Here’s a new thing: every Friday Paste’s editors, staffers and games contributors are going to share what they’ve been playing that week. New games and old, major hits and wild obscurities, action-first knuckle-busters and slow-and-stately brain-stokers: you can expect it all, every week, in The Games We Play.
In Other Waters
Platforms: PC, Switch
Games are even more stuck in the past than usual right now. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent time with remakes of Final Fantasy VII and Resident Evil 3, hung out daily in the fifth (or sixth?) Animal Crossing game, and even dug through an entire miniconsole full of TurboGrafx and PC Engine deep cuts. Whenever I needed a break from the old and familiar, from the earthy bonds of our boundless nostalgia, I turned to In Other Waters, a deeply strange, entirely alien game well worth exploring. Its clean, minimal display belies a complex structure of interlacing gizmos and gadgets that replicate the operating system of a high-tech diving suit being used to explore the oceans of another planet. The colors are soft and warm, synths hum lightly in the background, and the main thing we have to do is read about this foreign world, its unusual wildlife, and the relationship that develops between the scientist within the suit and the artificial intelligence helping her carry out her tasks. In Other Waters is a true anomaly in 2020; it has the spirit of an old point-and-click adventure game dressed up in a slick, futuristic, sci-fi display, and is extremely patient with its players and respectful of their intelligence.—Senior Editor Garrett Martin
Resident Evil: Resistance
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
I can play Animal Crossing: New Horizons for two hours before it gives me too much room to anxiously think. What I prefer to play for much longer is the chaotic, loud, and thrilling ride that is Resident Evil: Resistance, the asymmetrical horror game bundled with the Resident Evil 3 remake. The full game is far better than the open beta, which was already brilliant. It’s the new game my friends and I will be regularly playing for months to come, and I recommend it to any fan of the genre—especially if Dead by Daylight isn’t your cup of tea.—Games Contributor Natalie Flores
Treachery in Beatdown City
Platforms: PC, Switch
The thing about Treachery in Beatdown City that really matters to me? Who gets access to using violence. Quite frankly, if you’re black or brown, not a cis dude, queer, and/or poor—an entire system, and the people who have bought into that system are always absolutely fucking with you. Beatdown City is fun, funny, and doesn’t take itself too seriously—it’s message is that there are genuinely shitty people in your city and it’d be real nice to drop their asses on the curb like trash. You might not be able to always throw down in real life. You might not get to throw down in most videogames. But Beatdown City says “You see that racist? You can wreck his shit.” Which is exactly what I need right now.—Games Contributor Dia Lacina
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
As a lifetime lover of JRPGs, the numbness of grinding and the repetition of item farming is a comfort. That said, there are few games I turn to for lighthearted pleasure. The near-automatic battle system of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age is like candy, while Persona 5’s division of social and battle-related tasks and stats picks my brain for hours on end, but their sweeping and melodramatic stories are irksome for relaxed play. I’ve found over the years that my ultimate game for contentment is Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, which is one of the most exemplary JRPGs ever made. That’s not necessarily why I always find myself coming back to it. Instead, I enjoy the timeless, sweet visuals and the deftly written dialogue, laden with clever humor, easter eggs and some genuinely emotive moments. Early on, there’s a random Toad NPC who asks if you’ve ever heard of a weird GBA game called Fire Emblem he’s recently become obsessed with, a joke that’s aged like the finest of wines.
Over the past week, a friend of mine has been remotely streaming Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door just for me while I give him tips I’m mining the deep recesses of my childhood for. When I recall the location of a hidden star piece, I can taste the cloying, confectionery sweetness of a Starburst, and when I remind him that a Cleft has an innate 2 defense which renders Mario’s normal hammer attack useless, I see the poorly sponged blue walls of my old bedroom. It’s been a synesthetic journey, revisiting a key game from my preteen years, and I feel my heart swell as we meet Goombella, Ms. Mowz and Koops.
I highly suggest playing through The Thousand-Year Door if you’re lonely and need a smile, or if you’re looking to broaden your own JRPG library. It’s a unique game of very low numbers (most enemies have 2-4 HP, with early bosses floating somewhere around 20) and a fine presentation that’s aged well given its creative, consistent use of crafty effects. I’m so thankful to have The Thousand-Year Door during this quarantine—it seems like a game made for weathering dark times.—Editorial Intern Austin Jones
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
What excites me about Brawlhalla is how the game rewards consecutive knockouts. Consecutive knockouts makes them worth more points, so leads can get huge quickly. There’s always a chance that your death starts a huge streak for someone, and that pressure is addicting. Four players in a lobby is just the right number of people to make the games varied and competitive, without getting overwhelming.—Editorial Intern Jarrod Johnson II
Jackbox Party Pack 2 (and others)
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation 3
Nightly Zoom meetings with a group of friends has been one of the things that has kept me sane these past few weeks, but we took that up a notch recently when one of my friends invited us to an online Jackbox game session. We’ve since played both with a Zoom chat going and on Mixer with a text chat, and either way has been uproariously funny and fun. From trying to deliver the cleverest answer in games like Quiplash and Patently Stupid (from Party Pack 5) to desperately trying to communicate a clue by drawing terribly on my phone in Drawful 2, the Jackbox Party Pack games reward creativity and humor, which makes it fun whether you’re winning or not. These games are great for a virtual party or a virtual gallows humor commiseration, depending on your mood. And the variety of games can keep the connection to other live human beings who don’t live with you going for hours. —Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Platforms: Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
I initially played Where the Water Tastes Like Wine last summer, but I find myself firing up this game of gentle wandering and storytelling now once again, perhaps because (like Animal Crossing) it’s also a game where socialization and human connect is essentially the entire aim. In terms of “gameplay,” this experience is quite light—there’s no grand overlay of tasks to be accomplished here, nor is your character (a wandering skeleton) given a great deal of ability to affect the world around him. Hell, even basic movement is a slow, plodding affair—but it’s a clever deception meant to focus your attention more acutely on the simplistic beauty of the rolling pastoral landscapes, the harrowing stories you encounter and especially the sparkling soundtrack by composer Ryan Ike, which revisits and evolves several core themes as the player visits different regions of the U.S. The player’s true task is to act as a sponge for all the stories unfolding around you, and in the process collect and absorb those stories, re-telling them until they grow and morph, developing new richness and additional details through repetition. Those stories represent this unorthodox game at its most rich; they are a heady stew of the macabre, the hilarious and the heartfelt, featuring some scintillating writing that gradually transforms the player into an archivist of forgotten truths. And in this era of separation from one another, sharing a campfire and a collection of stories with a stranger is a particularly gratifying fantasy. —Staff Writer Jim Vorel
Predator: Hunting Grounds beta
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC
One great way to practice social distancing is through online gaming, and a recent beta for Predator: Hunting Grounds arrived just in time for a quick weekend playthrough with friends and/or strangers. Players start with a lightly customizable fighter (male or female), with additional upgrades coming from in-game loot crates. You can also gussy up a Predator character to play in queued rotation, terrorizing the hapless squad of shooters below by gleefully dive-bombing them from the tree canopy.
Is it fun? You bet. Will the game be worth $40 when it launches? Maybe. The AI makes for satisfying kills, but the missions are repetitive. The Predator is truly the star, adding glorious chaos to an otherwise standard shooter. But, I did manage to catch a Predator by the end of the weekend, and it felt damn good. —TV Editor Allison Keene