What we’ve been playing



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2nd of April, 2021

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: loops, museums, and difficult cities.

Loop Hero, PC

I really like the buttons. I can almost feel them, like I’m pressing in some scraping stone button in a dingy temple somewhere, and that dingy temple is probably role-playing games from the 80s. I love how retro it feels. I also love Loop Hero’s different take on an RPG, and how it’s not an RPG really, but more of a kind of reverse tower defence game, where you’re trying to attract more danger, rather than less, so you can chop through it and get more loot.

I like the rather simple amnesiac story that surrounds it, because it compliments and explains the set-up without getting in the way. I find it neat, literally – neat like a math’s problem. And when you step back a bit, I suppose that’s what Loop Hero is. It’s like an equation you’re forever balancing on the fly. You adjust your numbers in order that they produce more favourable equations than your enemies’, swapping equipment and weapons, and placing tiles, depending on what comes in.

I really enjoy the simpleness of it. And I can’t stop bloody playing it.

Bertie Purchese

Idle Museum Tycoon, smartphones

Idle

I got paid three million pounds just for picking up a banana peel the other day. Such is the heady surrealism of games that pretend to be strategy games but are actually clickers. Or maybe clickers are actually strategy games. I feel like so much is happening in clickers and idle games, so much that is interesting and so much that is not, that the genre has been very successfully monetised without really being understood. Is Loot Hero a clicker? I don’t know. Is Cookie Clicker a strategy game? Shrugs.

Idle Museum Tycoon is not a strategy game – at least I don’t think so. This is where I made three million off a banana peel. Minutes later I emptied a drinks machine and got a billion. You know the deal: you are running a museum, except you aren’t really. You open up the doors and buy galleries that you can then upgrade. You click away and things get shinier and the numbers go up.

And the numbers quickly get to a point where the whole thing becomes comedy. Millions for sweeping the floor. A trillion for getting an extra person into the new Egypt exhibition. Idle Museum Tycoon is fearfully well-monetised, and by the end of my evening the real mark of success for me was that I hadn’t dropped real cash on anything I didn’t need but really, really felt like I did.

So I won? I’m not sure. Maybe it really is a strategy game.

Chris Donlan

Mini Motorways, iOS

My cities all die of the same thing: total failure in all areas at once. They will grow and grow, neighborhoods clustering, small square buildings turning into big round ones, and then I will take my eye away for a second and everything will be over-capacity and the roads will be locked. Total failure.

It’s astonishing, really: one of the buildings clearly pushes me over the edge, but a game rarely ends with fewer than five or six ready to go. And yet I keep playing, because Mini Motorways is so satisfying. This Apple Arcade treat – it’s coming to PC in May – is an absolute classic. You connect homes and stores of the same colour. That’s it. But of course that’s not it, because the colours multiply, and some of them are in awkward places, and then your roads are locked with traffic and…it’s over.

I love this, though. Mini Motorways uses stylised maps of real-world cities, so if I ever make it to Manila, I will be ready for the fact that the city is a nightmare, with all those rivers dividing things up. I always run out of bridges in Manila. As well as being educational – sort of – Mini Motorways is just beautiful. Every screenshot I take is my new most favourite screenshot ever. Mini Motorways is great design elevated to actual art.

This week I have set myself another challenge. As well as keeping the traffic flowing and the resources piling up, I’ve also tasked myself with knocking down as few of the little circles on the map that represent trees. They’ve always been there, and I’ve always demolished them. Not any more! Roads now curve around them and give them a respectful space to live out their lives in.

So far, the result has been total failure.

Chris Donlan

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