When you’ve spent as many years playing games as we have, it’s easy to become a little fatigued with widely adopted ideas and design principles. Don’t get us wrong: it’s great to be able to hop from one game to the next with the minimum of acclimatisation, but it’s nice to be surprised sometimes.
Thank goodness, then, for this month’s Play section. Take Rime (p102), for example: Tequila Works’ enigmatic adventure features no combat, a modest number of puzzles and ambles along at a gentle pace. The studio’s contrarian approach is further underscored by its touching approach to collectables, and the fact that the rules and conditions shift throughout. Despite early comparisons to other games, Rime mostly feels unfamiliar, and is all the better for it.
Get Even (p110) goes further. While The Farm 51 isn’t always successful in marrying its dramatic aspirations to memorable game design, Get Even’s refusal to conform to a genre, let alone the rules of the genres it mixes together, makes for an enjoyably disorienting experience.
Giant Sparrow’s What Remains Of Edith Finch (p114) is similarly difficult to classify. The Unfinished Swan studio’s second narrative adventure initially appears to match our expectations, but quickly shakes off easy pigeon-holing as its various stories are told with dazzling creativity.
All three of these games find innovative ways to tell their stories through play, rather than bolting proven – and possibly ill-suited – design concepts awkwardly onto an existing yarn after the fact. Not that focusing on proven mechanics is necessarily bad, of course. With The Surge (p112), Deck13 has built on both its love for the Souls games and its previous game, Lords Of The Fallen. It doesn’t always come together smoothly, but there’s plenty to enjoy here even if it’s hard not to feel like we’ve seen it all before.