4th August, 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: warring animals, wordsearches, and inventories.
If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.
I am hooked on Squaredle. It is another word-based web game, somewhere between a wordsearch and Wordle. Actually, perhaps it's more like Boggle, now that I think about it.
Every day, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all of the hidden words within by connecting the letters. The words have to be more than four letters in length, and the longer the word, the more points you will score. It is that simple. And, as with all things that are deceptively easy, it is incredibly difficult to put down.
I have spent many an evening going through my Squardle in a bid to complete my grid (poet and didn't know it) before my husband completes his. Sometimes, I only have a few words left, but for some reason I am left completely stumped. When this happens, I begin wildly joining letters, hoping the Scrabble-like gods are smiling down on me and I somehow manage to fluke a word from the chaos.
Handily, Squaredle comes with a little dictionary-type function, so when you find a word within the grid you have the option to find out its meaning by tapping on an icon that appears. This has proved quite useful. For example, I now know what an aigret is (it's a long plume worn on a hat or a piece of jewellery). The digerati are also now on my radar, thanks to Squaredle.
As I type this, I am making good progress on today's grid, so I am going to leave you here for now. You see, I only have another seven words to find…
Inventory Hero, Playdate
It's a pleasure to return to one of Playdate's simplest games. Inventory Hero is a fast-paced RPG that has your hero battling monsters and collecting loot, the twist being you simply control the inventory. Equip items (they wear out quickly), drink potions and eat food to keep the HP flowing, and get rid of junk that fills your limited inventory slots.
This is a simple premise, but I'm always delighted by the clever wrinkles. When I first played it was all about the rabbits. Get one in your inventory and they multiply like, well, rabbits. It's frantic stuff to get rid of them.
On this playthrough though, I was besotted with leaky potions. They leak away the HP they give the longer you keep them in your inventory. Since Inventory Hero is often a game about waiting for the right moment to deploy something, there's real panic to this.
It's also just really interesting. How many games have I played, and how many of them with potions? But up until now I'd never encountered a potion that was leaking. Videogames! There's always something new to see.
Tails of Iron, Switch
The Switch has brought new splendour to many a PC indie game, and while I don't think Tails of Iron needs the assist, it does look distinctly gorgeous on that enchanted letterbox screen. In this side-scrolling action-platformer, you play a rat prince, Redgi, whose father is bloodily overthrown by a marauding frog clan. Pulling yourself from the wreckage of the duelling grounds, you set off to rescue your abducted brothers and chase the invaders back to the swamps. Or more often, disembowel them. This is nature red in tooth and claw. In sword, spear and crossbow, too.
I've been playing for a half-an-hour at a time while out and about, and this is clearly a well-wrought action-RPG with an alternately cute and gruesome style that outshines the obvious debts to Dark Souls and co. The combat system hinges on carefully timed wind-ups, precision parries and dodge-rolls, with choice of weapon strongly determining your tactics. The levels range from single-screen arenas to surprisingly roomy, even Metroid-esque dungeons.
Among the game's literary influences are Brian Jacques' Redwall books, which I remember mostly for their chapter-long descriptions of banquets, but which did feature quite a lot of wanton axe-murdering between courses (in any case, Tails of Iron has both ends of the spectrum covered – one of your missing brothers is a chef). The hand-drawn visuals are inspired by woodblock-printing, though brighter scenes resemble stained glass windows. Did I mention that it's narrated by Geralt of Rivia?