8th December, 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: re-freezing the Arctic, re-visiting cosy corners, and volleyball with toasters.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We’ve Been Playing, here’s our archive.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Nintendo Switch
Where I live, it’s the time of year where the weather is cold, rain is constantly in the air, and generally the idea of going outside is not an inviting one. This is the time of year where I like to grab a relaxing game and delve into another world while burrowing myself under two blankets. This time around, I went back to a game that I’ve not touched since February 2023 – Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Yes, I did leave it for ages but I have a reason for that. I had flowers somehow take over my island and the idea of digging them up while the real-world weather significantly improved was not an inviting prospect at all. However, now the winter is well and truly here, I finally dived in to fix my floral fiasco.
As I sat there, digging away at the hundreds of flowers, I was sure I’d never felt more relaxed. I admit that my favourite version is still Animal Crossing: Let’s Go to the City, as its personality is hard to top, but New Horizons is a very close second. The soundtrack of the newest game combined with the small flecks of snow that begin to fill the late afternoon air, as my villagers wrap up in their warm hats, reminds me why I loved this game in the first place. It doesn’t expect too much of you, or for you to do things quickly.
Also, Toy Day is rapidly approaching (an in-game version of Christmas where you can give your villagers gifts) which means Nook’s Cranny has started stocking presents for you to buy and wrap. Again, there’s something cosy about grabbing a coffee from The Roost in the museum, and then hopping over to the shop to spend a few Bells on a gift and wrapping paper for your favourite villagers. (Side note – one of the villagers I wanted to leave actually moved out, so that was a bonus!)
I played Toasterball quite a bit on PC, but now it’s on Switch I think I’m fully in love. I played with my daughter last night and we were both falling about crying with laughter.
Toasterball’s really simple. What if you played volleyball, but with toasters. You fire both toaster triggers to hop straight into the air, and you fire the left or right to move yourself around. The goal is to get the ball past your enemy and into their goal area.
But it’s all gimmicks after that point. If there’s toast in your toaster, you can fire that to knock the ball about. And the enemy goal area will frequently have screens in front of it that you need to knock down. Then things get really weird. Maybe the ground will ripple. Maybe the ground will be ice, or will be electrified. Maybe the toasters will be really tiny. Maybe there will be portals, a la Portal.
Toasterball gets away with all this because being surprised is part of the fun. And also because every gimmick that gets tossed in doesn’t stop the game from feeling fair, albeit in a very chaotic way. More than anything, Toasterball wants to make you laugh, and it does. Check it out. I think the Switch is its ideal home.
Terra Nil, PC
I never did finish Terra Nil, if “finish” is even the right word – it’s not really that sort of game – but I’ve been tempted back by the ongoing COP28 climate conference. I’m probably like you: I worry a lot about the state of our planet and the future of humanity on it, yet I feel powerless to do much about it. I try – I do what I can, but in the face of mega companies pillaging the earth, and the non-stop belching of aeroplanes, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything. Incidentally, there’s a wonderful podcast about maintaining hope in a dark time called Outrage + Optimism that I very much recommend.
But Terra Nil offers me an escape. Terra Nil presents scenarios where we can, through the ingenuity of human technology, reverse the damage we’ve done to the world and heal it. The level I’m on at the moment, the arctic level, begins like all of the others – as a barren, polluted lump of nothing. There’s barely any ice there, there’s barely any life there. But I can, through a process of coaxing lava from the Earth’s core below – it’s a long story – begin to introduce life and colour back to it, before finally, I lower the temperature and turn it back into the unspoilt, frozen wilderness it should be.
It’s a fantasy. We can’t do these things in real-life – we can’t reverse the changes we’ve caused, which is why it’s so imperative we stop them now before we go too far. But it’s not complete fantasy. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and who knows what human engineering could do given enough urgency and resource?
Terra Nil helps me dream a more hopeful dream.
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