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What we've been playing

21st of October, 2022

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games weve found ourselves playing over the last few days. This time: Hexes, organs, and singing.

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What Weve Been Playing,
heres our archive.

Reefland, PC

Reefland trailer.

Reefland was one of the many games that had a demo available during the most recent Steam Next Fest, and Ive had my eye on it since. At the beginning of the week, it released into Early Access and Ive been thoroughly enjoying my time with it.

The game is a city-builder puzzler. Greyscale maps of hexagonal tiles are procedurally generated, with some of the tiles containing resources. Water tiles could have fish or boats on them, and land tiles might have trees or minerals. Youre given a few random buildings and improvements to place on tiles. As you place your buildings, colour will spread across the island.

Reefland takes what I like about the Civilisation series and Dorfromantik and blends them into an amazing strategic challenge. You have to be very aware of where your resources are and what to place near them, as this affects your score. For example, if you have some sheep, you could place a house next to it. But if theres ore next to the house and you choose to put a mine on that ore, youll incur a penalty.

You end up having to weigh up the scores of each of your placements – if I put down a lighthouse before I put fishermen down on any fish within its range, I wont get any bonus points, but how do I know if the game will give me some fishermen?

It can be a bit frustrating with the improvements youre given. Theyre random as far as Im aware, and theres been a number of times when Ive been given a load of paddocks but theres no more sheep left to use them on. The game just came out in Early Access though, so Im not too bothered about balance issues.

The music and art style is very relaxing, and your aim is to colour a certain percentage of the island to unlock the next level. Theres currently 15 levels, each with their own colour scheme and biome, and Ive almost unlocked them all. Currently, the creative mode is still in development, but until then, I love trying to rack up as many points as possible. My high score at time of writing is 3260, though Im sure it wont stand for very long!

Liv Ngan

Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator, Xbox

Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator trailer.

Lately, my time has been occupied by Space Warlord Organ Trading Simulator. Its like the stock market but in space. The frantic and constant need to check organ prices drives me forward and the dopamine rush of profitable innards is always a plus, although sometimes its more about the euphoria of an absolute capitalistic frenzy and nursing organs back to health only to immediately sell them for profit.

The concept seems novel but Ive experienced starting in on it at 9am only to turn around and discover that I have been playing for 6 hours straight. Warping through time is always a blast.

Paolo Balmes

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Switch

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle trailer.

“Whos gonna run in fear, while screaming Mamma miaaaaa?” sings Phantom.

Not, not the guy with the white mask of the opera fame. This is Phantom, the rabbid, boo, gramophone hybrid singing opera in the midst of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. And its pure art.

Not since the operatic Great Mighty Poo in Conkers Bad Fur Day has a singing video game boss had me cackling. Nothing quite beats the absurdity of a gigantic turd passionately emoting about sweetcorn before being flushed away, but Phantom comes close.

His little aria has everything. Like every operatic diva, his entrance comes at a dramatic point in the narrative (here, the climax of the games spooky third world) and he – quite literally – will not leave the spotlight. Theres romance (“My art will touch your princesss heart and you will be pulled apart”). Theres tragedy (“Who leaves me grey and grim? Oh, what does Peach see in him?”). There are scathing put downs (“Slithering down every pipe, despite his plumb-shaped body type”) and funny rhymes (“”Its-a-me, lets-a-go!” The only words you know!”). And, really, a fair summation of the Mario games as a whole: “Youre so not worth the hassle. Your princess is in another castle!”

I jest, I love a good Mario platformer. But Mario + Rabbids offers a fresh take on the series I didnt expect. Its more puzzle than strategy game, combining Nintendos exquisite gameplay with Ubisofts flair for comedy. Ive been playing the game in preparation for the sequel out this week, but Im enjoying it so much more than I thought I would Im worried that Sparks of Hope cant compete. Unless, of course, theres another musical number…

Ed Nightingale

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