Hempuli Oy’s Baba is You came out last month and has received nothing but praise, since. Baba is a puzzle game that is about re-writing the language of the game itself when you (Baba,Baba is You, remember?) move blocks of words. The developer, Arvi Teikari, is behind a ton of other games.
I think one of my absolute favourite things about this, beyond being a completely original and utterly brilliant puzzler, is how meticulously balanced it is in terms of offering progress. The difficulty curves up in each set of levels, getting pretty steep toward each groups’ end, but it unlocks the next set before you’ve completed them all. The difficulty of the next group dips back down again as it also introduces new rules, meaning that even if you’ve become completely stuck in one place, there’s likely somewhere else you can continue playing. Offering both super-difficulty and progress is all too rare, and something to celebrate.
There’s a new competitor in the Battle Royale genre of multiplayer-only survival shooters, Apex Legends, from Respawn. It’s a free-to-play Battle Royale-style shooter with a risky system that lets you revive your teammates by retrieving an object at the box they leave behind, and a middle-click option on your mouse to let you mark items, enemies, and other important objects on your HUD that you would otherwise have to manually call-out.
The good news is that Respawn are some of the original Call of Duty developers, so the shooting feels good, even though this game lacks the wall-running and mech-suits from Titanfall.
Apex Legends also has different character classes. The first of which drops a healing drone, for example.
There are only 3-player squads in Apex Legends, are no other modes besides a short training mode that doesn’t really explain the now-traditional Battle Royale mechanics of the shrinking battlefield and dwindling players until there is one winning team.
I had a lot of thrilling moments in Apex Legends, mostly around reviving and respawning squadmates. Death isn’t necessarily the end in this game: even if you get killed, your squadmates can pick up your ID tags within a short window and bring you back at respawn points scattered about the map, as you spectate and bite your nails. It’s a feature you wouldn’t see in most battle royales, but it makes total sense in a squad-focused game, and adds great tension to every fight. You can be dead but still rooting on a friend. You could be alive and wonder if your squadmate’s killer is camping their body, waiting for you to come claim their ID. You can make it to a respawn point and stand there activating it, totally exposed, praying you don’t get shot in the back.
No matter what you’re doing, the ping system is just such a great tool for communication. In some cases it’s better than voice chat: you can highlight a specific object, like a door or a gun, and tap middle mouse to make your character say something about it. They’ll call out the name of a gun you might not know. You can double-tap to signal an enemy’s nearby and that’ll show up red for your teammates. After someone pings an item, if you pick it up, a prompt will pop up on your screen to thank them for pointing it out. In the world of horrors that is online gaming, it’s so pleasant (and, honestly, weird) to have a built-in courtesy button. Saying thank you: Somehow, just as thrilling as shooting a guy.
Unfortunately, like most free to play games, Apex Legends has loot boxes and different currency systems. They mostly seem to be for aesthetic choices, like weapon skins, but there are also new characters to unlock with unique skills you won’t get to play without ponying up with either real money or through another currency that might be earned in-game. The free-to-play business is as sad as ever, and many games that cost money up-front have these systems anyway.
There’s a freely-downloadable prologue on Steam for Windows that lets you play those upgraded Hitman (2016)’s campaign missions, if you have access to them, as well as redone training missions from Hitman (2016) that include the new features like vegetation you can hide in.
I loved Hitman (2016) for all its quirks, it’s the best goofy action game where you can dress up and get shot for pulling a fire alarm. Although this game drops the episodic format, Hitman (2016) 2 ( 2018) still includes the scheduled elusive targets that were the reason I returned for many more silly one-off assassinations every month.
Mumbai is like a better version of 2016 Hitman’s Marrakesh, with large, bustling crowds that border more restricted areas that, crucially, are more enjoyable to traverse. A construction site that doubles as a movie set is a particular standout, with a clever placement of guards that ensures that—even with the right disguise—you’ll need to take a circuitous path or scale the unfinished elevator shaft. A great Hitman level forces you to adapt and respond as you go, and Hitman 2’s environments excel at providing the routes and options needed to adjust your plan on the fly.
Hitman (2016) 2 (2018) is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam for Windows at $60 all the way up to an eye-watering $140 for the ridiculous edition that includes a briefcase with a rubber duck inside.
There was a version of the previous Hitman game for Linux and macOS but I haven’t seen anything promising those ports for this sequel.
The only game I know of where you can brawl, race R.C. cars competitively with teenagers, help punk rockers with their imposter syndrome, and sing karaoke, all in 1980’s Tokyo, is out on Steam for Windows. That’s just a few months after I, and no doubt many others, bought it for the PlayStation 4 while thinking “Yakuza 0 will never come to Windows.”
“…Yakuza 0 is one of the most eccentric, idiosyncratic and downright charming games around. It deftly moves between drama and humour, between story and action, between arcade action and lengthy, well written pulp dialogue about a man who is incredibly good at punching. There’s simply nothing else quite like it, and it’s well worth your time.”
One thing I find particularly frustrating in Steam is being inundated with curator recommendations from Gamer Gate supporters like Total Biscuit, well the good news is that you can ignore them now. Of course, Valve has made this incredibly frustratingly only accessible from one page, and only when some algorithm decides to recommend that you follow that curator. That’s also the only place to undo ignoring that curator, despite each one having individual curation pages.
Ignoring a curator will ensure that Steam will no longer recommend that curator on your home page. You can take that one step further by ignoring all the top curators recommended by Steam, which will cause Steam to stop recommending any curators at all. It’s a fairly small change, but potentially handy for dedicated Steam users who don’t especially care what other people think. A Valve rep described it as “part of our ongoing efforts to refine the services and features of Steam.”