A screenshot from Cozy Grove. It's a lovely ink and watercolour vibe island with the player holding a fresh fish, still on the fishing line, saying "Yeah, collapsed lungfish!"

Honestly, I was looking forward to Cozy Grove so much that I’d managed to get myself in a right old old pickle. It’s all quite embarrassing, really.

Just, you know, a gently spookified Animal Crossing style experience, designed to be played in small chunks and without the obnoxious monetisation of Pocket Camp dragging it down?

Oh, go on then.

Nearly a week on from picking it up and I’m really not disappointed in the slightest. Cozy Grove is an absolutely lovely game. It’s gorgeous to look at, the writing is whimsical and often as funny as it is charming (and it is remarkably charming) and it really does fill the Animal Crossing but in short sessions void I’d hoped it would.

It’s the game I’d originally hoped Pocket Camp would be and it is but transplanted from Tom Nook’s capitalist hellhole world to a more genteel, kind, spoopy island. A game where it feels less like you’re perpetually engaged in repetitive transactions with animals who just want things from you and can never be satisfied and more everyone helps each other here.

It's a screenshot from Cozy Grove. It's night time and the grove is lit by an abundance of lights.Deck chairs, shrubbery and more surround the player.

The writing has been uniformly wonderful so far. The item descriptions and all that stuff often raise a smile from me (more so for being the first game to truly understand hatred for shrubbery), the characters you meet on the island all have distinct personalities and a sideline in wry humour and slowly uncovering stories has been an absolute joy.

Most importantly, none of the ghosts of animals past are tools. Unlike certain Animal Crossing folk I could name.

Smartly, Cozy Grove is also designed to be played for only a short while, then put away again.

There’s no “energy” mechanic or amount of permitted moves before it starts putting the brakes on, you can tootle about at your own pace and do as much or as little of the day’s tasks but no more than the day’s tasks.

You can spend time fishing, hunting for hidden objects, brutalising shrubbery and doing multiple laps of the island. You just can’t grind and grind at it, the game isn’t interested in that.

It’s a really refreshing change and perhaps a sign that Cozy Grove work best on a portable device of some sort. I’m playing it on the PS4 though and it’s perfectly fabulous as it is. I can nip in once a day, knock a couple of tasks off the list, have a chill wander around the island and sell things to a fox.

Not sure I need much else, to be honest. That all seems perfectly fine.

It's the key art to Void Gore. A crystalline spaceship flies into a Giger-esque landscape past a sinister skull demon with glowing red eyes. It's very metal.
  1. Void Gore” is a phenomenal name for a videogame. Straight up perfection.
  2. It has an incredible piece of key art, which is why I’m leading with that not a screenshot.
  3. I’ve rarely been so grateful for a fade to black in a videogame. Bloody hell.
A screenshot from void Gore. A giant yellow skeletal demon shoots bullets all over the place whilst a spaceship tries to take it down.

Void Gore is a cracking, intense, randomised high score shooter. Simple rules, shoot everything before it shoots you, use your surrounding circle to wipe stuff out for maximum effect. At one stage, the circle clears bullets, at another it clears everything within it. Get a high score.

That’s it. It’s quickfire stuff – games can be over nearly as quickly as they begin, especially whilst you’re still in the process of upgrading your spaceship. Game over comes incredibly swiftly to the point you can see why the game describes each stage as a new hell to survive.

(Spoilers: it’s because each stage is a new hell to survive)

A screenshot from Void Gore. The player is flying through some tentacles whilst things explode around them.

Survival becomes slightly (only slightly!) easier with a few ship upgrades (and the option to unlock multiple background styles is a nice one), but mainly it’s a game that needs practice, a growing familiarity with its handful of hell monsters and their behaviours. Knowing when to hold off and when to hit that kill circle button to maximum effect.

It’s great new arcade stuff but man alive, it can be exhausting playing a game that’s this full on whilst wanting to try again for a better score, often.

We live in a post Super Hexagon world where more often than not, instant restarts are just how things work. Whilst quick, Void Gore gives me a few moments as it fades to black, a chance to recompose myself, get my breath back a bit. It’s an almost-instant restart and just time enough to settle down again.

It's a screenshot from Void Gore. There are skulls being blown apart in a flood of bullets

It’s something I found myself really grateful for!

As much as I’m a fan of putting the least distance between player and videogame, I’m also a fan of being able to relax for a moment before going at something another time. Those few seconds make a tremendous difference to me in stopping the game from being frustrating as well as brutal.

It keeps a rhythm going, it adds a reset for the brain.

Sometimes, it’s the small things, perhaps not even there by deliberate design, that I appreciate the most. Or maybe I just really like breathing? I dunno, I’ll get back to you on that one.

Anyway.

I grabbed Void Gore for the PS4 but other formats exist. I’m having a ball with it. Two thumbs up from me, alright. Go gerrit.

Like I wasn’t going to give a game called Inksplosion that looks like this a try.

A big splat of colour within a green border

You know, me liking colours and all that.

Let’s just stop for a second again and do another screenshot (all pics here taken from the Steam page because I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of getting the ones off my PS4, sorry)

A light blue border, a splat of colour. This time the sprites are easily visible, they're white abstract designs with bold black outlines.

Yeah, there was absolutely no way I was going to let this pass me by.

Just look at those colours, they’re fantastic. Go on, let’s do one more picture.

Like someone has tipped paint on the screen, a splurge of colour stretches out across the screen in yellow, greens and blues. Some white sprites with black borders are visible amongst the noise.

It’s some sort of visual hybrid of (my own) War Twat and the all time greatest Asteroids game of all time, Spheres Of Chaos. That’ll do me.

Sorry. I’ll calm down now. I’m okay. I haven’t been this excited about colours in a game since Ultralight Beam. It’ll pass in a second.

Anyhoo. As twin stick shooters go, there’s probably few surprises here. You’re faced with a jumble of waves and each wave finds you having to use a different weapon to clear the screen. Clear the screen, move on to the next wave. You now have a different weapon. Shoot those baddies! Clear the screen! And so on.

There isn’t really that much to distinguish each weapon from the other and as far as I played, not much to distinguish each enemy from the other either. But that’s okay, yeah? I’m not playing this for mechanical marvels, I’m playing this because I really really like watching colours explode across the screen and Inksplosion does that perfectly.

Inksplosion is, primarily, a game about making things explode to smear colour across the screen. Every thirty seconds or so the mess will be cleared up and you get to do it all over again.

My only real gripe is that the announcer that declares each weapon you find yourself suddenly equipped with comes across more Viv Stanshall On Tubular Bells than befitting of an arcade game but I’ll freely admit that I have very, very specific ideas of what speech in arcade games should sound like. Also, I dearly love a lot of Bonzo stuff but Tubular Bells brings me out in hives. Not sure I can put the blame for that on Inksplosion, really.

Phew. Got a bit lost there, sorry. Anyway. Inksplosion set me back about four quid and I don’t regret a penny of it. I plumped for the PS4 version but other formats are available.

Please sir, I cannot tell a lie. Sometimes, I really just want my videogames to let me switch my overly thinky brain off and allow me to run round a maze and explode things. The prettier the colours, the better. Scratch that! The more colours, the better.

I’m not an especially competitive person so stuff like kill/death ratios mean nothing to me. Ranking and whatever? The same. I do enjoy watching a number go up but that’s about where that particular thrill ends. “Ooh, that was a 7, love a good 7, me. An 8? Oh yiss!” like the embarrassment that I am.

I have no shame in admitting that when I first spotted Super Destronaut: Land Wars, I had my fingers crossed that it would live up to my hopes that here was a game that would not only let me watch a number go up but also run around a maze exploding things into lots of colours. Readers, it did not disappoint.

I’m being a bit silly here, obviously, but it’s really important to remember that it’s 2020, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I’m perpetually fluctuating between upset and angry (so much so I’ve taken up an MMO). If ever I needed a game that didn’t require anything of me, it’s right now.

In less interesting times, I doubt I’d hesitate long to take a gander at Land Wars, in times this interesting, I bloody well crave this sort of thing. And Land Wars hits the spot beautifully.

It’s a ridiculously neon affair, more Tron than the recent VHS tribute brand of neon that games have adopted. It’s the right kind of neon, yeah? Colourful, glowing, gratuitous. Enemies are huge, chunky pixel, also neon, things (this is definitely not a game where you’ll be squinting to see where enemies are hiding, that’s a definite). They bounce around a bit, act a little bit threatening but even on the higher difficulty levels they are often little more than target practice.

I know I probably sound like a broken record but this is all fine and desirable, I’m not slating the game here. This is what I want from it.

There’s a few rudimentary challenges you can indulge in if you prefer a bit of structure (they rarely stretch far beyond “shoot 5 baddies with this weapon” or whatever) or there’s a selection of slight difficulty adjustments if you want the game to push back at you a bit but this isn’t Destiny or something here. It’s a four quid neon shooty lazer maze thing with no ambition to be anything more than that and hand on heart, I love it.

Super Destronaut:Land Wars

It’s not a game you’ll learn to master, it’s not a game that prizes mechanics or depth or anything that isn’t lasers in a maze. It does everything I hoped it would, as nicely as I hoped it would.

In these tumultuous times, I’m not asking for much else so put those neon lasers into my face and let’s forget about the world outside for a while. Molyneux only knows, we could all do with that right now.

Not too far into Micetopia on the PS4 at the mo but it’s such an absolutely lovely looking videogame*. I really, really, really detest “metroidvania” as a term and probably due to both being British and old, find little meaning in it as a touchstone, but that’s the term the publishers want applying to Micetopia so okay. It’s one of them.

Note to self: come up with an 8 bit home computer related term next time I’m bored.

A forest scene from Micetopia. A mouse leaps from a platform in the woods, a rabbit with a spear waits across the other side of the room.

Micetopia is bloody hard, mind. I’ve met my maker a few times already.

Not that I mind too much though. There’s not really that much of a penalty for it — getting dropped back to the hub might be a problem in a bigger game but that’s not Micetopia. It’s got a really old game feeling to it too as it resets rooms once you leave them, so if you’re so inclined you can always do a bit of grinding for coins or (if you’re anything like me) just replay the room for no discernible reason.

A cave scene from Micetopia, there's a dragon in there.

Anyway. The most important thing you need to know about Micetopia is the town hall in the village has a bell on it that you can ring and seriously, it makes a really satisfying ding. I hit that bell quite happily for five minutes straight and yes, that’s it, that’s the stuff.

Ding!

*yes, that’s also the sole reason I bought it. Look at the pretty meeses.

A black and white screenshot of Days Gone. A silhouetted player character rides a motorbike across a bridge, in the depths of a forest.

Days Gone might well be the single most boring game I’ve played in years.

I love it.

It is, ostensibly, a third person Far Cry with most of the game missing. A zombie game where you’re more likely to die at the branches of a shrubbery than a zombie. A huge map filled with trees, a bit of water and maybe a building every now and then, there’s not very much to see or do in any of it. It sort of looks like Far Cry 5 does but muddier, messier, the brownest Far Cry 5. It is Fuel but with zombies instead of racing.

An almost sepia shot of a zombie, its clothes torn, lying on a dirt path

It is also broken in so many ways.

Seriously. The amount of glitches I’ve ran into in my time with it so far is hilariously large. From T pose characters spawning out of nowhere, events not triggering, dialogue and cut scenes repeating, buttons not working and look, I could make a big list but as many faults as there are, I don’t care that much. Just consider it a cursory warning if you’re planning on ducking in. It needs a lot of patching right now. A big whole lot.

Like I say, as amusing as the glitches can be to recount, as easy as it would be to give the game a bit of a kicking for them, they’re part the reason I really wanted to play it in the first place. I’ve been playing a lot of really polished games lately and they’re great and all that but sometimes I just want a more than slightly broken videogame with a weird libertarian bent that can be incredibly off putting. And hey, that’s Days Gone.

A snow covered ranch, two hazmat suit wearing officials hover around a car suspiciously.

I like broken games. Always have. I’m one of the few people on this planet to have put nice words out there about Stalin Vs Martians after playing it. I’m ready to defend Limbo Of The Lost, if only because it has the best song in any videogame that’s not Boiling Point. And don’t start me on Ride To Hell:Retribution because let me tell you, any game with that much dry humping in between MDickie style characters is solid gold and I won’t entertain any arguments.

Not gonna lie, when I heard Days Gone was more than a bit wonky, that’s when I knew I needed it. If only to see if it had any dry humping in it.

Seems as I’ve been playing it nightly since launch, I guess I really did need it and then some.

I’m not done by a long chalk (though I have looked up the rest of the story on the internet to save me some bother) for one reason, you could politely describe the game’s pace as glacial. It is in absolutely no hurry to push the story on, no hurry to let you buy weapons, bike upgrades or whatever. It is mainly a game that wants you to ride your bike to the other side of the map every twenty minutes or whatever, sometimes to just listen to two or three lines of dialogue before having to go back again.

The lead character of Days Gone. On fire.

And that is so wonderfully boring. Boring in the way American/Euro Truck Simulator can be boring, where roads and time disappear with the monotony of the journey. There’s a peace to be found there, you know? Nothing is urgent in Days Gone, not travelling, not clearing out zombies from an area (there are a few moments in the story missions where it requires being fairly pronto but they’re so brief and far apart they don’t really shift the game up a gear for very long at all).

I’m fairly sure it was never the original intent but Days Gone shipped as a slow game. A game where forty hours on, you’ll have likely covered as much ground as an Ubigame manages in two. Is that padding? Yeah! Most likely. Do I care? No, not really. I am all here for a game that wants me to take long motorcycle rides, take a brief stop off for a moment then clamber back on the bike and take another long ride.

Zombies around the steps of a house set against a deep blood red sky, almost like a film poster but if one of the zombies needed a nap on the stairs and got caught mid nap.

Sure, sure, I’d prefer a videogame without the strange and uncomfortable libertarian bent where a camp full of truthers are largely used to make the rest of the game’s politics sound reasonable when they’re invariably quite obnoxious. Not defending that stuff in the slightest just as videogames are as videogames does, it’s not like I’m not largely numbed by this sort of nonsense now. If I want consideration, kindness, questioning of the status quo I’m not going to turn to Days Gone and I would recommend no-one else does also.

Ideally, the hokey politics wouldn’t be there. Obviously we should demand more. Just y’know, there are very few opportunities for me to ride a motorbike across dirt roads in a huge forest with no pressure at all. I’m not convinced the dodgy politics are a fair trade for that but right now, I’ll take it. I want to go brum brum brum and hit some zombies with a stick, okay? I know, I know. Seriously, you can judge me on that. It’s fair.

A purple motorbike abandoned in the bushes near a mist laden lake.

So yeah, Days Gone. It’s quite broken, has a terrible story and its politics are well dodgy. Pretty much exactly what I expected it to be going in.

And I don’t care because I love the rides, the long drives on your motorbike that make up 99.9% of the game. Darting between trees, finding sneaky shortcuts across dirt roads, weaving around the debris and fences that block the way. I love all that. And I love that there’s so little pressure whilst driving around.

The early morning sky over a barren forest in the game Days Gone.

In a recent Eurogamer review, they asked the question “who is this game for?”. It’s for me. Sorry about that but I’m not ashamed. I’m here for the broken oddities that don’t get anywhere close to their potential but most of all, I’m here for driving bikes up hills. Kinda disappointed I can’t find a button to honk a horn though. That seems like a pretty egregious omission to me. Every game should let you honk your horn at a zombie. Even the games that don’t have zombies in them.