It’s no surprise that with the grind of our day jobs ramping up, we’ve been looking for places to escape to. Our picks this week conjure rich worlds that are perfect for doing just that. Here’s what we’re playing this week.
Joe – Editor
Mafia: Definitive Edition
Playing on PS5
It’s been a while since I’ve properly played a PS Plus monthly game. Usually, I’ll dabble a bit at the start of month before quickly bouncing on to the next thing. And that was fully my intention with Mafia: Definitive Edition; a game I thought I’d just jump on for a casual drive and shooting spree. I was pleasantly surprised then, when three hours pass by in a heartbeat and I’m fully invested in Mafia’s engrossing story.
It helps that – being a remake of the original Mafia from 2002 – the game only lasts around 10 hours, which is more than enough time to take you on a compelling journey without any open-world bloat that we’ve come to expect. Instead, each mission feels bespoke, offering the player a variety of challenges – from blowing up a seedy hotel to rigging a car race – all without getting a splatter of blood on your pinstripes.
Sure, the controls are downright awkward: most cars have a non-existent turning circle and moving our anti-hero, Tommy, around feels more like his Tank Engine namesake. But getting a tight ten-hour gangster story for absolutely nothing? That’s an offer I can’t refuse.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Okay so I know I’m technically cheating here, but I’ve just finished Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, a novel by Gabrielle Zevin following the lives of two kids, Sam, and Sadie, who first meet in a hospital gaming room in 1987. Sam is undergoing lengthy physiotherapy on his leg which he injures badly in a car crash, while Sadie is visiting her Sister who is recovering from Leukaemia. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship, bonding over their love of Super Mario and the infamous Oregon Trail.
Eight years later, they spot each other at a train station and reignite their friendship by working together making video games. After the release of their debut collaboration, Sam and Sadie quickly become superstars in the industry.
I love that the book pokes fun at itself; peppering the pages with nerdy jokes and gaming references while also exploring the importance of digital worlds as a place that we can escape to. Regardless of your knowledge or interest in video games, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a triumphant story of love, friendship and identity that is as uplifting as it is devastating.
Tom – Lead Writer
Playing via Xbox Cloud Streaming
My day job is a little full-on right now, and my gaming time has been limited. After spending dozens of hours on Horizon Forbidden West, I was on the look out for something smaller and quicker… and along came Paradise Killer.
Paradise Killer is a detective story in an insane world of pocket universes and immortal gods. Attempts to build a perfect society have been scuppered by a brutal killing spree, and it’s up to you to find the culprit.
Your suspects are a colourful bunch that includes assassins, cyborgs, religious fanatics, and even demons. I had a great time getting to know these characters, and trying to figure out what might have driven them to murder. Paradise Island offers a small but dense open world to explore, and I really enjoyed combing through it for clues and evidence.
I played almost the entire game via streaming on my phone while my wife watched TV. As ever, it’s really impressive how well Xbox Cloud Gaming performs for anything other than the twitchiest of shooters. If you’re looking for a short and sweet story that you can finish off in under 15 hours, I think you can do a lot worse than Paradise Killer.