February made Don McLean shiver, but it’s making us quiver… with excitement! It’s looking like a banger month for games with Elden Ring, Horizon Forbidden West, Dying Light 2, OlliOlli World and more all releasing in the next few weeks. But until they land, here’s what we’re playing right now.
Tom – Lead Writer
Playing on Xbox Game Pass
Inspired by Joe’s recommendation as well as lots more positive buzz, I’ve been playing Unpacking for myself. I’m not sure what I can say about this charming indie that hasn’t already been said; it’s a beautiful, very chill little game that somehow makes the drudgery of moving house relaxing.
Many games tout ‘environmental storytelling’ among their qualities, but this often manifests itself as voice recordings or letters left beside dead bodies. Unpacking, however, makes an art of telling a full story over decades purely through the possessions your character takes to each new home, and the ones they leave behind. The only ‘dialogue’ comes in the form of oblique notes written in your character’s photo album at the end of each level, but otherwise the game’s story is expressed entirely visually.
I will say that Unpacking isn’t an ideal fit for Xbox Game Streaming. I found that the cursor you use to select objects would often keep moving further than I intended, such is the level of input lag. Still, even though it takes a little finesse if playing via streaming, Unpacking is a must play.
Joe – Editor & Lead Writer
Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition
Playing on Xbox Game Pass
I’m a glutton for punishment it seems, taking on two challenging games this week. The first, is Hollow Knight, which somehow I missed the first time around, but I’m quickly falling in love with it.
From the hauntingly gorgeous artwork to the wealth of secrets to discover, I’m more than happy getting lost among the game’s labyrinthine caves. I haven’t quite made it out of Dirtmouth yet, but that’s okay – I’m enjoying finding my feet and figuring out how to not die so much.
I’ll report back next week when I’ve got a few more hours under my belt. For now, if you want to check it out, Hollow Knight is available to play now on Game Pass.
Playing on PC
I’m not usually a big fan of the deck-building genre, but for Inscryption, I’ll make an exception. Part rouge-like, part escape room puzzler, Inscryption constantly subverts my expectations of what a video game is, with it’s clever meta-narrative and absurd twists and turns.
You start out playing a seemingly normal card game – each card has attack and health points and a cost to place them on the board – the aim of which is to defeat your mysterious opponent by taking their hit points to zero. But all is not what it seems when cards from your deck start talking to you in an attempt to help you escape the cabin. It took me me a few minutes to realise I could actually walk away from the game board and explore the interior of the room, lead by the clues from my talking deck.
At times, it left me feeling frustrated and defeated, but the moment you begin to make sense of the puzzle is a joyous one. If you fancy checking it out (and I heartily recommend you do), you can pick it up for a mere £7.80 on the Epic Store by redeeming Epic’s $10 newsletter coupon.
Ollie – Social Media Manager
Playing on PS4
I picked up DIRT 5 on PS Plus in January and as a result have absolutely hammered it ever since. The highlight is this: it’s really really fun.
I’ve always loved car games, I grew up on TOCA Touring Cars on PS1 and Need for Speed: Underground on PS2, and they’ve always been my go-to. I’m generally a driving sim guy, more than an arcade fan, but to be honest I’ll give any car game a spin. To that end, DIRT 5 was kind of perfect in that it’s describe as a simcade racing game, sitting somewhere between an accurate driving simulator, and some more arcadey: fun, frothy, frivolous.
There’s a career mode, where you race through difference car classes, in different locales, honing your skills until you can take on your thinly-written rival Bruno Durand. To be honest, you don’t really get a lot out of the game in terms of narrative, but who cares? You can drive an Aston Martin DBX around a quarry in Italy; you can whizz about a beech in Rio in a Lancia Starts; you bounce and fly up a ludicrously inhospitable hill in Greece in a big-wheeled, roll-caged, rock-hopping buggy. Races are short, the locations are colourful and exotic, the dynamic weather creates some really dramatic lightning mid-race, and every time you win, you get treated to some fireworks as you cross the line. As I say: it’s really fun.
Whilst the full game was free for PS Plus subscribers, many like me will have hammered the career mode and will be eyeing up the Year One DLC pack for £28 – and *that* is how they get you, the bloody capitalists…