All it takes is a little push


Videogame designers must constantly grapple with how much guidance a player requires. There is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution, since everyone’s needs are different. By and large, the time-poor player would tend to prefer a bit more assistance; those with more leisure time to spare, by contrast, are probably a little more relaxed about getting stuck or lost. Either way, what can be thrilling for one might well be exasperati­ng for another.

This month’s Play selection features a number of games whose creators we can picture, brows furrowed, asking themselves how much freedom players really want. Arkane’s genre-bending Deathloop is so dense with ideas that we detect a hint of desperatio­n in its early attempts to ensure we’re fully on board with what it’s trying to do. In a game that barely puts a foot wrong, this could easily be seen as a misstep, but had it not explained itself with such clarity, many would surely have found themselves overwhelme­d. Shedworks’ Sable similarly wrestles with its desire to let us get lost in its stylised sandbox and the natural concern that some will be too daunted by its lack of direction. It settles on giving us a suggested starting point for the title character’s journey, before letting her make her own way afterwards.

Then there’s puzzler Bonfire Peaks, for which we’re grateful to receive early code so we can allow its challenges to percolate – a rarity when the review process often forces critics to approach games in the same way as you might cram for an imminent exam. Having spent 20 hours mulling over its trickiest tests en route to the top of its mountainou­s overworld, we have to laugh when the PS5 version arrives on deadline, complete with Activity cards offering video solutions for every level. Ah, we don’t mind, really. Besides, we all need a nudge in the right direction from time to time.

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