27th October, 2023
Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we’ve found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: deja vu, cocoons, and climbing.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We’ve Been Playing, here’s our archive.
The Gap, PC
Do you remember the moment in The Matrix when Neo sees the black cat twice and blames it on deja vu, and then the others tell him “oh no that’s not deja vu – it means the computers changed something and there’s about to be a really cool fight scene”? It’s that desire to use deja vu as a phenomena we don’t entirely understand that The Gap uses too.
The Gap is a walking sim based around the idea of what if deja vu held the secret to connecting with parallel realities. What if you could, with the help of some bio-tech, manipulate it and your memories to take you elsewhere?
In the game, you are a scientist involved in leading the pioneering work, but in doing so, you have become disconnected with your own reality. The game begins, then, with you trying to make sense of what’s going on and where you are, and when.
You do this in a kind of Memento way: pinning polaroid pictures to a wall in your apartment as you build a map of when your memories belong to and how everything connects together. You expand on this by walking around your apartment and picking up objects that trigger memories, which then pull you into them. In this way, playing The Gap feels a bit like being in Inception, because you can have multiple layers of memories going on and you can move up and down, or backwards and forwards, through them.
I like it – it’s imaginative. And it feels just about rooted enough in science and our near future that it doesn’t get too ridiculous. Also, the story itself is more about the personal situation of the scientist and the family he’s doing it all for. The family he’s trying to save, but in doing so, has become somewhat lost to, so it’s quite an emotionally deep game in that regard, and there are some serious moments in it.
I’m not quite sure it all builds to the kind of revelation and pay-off that something like What Remains of Edith Finch managed, or that it packs the same kind of delight in imagination that game had. But I quite happily played all the way through it one Saturday (it’s only a few hours ong) and I’m still thinking about it now. And for a game that began as a student project, which is made primarily by two people, I’d say that makes it quite a success.
Cocoon, Xbox (via Game Pass)
When was the last time I stayed up past 2am to finish a game? My bedtimes are pretty atrocious but still, it’s been a while. I think someone even told me Cocoon was a four-hour game which, unless I really am very slow, I’m pretty confident it is not. Little did I know at 1.30am that I still had half-an-hour to go.
The brilliance of Cocoon is that throughout its six-ish hours, it continues to baffle and surprise. It can be difficult, but it’s so consistently ingenious it always feels rewarding. “This goes there… and then I can do that?!” And more than once: “How has no one ever done
My six-hour love-affair with Cocoon soured a little towards the end as tiredness kicked in, and – as I kicked a certain boss to smithereens – as the game, perhaps unwisely at this point, decided to serve its most challenging chapter yet. But overall it remains a must-play experience – smart, beautifully designed and short enough to devour in a couple of sittings. Just not past 2am.
Climbing Flail, iOS
The thought of climbing through Jusant’s post-apocalyptic world has sent me back to Climbing Flail on iOS. It’s part climbing game, part silly physics toy, but it’s suitably brilliant that I don’t think it’s ever been uninstalled.
Climbing Flail is so simple: your ragdoll moves from hand-hold to hand-hold by pinging through the air, and you do this using a pull-back-and-release mechanism that reminds me of the way to refresh Tweets by pulling down and letting go.
But it’s so much better than Twitter! It’s a ridiculous headlong adventure that sees you avoiding obstacles, losing limbs, and working your way to the top of the mountain. It’s silly stuff, but it makes me laugh, and it can actually give me a weird feeling of having achieved something.
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