective on the management sim genre. Playing as the new manager of a megacorp owned gas station, you control an unsuspecting shop clerk as they build new tech, complete daily objectives and chase an ever-increasing profit target.
Expect the usual grind of balancing resources and trying to repair a power outlet while a queue of angry citizens form at the cashier desk, but where Flat Eye stands out is in its narrative. By building new tech like the SmartToilet (which harvests your customers’ biological data to better predict their spending habits) the game tells a wry, yet thoughtful tale of both the wonder and dangers of emergent technology. The writing isn’t quite Black Mirror, but it’s good enough to keep you opening up shop every morning.
Playing on PC via Steam
Dome Keeper is a rogue-like mining game where players fend off waves of increasingly powerful aliens from beneath the relative safety of a glass, well, dome. Between each wave, you have a short window of time to mine down into the ground beneath you in search of valuable resources that improve your defence and weaponry.
After each run, you’ll hopefully have some minerals to spare to unlock new gadgets, upgrades and buffs in the tech tree to improve your mining speed for example, or hire a robot dinosaur to do some of the leg work for you.
What emerges is a very simple gameplay loop that allows you to take various approaches to your playstyle. Of course, simple can soon become repetitive so having the average run take no more than 30 minutes makes it an appealing choice for a quick game.