Hello, Guide readers! I’m Keza, the Guardian’s friendly local video games editor (and writer of our games newsletter Pushing Buttons), taking over this week’s Guide to fill you in on what’s worth playing while you wait for the next episode of Better Call Saul to drop. Whether you’re in the mood for a vibey skateboarding game, pretend badminton or a grand fantasy epic, 2022 has been very kind to us so far. (And if you’re someone who thinks that video games aren’t for you then hey, stay with me. You never know, I might be able to persuade you otherwise.)
First up, a game that seems directly aimed at everyone who’s ever taken a look at a Mondrian painting and said “But anybody could have done that”: Please Touch The Artwork (PCs, smartphones) is a puzzle game about abstract art, telling the genre’s origin story by letting you mess around with iconic paintings, trying to recreate their lines and colours. It makes you think about the art, how it’s constructed and what it means, and it’s also chilled and unpressured, with no time limits or objectives to hurry you through. I’ve spent a couple of pleasant hours now poking at it on my phone when I don’t have the mental energy for anything more taxing (which, given the current state of the world, it quite a lot of the time.
Another laid-back option is OlliOlli World, a welcoming skateboarding game that pairs a 90s counterculture vibe with a very 2022 street-art-and-chillhop soundtrack. I enjoy dressing up my little cartoon skater almost as much as tricking through the surreal skatescapes, wall-riding on billboards held up by giant bees. This becomes quite a hard game after a few hours, but never one that makes you want to throw your controller through the TV. Like in all good skating games, you can wring as many tricks and points out of each level as you can, or you can just focus on riding around, grinding and jumping and enjoying the sense of freedom.
For anyone seeking something a little slower-paced, and more cerebral, this week’s new release Citizen Sleeper is essentially an interactive-novel-slash-board-game about a malfunctioning android that’s run away from its owners and is now trying to survive undiscovered on a dilapidated space station. Premise-wise it’s very Blade Runner, but it involves much less action and much more thinking about the qualities of humanity and the evils of corporate capitalism, as it gets your brain’s cogs turning with its evocative text descriptions and sparse but beautiful illustrations.
Tunic is another game whose gorgeous artwork is a large part of its appeal; it’s minimalist and lovely, a game about a little fox with a sword trying to solve a grand mystery as he explores an enigmatic island. If you ever played any of the older Zelda games in the 90s, it’s very similar – indeed, the whole game is kind of a tribute to the sense of mystery and adventure that Zelda and its ilk used to evoke in the days before Google and online walkthroughs. It has a manual written in runic script that you have to pore over and decode for clues about what to do next, worn and written-on like a beloved old comic.
If you have 50+ hours to spare and a tolerance for steep challenge, there’s one game that’s dominated the conversation since it was released in February: fantasy epic Elden Ring, made by the Japanese developers behind the infamously intransigent and intellectually satisfying Dark Souls games. The fuss isn’t unjustified: this is one of the best games ever made, but you do need a lot of time and mental space for it to occupy. Imagine you’re exploring a medieval fantasy world, but basically everything from the dragons to the local wildlife is trying to kill you, and you’ve got some idea of what it entails. It’s an incredible world to get lost in.
And lastly: if you’ve got a Nintendo Switch, get Nintendo Switch Sports. Remember waving a controller around to play tennis or bowling on the Wii? It’s that, but now there’s also badminton, sword-fighting, football and volleyball. Kids love it. Adults might initially be reluctant to get up and move around, but the second they hear the thwack of a pretend tennis ball, they’ll get into it too. It’ll be a winner at family gatherings every year.
I hope you’ve found something you like the sound of. As mentioned, I write a whole other newsletter every week that’s all about the wild world(s) of video games – you can sign up here.
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